With these staggering words, Rabbi Morgenstern was not abandoning his quest to change the world – after all, he never ceased to lead his thousands of followers with conviction and determination – but merely suggesting that real change must begin from within.
It would behoove modern man to return to the private self and internalize that which Judaism has forever emphasized: that self-improvement through genuine introspection and deeds of goodness and kindness, such as prayer and charity, is the only way to create a lasting difference in the world.
(See, for example, Babylonian Talmud, Yomah 72b: “A Torah scholar whose inside is not like his outside is no Torah scholar” or Pirkei Avot 3:9: “One whose fear of sin takes precedence to his wisdom, his wisdom endures. But one whose wisdom takes precedence to his fear of sin, his wisdom does not endure.”)
And if the deeds originate from a refined and virtuous being, they will reverberate in the world infinitely more than actions originating from self-deception or hypocritical pretense.
Rabbi Pinchas Allouche is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is a popular educator, lecturer and author.