web analytics
September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



The Art of Ignoring – So Safe, So Repulsive, So Dangerous

Homeless person sleeping on a bench in Beer Sheva

Homeless person sleeping on a bench in Beer Sheva
Photo Credit: Dudu Grunshpan/Flash 90

You’ve been there before- you walk on the street of Jerusalem, and a [so-called] “beggar” is standing on your way, with his outstretched arm, not verbally requesting a few coins.

What do you do?

On the one hand, this is a fellow Jew, and perhaps he is in real need of financial assistance.

On the other hand, he may be a faker, playing the game and “raking it in.”

What’s the solution?

In a more civilized world, I would expect one or the other, or perhaps a permutation of the two extremes above.

But alas, to my dismay, we are not always privileged to live in such a world. Seems to me that the majority of people walking down that sidewalk will tend to just ignore the gentleman and walk right past him, without acknowledging his presence in any significant way.

After all, it’s so safe: you didn’t refuse to give a donation, on the one hand, and you also didn’t put your money in the hands of a potential phony. You just “avoided the situation” by walking right by. Pretending the above reality [i.e.- a beggar on the street] doesn’t exist.

It can be the beggar, the email you received but don’t have a good response to, the phone message you don’t return due to its challenging content, and many more examples. In all the above, the safest route to take is to ignore – to pretend not to have received the email, not to have heard the message, and of course, walk right pass the gentleman.

In a word, you just pretend the above never happened, hoping to will it out of existence.

Just one problem: It does exist.

Let me introduce you to a figure you probably have heard of- R’ Yochanan Ben Zakai. The leader of the Jewish people on the eve of the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash was quite the Tzadik [Tractate Sukka 28a]:

“They said about R’ Yochanan Ben Zakai; NEVER did he speak an idle speech in his life, and never walked 4 amot without [learning] Torah and with Tefillin on his head, and never did anyone get to the study hall before him, and never did he fall asleep in the study hall…and never did someone ever find him doing nothing, but rather he was always sitting and learning… And never did he say “it’s time to stop learning and go home except for the eve’s of Pesach and Yom Kippur…”

Such righteousness condensed into just one man is truly an amazing achievement! Definitely something to aspire to, to say the least.

And yet, this same man did something else…when walking in public [Tractate Berachot 17a]: “They said about R’ Yochana ben Zakai that never did anyone succeed to offer their salutations to him first, and even the non-Jew in the marketplace. ”

Such a Tzadik, heavily saturated in learning, Torah, Tefillin, Tzizit…and yet said hello to everyone on the street? Even the [not-so-important] non-Jew?

Seems to me that the behavior above is the very basis of being a Jew. As our sages teach [Sifri, Ve'et'cha'nan, paragraph 32]: “And one shall love the Lord your God” [the second verse of the daily Shema] – make [God] be loved upon the people [of the earth] like Avraham your forefather”

Indeed, Avraham’s conduct was the very antithesis of “ignoring”: Standing in excruciating pain – just days after this over-90-year old man performed a circumcision on himself – in the heat of the afternoon, and out of the corner of his eye, he spots three [unimportant, rather ordinary] people walking.

He had every legitimate excuse in the book to just disregard them:

  • He’s sick
  • He doesn’t know them
  • He’s a busy man
  • He’s no spring chicken anymore.

And yet, despite all of these potentialexcuses, Avraham refuses to ignore them [Beresheit 18:2-3]:

“And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground. And he said, ‘My lords, if only I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass on from beside your servant.’”

You know the rest of the story, and it’s outcome. The bottom line is simple – he didn’t ignore them!

What would have happened if Moshe would have seen the “burning bush” and just ignored it? What would have been the reality of our lives if, when God called out from that bush with the words “Moshe, Moshe” [Shemot 3:4] Moshe just “pretended not to hear” [as Adam and Chava did, in the aftermath of eating from the forbidden tree, when they "hid" from G-d, Beresheit 3:8] instead of saying [ibid], “Here I am?!” Moshe was far from asking, or wanting, the job of leading the Jewish people from servitude to freedom [see ibid chapter 3-4], and yet he was far from ignoring it; rather arguing back and forth till “convinced.”

