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August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
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Are We Fulfilling our Mission to the World?

I get so worked up when one of us, especially one who is observant, somehow misbehaves in any way.

Gene Wilder as Avram Belinski, a Polish rabbi who is traveling to San Francisco, and Harrison Ford as a bank robber who befriends him, in the 1979 movie The Frisco Kid.

Gene Wilder as Avram Belinski, a Polish rabbi who is traveling to San Francisco, and Harrison Ford as a bank robber who befriends him, in the 1979 movie The Frisco Kid.

One of the things I talk about frequently here is that part of our mission as Jews to be a light unto the nations… to show the world the beauty of the Torah. As this week’s Parsha (Torah portion) suggests (Devorim 4:6) ‘Chochmosam Uvinaschem L’Einei Ha-amim…’   ‘Your wisdom and understanding (will be) before the eyes of the nations’.  ‘…V’Omru Rak Am Chacham V’navon HaGoy HaGadol Hazeh ‘– ‘And (the nations) will say: How wise and understanding is this great nation!’

This is why I get so worked up when one of us, especially one who is observant, somehow misbehaves in any way. In my sense of duty that stems from this mandate, I want to assure anyone who reads my blog that Judaism as expressed in the Torah does not approve of such behavior at all and instead condemns it. It is our sense of right and wrong which stemming from a clear understanding of the Torah that we are obligated to project.

I have often commented that there are non Jews that read this blog. It therefore obligates anyone who comments on my posts to realize that the way they comment reflects on the Judaism they are supposed represent. Every once in a while – someone comes along who thinks I am targeting his segment of Judaism – trying to make them look bad.

That is of course not true. Any criticism I may have stems from a love of the Jewish people and the desire to improve all of us as a people, both in material ways and spiritual ways. And yet such individuals somehow are blinded to that fact and proceed to exhibit rude and disrespectful behavior, really out of line with the other commenters.

They are there seeming to pick fights all the time. They actually bring down the level of discourse because ultimately people respond to non-constructive comments and those particular discussion trails are usually not very productive.

In the interests of presenting opposing views, I tend to give these people some latitude. Although I will occasionally delete or modify those comments that cross the lines of common decency. But I wonder if I sometimes go too far in granting this latitude. Am I being counter-productivein doing so? What do non Jewish readers of my blog really think? What are they left with after all is said and done?

Yesterday I received a note from a non Jewish reader. I am posting in full that part of the e-mail that she gave me permission to quote. It follows:

Dear Rabbi Maryles,

I have been reading your blog for about half year now, and I find it very interesting and informative.  I am not Jewish, but I think the topics you discuss and the comments from the majority of your followers are diverse and interesting and clearly coming from an educated background.  I feel like I am learning more about the world by reading your blog and then seeing the heated but generally good-natured debate from your loyal followers.  I also find it very interesting and refreshing when you change your opinion on something based on the comments/discussions.   I totally respect your freedom of speech policy on your blog, but I thought you might be interested in hearing the opinion of a mainly silent (non-commenting) reader who nonetheless really enjoys your blog.  I think that because it is your blog you have every right to restrict rude comments, or not respond at all to people who don’t know how to behave themselves, just because they are anonymous.  Keep up the good work!

Best wishes, Andrea Itano

First, I want to thank Ms. Itano for her kind words. I am happy to see that the overall impression of the non Jewish world that reads my blog is very positive… at least as far as one reader has expressed it.

What she did not want me to post is her problem with the kind of comments I referred to above. She was very detailed about those concerns. I think it behooves all of us to behave like ‘the people of the book’ that God intends for us to be. And those who comment here should be aware that not only are all types of Jewish eyes upon us, gentile eyes are upon us, too. Not to mention God’s ‘eyes’.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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