We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: If you buy something new to wear or for your home, think of how this item can be part of your overall goal of Kiddush HaShem.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Sanctifying the Name of HaShem
For the past few weeks we have focused on how we appear to others. Today we will look at how other’s appear to us.
We have much to be proud of as Jews. The special care that HaShem has shown us has allowed the Jewish people to thrive for these thousands of years. Our Torah has given us a meaningful life that transcends all. However, we must be careful that the healthy and well-deserved pride that we have in ourselves and our accomplishments do not cause us to disparage others. We need not put others down in order to keep our high opinion of ourselves. Remembering that the purpose of kiddush HaShem is to bring others to the recognition of HaShem, we must be able to see that all people, Jew and non-Jew alike, are created in the image of HaShem, and, therefore deserve our respect in every interaction we have with them. The most powerful tool we have to achieve this is to look at others and see past their current behaviors to see their potential. Since they are created in the image of HaShem, no matter their present state, they have the potential to improve. One action we can take in this area is to be careful in the way we speak about groups of people. Stereotyping, disparaging names and labeling groups of people all contribute to the way we look at others, even when that is not intended. We have done a good job instilling pride in being religious Jews but sometimes we lose focus on the proper balance needed. Our negative speech about others may also be a contributing factor.
Consider some of the following common statements:
I don't know where to send my daughter to high school; girls from school x are too snobby;
Our town was so much more peaceful before all the newcomers from ______ moved in;
I can't believe how nice she is, even though she came from ______.
How do statements like these undermine our ability to see the potential in others (, in addition to the fact that these are probably lashon hora)?
Not only must we attempt to see others' potential in the best possible light, but it follows that it is our responsibility to act in a way that is an example for others. If others are not acting properly, some part of the responsibility lies with us. This is an obvious statement when we think about being a role model for our children -- of course our actions--both positive and negative--influence how our children act. In terms of Kiddush HaShem, we need to think of ourselves as role models for the world! Since our G-d given task is to bring honor to HaShem, every action we do has the ability to influence others. This is an awesome responsibility. But, if we focus on the goal, we can summon our reserves of spiritual adrenaline to infuse our actions with the strength needed to accomplish this task. Although it may be tempting to think that we cannot make a difference in the world, this thought is not helpful. The belief that we can take responsibility and make that difference is fundamental to Judaism.
(Reproduced from Living Kiddush HaShem by Rabbi Shraga Freedman, with permission of the author. For more resources, please contact: email@example.com.)
Stepping up and meeting the responsibility of being a positive influence in the world can be done. Think of the kiddush HaShem involved in Israel's setting up emergency hospitals in Haiti after the earthquake and so many other places all over the world. Think of the Jewish businessmen who have made the national news by restoring retirement packages or providing bonuses to their workers totaling millions of dollars.
Sometimes the world we influence is much smaller. In many Jewish neighborhoods there are elderly widows and widowers living among the majority of young families. The quantity and quality of giving to them is beyond description. Just a few examples, barely skimming the surface: flowers, home-baked challa and soup distributed weekly (along with a visit), block wide birthday parties, snowshoveling, hospital visits, home repairs, rides to and from doctors, picking up medicine at the pharmacy, Shabbos and Yom Tov meals. What incredible kiddush HaShem has been engendered by these acts of chessed. The attitudes of these seniors toward their more observant neighbors moved from wariness to love and respect. Their adult children and grandchildren have been able to see the beauty of the Torah lifestyle. And, think of the positive influence on our own children, who can see the splendor of chessed, giving to others.
It is empowering to hear of wonderful things we Jews do in the name of Torah, whether they are world events that make the news or "smaller" acts on an individual level. Could we all share something that we have heard about or seen that inspire us or have had a positive influence on us?
How might we achieve the appropriate balance between pride-on a personal or national level-and vanity or conceit?
Stretch of the Week:
Share something inspirational with someone in order to instill a pride in being Jewish.