The Right Attitude
Re “Rabbis Charged in Kidnapping, Beating of Recalcitrant Husbands” (Week in Review, Oct. 18):
Another week, another chillul Hashem. We are a sliver of a fraction of the Jewish community, let alone of the country as a whole, and yet it seems that not even a few consecutive days can go by without all of us – Orthodox Jews and secular Jews as well as non-Jews of every religion and nationality – having to read or hear about yet another example of horrendous behavior on the part of frum Jews.
Surely this is not what the pasuk meant when it asked the rhetorical question “Mi k’amcha Yisrael?”
What troubles me almost as much as the tidal wave of embarrassing stories about Orthodox Jews engaging in all manner of fraud and geneivah (and worse) is that so many of us seem to look for every excuse – anti-Semitism, false charges, “everybody does it,” etc. – rather than admit that all too many of us have a very real problem in terms of a lax or even non-existent regard for ethics, a general disregard for and even disdain of non-Jews, and an absolutely twisted sense of entitlement.
Our attitude should instead be modeled after the following passage in Seder Eliyahu Rabbah, chapter 26:
You shall love the Lord Your God (Deut. 6:5) – that is, you should cause the Name of Heaven to be loved by mankind. Take care of how you manage your business affairs, how you walk about in the marketplace, and how you deal with other human beings…. [God] said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I am glorified (Is. 49:3).
The Sages derived from this: A man must distance himself from theft, whether from Jew or gentile, or anyone in the marketplace. One who steals from a gentile will ultimately steal from a Jew. One who defrauds a gentile will ultimately defraud a Jew. One who swears falsely to a gentile will ultimately swear falsely to a Jew. One who lies to a gentile will ultimately lie to a Jew. One who sheds the blood of a gentile will ultimately shed the blood of a Jew.
The Torah was not given to desecrate but rather to sanctify His great Name.
Citizen Yid (I)
With all of the bad news we’ve been subjected to about the unethical and illegal behavior of Jews who claim to be Torah observant, Mordecai Bienstock’s “Citizen Yid” (front page essay, Oct. 18) was certainly a welcome and timely reminder of our responsibilities as Jews to obey the law.
We have to be careful, though, not to make ethical behavior a substitute for Jewish ritual practice. We’ve seen where that approach leads; just read the results of the recent Pew report on American Jewry.
Abiding by the laws of the state is certainly a mitzvah, but so is putting on tefillin and keeping kosher, among many other things.
Citizen Yid (II)
Mordecai Bienstock made the excellent point that good citizenship is something demanded by the Torah, not just something that originates in civics class. However, I take issue with his observation that “the Torah obligation of good citizenship is applicable in a special way to Jews in the United States because of the history and nature of the country in which we live.”
I don’t think such a distinction is appropriate or necessary if the duty of good citizenship is accepted as the command of the Torah. It suggests that there is room for human judgment and adaptation concerning a commandment that is Divine and therefore transcendent.
Obama’s Pursuit Of Rouhani
President Obama consistently speaks of sanctions against Iran but insists on pursuing a friendship with the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.
Does Obama think the Iranians will stop making nuclear weapons because he is such a sweet talker? Does he think the United States will be stronger and its economy healthier after it concludes trade agreements with Iran?
Iran wants the lifting of trade sanctions, which hardly comes as a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that most Americans want a peaceful resolution to the crisis over Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapons capacity. But Obama’s obsequious behavior is another thing altogether – it shows he is willing to do anything to bring about a rapprochement with Iran, with little regard for the long-term costs.