Last week’s stretch of the week was: Go out of your way to be sure that your actions will not be misinterpreted by others.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Sanctifying the Name of HaShem
As we study the concept of Kiddush HaShem, let's consider the importance of one's outward appearance, the impression that we make on others, at the core of this mitzva.
What do we need to think about when reflecting on how others perceive us? A generation or two ago, this was much easier. Appropriate manners, appropriate dress, were much more regulated. Roles were carefully defined, and it was obvious to all what society's norms were. In today's world, we need to be much more discerning. However, to the extent possible, in order to facilitate Kiddush HaShem, with the ultimate goal of all people recognizing HaShem, we need to be seen by others as behaving in a pleasant and polite way. In order to achieve this perception we must be aware of society's norms and try not to breach them.
What is the going rate to tip a waiter? Is it expected to chat with the cab driver? Does everyone have the exact fare ready for the bus? Do I leave the empty plates on the table at the pizza shop or clear the table?
Knowing and doing what is expected or polite makes a more favorable impression.
Sometimes this varies from place to place. In some countries, making eye contact is disrespectful, in others the opposite is true. In some places standing on line is orderly; in others, not so much!
What is the protocol for the supermarket counter?
On a recent trip to Israel, at the supermarket checkout aisle, the man in front of me pushed his shopping cart behind him and directly in front of me and he walked out of the store! I now had to push his cart out of the way so I could have enough room to empty my cart. I was so annoyed at his rudeness that I told my Israeli kids about it. Their response: He was being polite! His cart was for the bagger to use for my order, and I was supposed to leave my cart for the next person. I was the rude one! Who knew?
A person who is outwardly identified as Jewish by his or her dress has a special responsibility to bring honor to the Jewish people (and therefore to HaShem). And the converse is also critical; when we are easily identified as Jewish, our misdeeds reflect on our entire nation, and, unfortunately, block others from recognizing the honor of HaShem. Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, the mashgiach ruchani (spiritual advisor) of Bais Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, would remind the students that behaving rudely on the way to Yeshiva could negate the effect of the entire morning's learning. He explains that honking the horn, cutting off other drivers, tailgating and the like create the potential for chillul HaShem, desecrating G-d's name. In all of our encounters with others - parking, shopping, driving, we must keep in mind Kiddush HaShem as the ultimate goal.
There are many examples told of our great Rabbis who were careful to smile at people in the street, or greet drivers or doormen, or to specifically thank workers. Perhaps these thoughtful actions are not too difficult to try to emulate. We have also, unfortunately, heard of instances like when a large department store in the Catskills had to change its return policy in the summer months, because so many used items were returned at the end of August. These are actions we must guard against.
(Reproduced from Living Kiddush HaShem by Rabbi Shraga Freedman, with permission of the author. For more resources, please contact: email@example.com.)
Story: (based on an article)
The following is a list of complaints culled from online responses to an article in the Jewish Week regarding the relationship between the summer residents and the locals. "They’ll triple-park anywhere, speed through crosswalks, pick up hitchhikers in the middle of the road, make U-turns on Route 42...People don’t act responsibly. (They) are not respectful of the locals." "I do dislike rudeness, disrespectful, impolite, & people who show no courtesy. If summer residents wish to be treated like a neighbor they should act like one themselves." "They violate town laws, such as blaring music and yelling over their loud speakers at all hours of day and night"; "I have seen many dump garbage on our roads..." "(They are) Stopping vehicles on country roads and not pulling over to the side....Driving in a manner without consideration for others: that is cutting in front of other drivers, driving slowly in the left lane which prevents others from passing. (Their) Shopping habits. Blocking aisles in the supermarket with shopping carts and not moving aside when other wish to pass showing a total disregard for other shoppers....Failing to use conventions of common courtesy in conversation with service personnel: e.g. please and thank you.
How do we react to these complaints? Do we attribute the complaints to anti-Semitism? Do we justify these actions by saying that they are not talking about "our kind" of Jews? Do we say that these are the actions of only a few bad apples? Do we minimize their importance?
What can we learn from this about how our behavior is viewed by others?
How can we reconcile two seemingly opposing concepts: We are instructed not to mimic the "ways of the nations", not to be influenced by the secular culture, yet we are also advised to take societal norms into consideration and behave according to society's view of courtesy?
Stretch of the Week:
Make an effort to speak politely to an office worker, store clerk, customer service person or the like every day this week!