And thankfully, when we don’t ignore God, God hopefully doesn’t ignore us; in the words of the Prophet Malachi [3:7]: “return to me and I will return to you”!

And because Moshe didn’t ignore God, we will all read around our Seder tables the extraordinary description of God not exactly ignoring us [Hagadah of Pesach, based on Devarim 26:7-8]:

“So we cried out to the Lord, God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out from Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and wonders.”

Therefore, it is no wonder that the Torah commands us not to “ignore” a lost-item on the ground [Devarim 22:3]. If an inanimate blue-pen can’t be ignored, and must be returned to it’s rightful owner, dare we ignore each other, live human beings that pass us on the street. We even have a special sin-offering brought for someone who witnessed an event and refuses to testify, ignoring the need to help a fellow Jew [Vayikra 5:1-13]!

But beyond the sources above, we all know that being a Mensch/Derech Eretz came long before the Torah, and basic human edicts should precede the additional obligations the Torah placed upon us [Yalkut Shimoni 247:34, d"h hein haadam]. In reality, ignoring someone you pass on the street, or an email, or a phone message is the epitome of being repulsively low [and perhaps even outright disgusting]. As I heard from my revered Rebbe, Rav Yehuda Amital z”l, Jews each morning say the words: “לעולם יהא אדם ירא שמיים” – one shall always be a man that fear God. My Rebbe explained that back in Europe, the sentence was punctuated thusly, ” one shall always be a man, [and only then a ] God fearing Jew,” and in that order!

As one that has trained and followed Rabbis throughout their careers, I can generally say that Rabbis gain detractors not so much because of their sermons, vision, lectures or the like, but rather when they fail to return phone calls, when they avoid bikur cholim, and when they fail to respond to emails. One can deal with refusal, disagreements, debates and the answer ‘no’, but how should one deal with being totally and utterly ignored?!

And so, in just days, we will be celebrating the 7-8 day Holiday of no Chametz. What is it called?

Well, that depends on who you ask.

In the words of the Torah, the holiday is always called “the Holiday of Matzot” [Shemot 23:15, 34:18, Vayikra 23:6, Devarim 16:16,], while the more famous “Holiday of Pesach” refers to the sacrifice of the “Korban-Pesach” (The Pesach sacrifice on the eve of that Holiday) [Shemot 12:43, 48, 34:25; Vayikra 23:5; Bamidbar 9:2 and 5, 28:16; Devarim 16:1.] And yet, I have not yet met a Jew that says: “Have you begun to clean for the Holiday of Matzot yet”! It seems like we’ve taken the name of the eve of the 7-8 Holidays and expanded it to refer to the entire 7-8 days.

Not to worry- we’re not the “reformers” to blame; the Tractate dealing with the laws of this Holidays is called “Pesachim” and indeed throughout rabbinic literature the name utilized to define this Holiday is “Pesach” [Shevi'it 2:1, Maaser Sheni 5:6, Challa 1:1-2 and many more].

How did it happen?

Explains the famous R’ Levi-Yitzchak from Barditchiv [Kedushat-Levi on the Torah, pp. 79-80 on the verse (Shemot 12:27) " you shall say, It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord"]:

“I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me”-which means we are emphasizing the praise of God, and God is telling the praise of Israel…as “the Holiday of Matzot” speaks of the praise of Israel…that baked their bread as Matzot [i.e.- we were willing to leave fast, as commanded, and not even wait till out bread has risen,]…and we call the Holiday the name “Pesach” to praise God [i.e.- for passing over the homes of the first-born Jews"]“

In other words, we didn’t ignore God (and thus left Egypt in a haste, with just Matzot in place of bread), and God didn’t ignore us (i.e.- he passed over our homes). As we celebrate this beautiful holiday, eating the very antithesis of disregard/apathy, let’s make a secret vow to stop ignoring the other. With this in mind, it is my hope and prayer that just like we don’t ignore God’s dictates, and God’s creatures on earth, we will not be ignored by God; as in those days down in Egypt. And thus, we will be able to bless, at the tip-end of “Magid”: “Blessed be you G-d…who has redeemed us and our forefathers…”!

