According to the Midrash, it is impossible for Yisrael as a nation to find full favor in the eyes of the other nations of the world. Since the time of Yaakov and Eisav, we have suffered the world’s wrath by way of persecutions and expulsions – there is virtually no nation in the world that does not have Jewish blood in its soil. I once read about a single Jewish-owned property in Poland that due to the ebbs and tides of persecution, in 600 years had been snatched by various anti-Semitic governments no less than three times.
The question we must ask is as follows: How can we have a global effect on the world if they really do not wish us well. How can we really influence them if the hatred is so deep and widespread?
The task is definitely very difficult, but are we really trying?
This summer I was in the Wal-Mart in Monticello, New York. The lane I was checking out in was designated for 12 items or less. The store was packed and the lines were very long. It was the beginning of July when our community migrates en masse to the cooler Catskill climate, and the initial food and accessories shopping can be quite large. Most of the individuals on line in the express lane were local residents who were there to purchase a loaf of bread or some small items for dinner. The regular lines were long, and it would have taken over an hour for me to get to the register; I was relieved that I only had a couple of items and could wait in the quicker express lane.
The woman at the head of my line was Jewish, obvious from the Hebrew writing on her shirt and from the Mickey Mouse leather yarmulka on her child’s head. I was contemplating the inner thoughts of the locals upon seeing the swarm of Jews enter their usually quiet store. During the year, the Wal-Mart is practically empty. One could park near the front door, the shelves are well stocked and there are never lines at the registers. At the beginning of the summer, the parking lot fills up with newer model leased cars, the shelves are bare, and the lines are usually long. Even though our presence most certainly boosts the local economy, there are many locals who are disrupted by the swarm of the boisterous city folk. The Jewish lady at the head of the line put her seven items on the counter before motioning to her daughter who was hovering nearby with an overflowing cart. The lady began moving the items from the shopping cart to the small express belt with a smile to the cashier and a sly, “I am sure you don’t mind, right?” What was he to say? But as the express line backed up to almost 20 people deep, I squirmed with embarrassment as the woman ahead of me turned to me, an obviously Jewish man behind her, and said, “Who do these Jews think they are?”
The answer is that we are the descendants of our holy forefathers, and we have been given the task to sanctify Hashem’s name with our actions. We are endowed with the responsibility of being examples to the world of what the beauty of Torah can bring to one’s life. That is the essence of kiddush Hashem, or sanctification of G-d’s name. Our forefather Avraham’s impact transformed the world from a predominantly idol worshipping culture to one with a greater recognition of Hashem. Avraham’s greatest teaching method was his genuine chesed, his giving to others with tremendous self-sacrifice. When a person sees that another person cares so much about him, he will want to see what caused this person to be so righteous. The result is influencing others to respect the Torah and its laws which create an intricate web of positive interpersonal relationships. Avraham’s example makes it clear that if we act towards others with kindness and respect, a kiddush Hashem is made and the world around us is impacted in a positive way.
Returning to Wal-Mart…
I went to the parking lot and saw the Jewish lady loading her car. I approached and asked her what she had been thinking. She said that the “trick” she used is usually very effective in saving her time in the checkout line. I questioned whether she ever considered the fact that she was stealing time from other people, or, even worse, making a public chilul Hashem — desecration of G-d’s name. Her response: If others aren’t smart enough to think of this trick, then it is their problem. We are in a “survival of the fittest world,” she stated, and the smartest ones are those who will win. I suggested that performing such “tricks” while wearing a shirt with Hebrew writing and with her son wearing a Mickey Mouse clad yarmulka generates a bad name for the nation that she represents and the holy Torah that is our guide. I would have liked to tell my unreceptive audience that being “smarter” does not make a kiddush Hashem; only through honesty and kindness can we gain respect in the eyes of the nations of the world… and only those who practice that are the true “winners.”