In Light of Recent Events
The Jewish world was shocked and saddened by the recent reports emerging from Deal, New Jersey, among other places. As a result of an alleged Jewish informer, terrible accusations have been made.
On Tisha B’Av morning, we read a very sad prophecy of Yirmiyahu, the Prophet. He says that if he could find a motel in a desolate area of the desert, he would forsake his people and take refuge there. As he explains, “Ish meireihu, hi’shomeiru v’al kol ach al tivtachu ki kol ach ekov Yaakov, v’chol rei’ah rochil yahloch” - For every man will have to watch out from his friend, for his own brother may be deceitful and every friend might be the peddler of slander.
Let’s think back to twenty-five years ago. If we were taking a trip to Eretz Yisroel and someone asked us to take a package for them, we would stick it in our suitcases without giving it a moment’s thought. Nowadays, even if a good friend asks us to take a package we must open it and check it because we don’t want to risk that something illegal might be inside. How frightening that Yirmiyahu’s prophecy is coming alive before our very own eyes. As we read this on Tisha B’Av, we were faced by a very grim, very real possibility that one of our very own brothers was wired to peddle information about Rabbonim and colleagues.
Now let’s look at this debacle from another angle. Every Jew says the Krias Shema at least twice a day. In it, we expound the important Torah commandment of, “V’ahavta es Hashem Eloikecha” - And you should love Hashem your G-d. How exactly do we put the mitzvah of loving Hashem into practice? We know how to love ourselves, our parents, and our children and our fellow man. But (loving) Hashem is tricky. He is not a corporeal being. You can’t give Him a hug. How do we go about loving Him? The Gemora says an interesting thing. “Shet’hei Sheim Shamayim mis’ahaiva al yodecha” - Let the Name of Heaven become love through you. In other words, when a man is dressed with a yarmulke, or a woman is dressed modestly, thereby clearly showing that they are Jewish, their behavior should cause people to say, “What fine people. They are a credit to their G-d. What a special G-d they have.” This is the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify Hashem’s Name which, in light of recent events, we need to redouble our efforts to restore.
It has become even more imperative that wherever we are we should be mindful of this all-important biblical mission. If we are in a supermarket, we should be actively looking to let a Gentile (with only a few items) go ahead of us. When we are in the bank or post office, we should be friendly, courteous, and appreciative. At every opportunity and no matter in how big of a rush we are, we should look for ways to leave a good taste in our Gentile neighbor’s mouth. This is the meaning of, “Vh’yishem Li segula bein ha’amim” - And you should be for Me a treasure among the nations.
Yet another angle. We are facing harsh economic times. People are having difficulty paying their monthly bills and are frightened about how they are going to manage to meet their tuition commitments. We must, however, resist the temptation to cut corners when it comes to “Dina d’Malchusa - The law of the land.” Firstly, because it is prohibited by the Torah, and secondly, as we see that the resulting Chillul Hashem can be catastrophic. Finally, incarceration is a terrible reality which has already confronted quite a few of our brethren.
As for the accusations themselves, the Mishnah teaches us, “Hevei dan es kol ha’adam l’kaf zichus” - We should judge every person favorably. If that is true with average people, it is especially true with venerable Rabbonim. The reward for giving people the benefit of the doubt will serve us well as we rapidly approach the Day of Judgment, for the Gemora teaches us that if we judge people favorably, then Hashem in reward will judge us favorably.
Should we be talking about these events amongst our friends? Unless it is for positive purposes, as in this article, the answer is a resounding NO! First of all, it is foolish to talk about events that we have so little real information about. Furthermore, if we can’t help the situation, why discuss these subjects? It is for this reason that the Torah gives us the command to be, “V’dibarto Bom” - Speak about Them, namely the Torah. And, as the Medrash elaborates, “V’lo b’idvarim b’teilem” - And not in idle matters. It is specifically referring to useless chatter about such things that the Torah is warning us: It is a waste of our G-d-given gift of speech to prattle about such matters without constructive purposes in sight.
May it be the will of Hashem that Klal Yisroel be protected and that we should all have a hand in raising the Name of Hashem high in the eyes of our neighbors. And in that merit, may we be blessed with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Sheldon Zeitlin transcribes Rabbi Weiss’ articles. If you wish to receive Rabbi Weiss’ articles by email, please send a note to ZeitlinShelley@aol.com.