About the Author: Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is Director of training and placement at The Straus-Amiel Institute at Ohr Torah Stone.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Art of Ignoring – So Safe, So Repulsive, So Dangerous”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israeli soldiers and security personnel protect Jews in Silwan Valley.
Jews Enter Six More Buildings in Silwan Secretly Bought from Arabs
Latest Judaism Stories

On Sunday, Jews will be refraining from food and drink from dawn until sunset to commemorate the Fast of Gedaliah. Following Nebuchadnetzar’s destruction of the First Temple and exile of most of the Jews, the Babylonians appointed Gedaliah ben Achikaam as governor of Judea. Under Gedaliah’s leadership, Judea and the survivors began to recover. On […]

On the beach

As we enter the Days of Awe, we must recognize that it is a joy to honor and serve true royalty.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

On Rosh Hashanah we are taught that true self-analysis involves the breaking down of walls

PTI-092614-Shofar

When we hear the words “Rosh Hashana is coming” it really means Hashem Himself is coming!

Who am I? What are the most important things in my life? What do I want to be remembered for? If, as a purely hypothetical exercise, I were to imagine reading my own obituary, what would I want it to say? These are the questions Rosh Hashanah urges us to ask ourselves. As we pray […]

We recently marked the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 – that terrible day when the symbols of man’s power and achievement crumbled before our eyes and disappeared in fire and smoke. For a very brief moment we lost our smugness. Our confidence was shaken. Many of us actually searched our ways. Some of us even learned […]

Why am I getting so agitated? And look how we’re treating each other!

While women are exempt from actually learning Torah, they are obligated in a different aspect of the mitzvah.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

We must eat, sleep, work, and care for our dependants. How much time is left over after all that?

Once we recognize that our separation from God is our fault, how do we repair it?

Chatzitzah And Its Applications
‘Greater Stringency Applies To Hallowed Things…’
(Chagiga 20b-21a)

To choose life, you must examine your actions in the period preceding the Days of Awe as an unbiased stranger, and render your decision.

Rabbi Dayan took a challah and some cooked eggs. He then called over his 15-year-old son, Aharon. “Could you please ask your friend Chaim from next door to come over and help me with the eruv tavshilin?”

This world has its purpose; it has been ideally fashioned to allow man to grow.

More Articles from Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein
what me worry

Using the term “Halacha” for policies which are not in fact Halacha, delegitimizes those who differ and causes ill-will towards Jewish law.

Israelis wave flags and signs saying "Together We'll Win" during a demonstration supporting an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.

This past week should teach us one thing; in the eyes of the enemy, Israel is one Israel.

As the worse in now behind us, and yet with restorations efforts still ahead of us, I believe that the terms utilized so widely this week to describe a terrible predicament should force us to reconsider their use when, thankfully, tragedy doesn’t strike. Though my heart and soul are with those hurt by the storm, I am disturbed that so many of these very adjectives are commonly used to describe common occurrences, a far cry from the critical situation that so many Americans on the East Coast are facing.

A leisurely Shabbat stroll around town recently turned a calming experience into a rather upsetting one, as graffiti sprayed on quite a few buildings in my neighborhood defaced the beautiful Jerusalem stone with the words; “Dabru Ivrit/Speak Hebrew”!

“It is a Sabbath of Sabbaths for you, and you shall afflict yourselves, It is an eternal statute” (Vayikra 16:31). This is how our Torah sums up the upcoming experience of Yom Kippur: a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. Rather than use the more colloquially known “Yom HaKippurim,” The Day of Atonement, the Torah reading of Yom Kippur morning uses the above term to summarize the twenty-five hour experience we are about to step into.

You’ve seen the scene before – the congregants are silent, the tension can be cut with a butter knife, all eyes are peeled on the bimah in the center, two blessings are uttered, and the silence is pierced….by the most primitive horn one could find!

As the year is coming to an end, with endless days filled with doing the very same commandments, we besiege G-d on each remaining day, asking for one vital ingredient for the one yet to come: May we never get used to our routine.

I’d like to submit that anything Frequent in our life tends be Forgotten! Something we see every day does not rank high on our list of concerns, and therefore, we just naturally forget about it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/holidays/the-art-of-ignoring-so-safe-so-repulsive-so-dangerous/2012/03/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: