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: Find an opportunity to be honest with yourself or others and avoid making excuses.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Respect for Converts and Ba'a'lei Teshuva
When we consider what the world will be like in the end of days, we can get a preview of sorts when we think about those of us who have become Jewish by choice, rather than by birth. Enormous Kiddush HaShem is created by righteous converts to Judaism, who have accepted HaShem and His Torah. We are enjoined many, many times in the Torah to love converts, accept them, and to treat them well. What appreciation for the beauty of the Torah we can have when we witness someone giving up his easier lifestyle for the responsibilities of the Torah! What self-sacrifice to change, often without the support of family and childhood traditions and memories on which to build. In a similar vein, ba'alei t'shuva, those who were not born into religious homes yet choose to live a Torah observant life, who have given up the world in which they were raised to adopt the ways of the Torah are equally inspirational.
Converts and ba'alei t'shuva are sometimes sensitive about their lack of knowledge, especially in what might be called cultural matters. The traditional foods which are not familiar, the dances at weddings or what is considered appropriate attire all seem so simple yet can strike a chord of anxiety in those who aren’t familiar with them.
The obligation to sanctify HaShem applies even more intensely with respect to other Jews. The commentary, Meshech Chochma explains that when we act in a way that glorifies HaShem in the company of other Jews, it results in an increased awareness that enables them to do the same. The increase in Kiddush HaShem becomes exponential. Many mitzvos that we perform have the ability to inspire others including all aspects of ahavas Yisrael, loving and respecting all Jews and chessed, acts of loving kindness.
We have probably heard of many incidents where a single act of kindness has influenced and inspired someone to become observant. However, more often, it is when a person notices the totality of the Torah lifestyle that has the greatest impact. Not every outreach attempt results in a complete lifestyle turn-around. But, each positive interaction, each agreeable impression, can be built upon. Perhaps we can begin measuring our successes in bringing other Jews closer to their heritage by the yardstick of how much of a Kiddush HaShem we have created.
Let us also keep in mind that the people we influence the most are those in our own families. Our directive to sanctify HaShem includes spouses and children as well. Our families sees our private lives and know who we really are. When they witness our constant compassion, giving and striving for growth with a smile or genuine concentration while praying, this can give them added respect for the privileged lifestyle they have been blessed to be born into and can enhance their desire to follow suit.
(Reproduced from Living Kiddush Hashem by Rabbi Shraga Freedman, with permission of the author. For more resources, please contact: email@example.com.)
Consider these (actual) remarks made by less religious Jews:
- The tax accountant: "My orthodox clients really live their ideals-even with all their expenses, they still give one tenth to charity."
- I was nervous to spend a whole Shabbos with you, but you didn't get upset when I made some mistakes.
- Your community really takes care of each other.
It is said that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein blamed the decrease in religious observance among American Jews in an earlier generation on the attitude conveyed by the commonly repeated phrase, ‘S’iz shver tzu zain a Yid’, Yiddish for “It’s hard to be a Jew”. We must be careful to convey joy and pleasure in Judaism in our actions, in our speech and in our attitude.
Be careful with statements like:
- It's such a long Shabbos.
- How will we make it through a three-day yomtov?
- Pesach cleaning is driving me crazy.
Can you think of other examples of how a convert or a ba'al t'shuva may be inadvertently made to feel inadequate? How can we learn to be more sensitive to their feelings?
Can we share a time when we saw or heard something that made us especially proud to be among the Jewish people?
How can we change some of those negative statements into positive ones?
In what ways can we be sure to present Judaism in a positive light to our children, even when some aspects may be challenging? How does this help improve our own attitudes?
Stretch of the Week:
Find a way to make a Kiddush HaShem within your own family.