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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘RV’

Never Fear Being Hated

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Mendy, today is your bar mitzvah. As your father, I want to help inspire you on this momentous occasion with words that I hope will stay with you forever.
 
In your Torah portion you read God’s seminal command, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am Holy” (Lev. 19:2).

To be holy is to be set apart. The Sabbath is holy because its restfulness distinguishes it from the workdays of the week. The Temple in Jerusalem is holy because its consecrated space is set aside for lofty spiritual pursuits.

If one is to be holy, Mendy, then one must be different.

When all the world was worshipping idols, carved from stone and sculpted from rock, Abraham affirmed the invisible Creator who hid behind the starry night. When all of Egypt enslaved an innocent people, Moses distanced himself from his royal upbringing by striking an Egyptian task master who had mercilessly beat a helpless slave.

In so doing, both these men exuded a preparedness to be hated for their righteousness. Abraham would henceforth be called Avraham Haivri – the man who dared to stand apart. Moses would be forced to flee his native country, only to return and bring the mighty Egyptians to their knees.

What does it mean to be a Jew, Mendy? It is the courage to be different. Benjamin Disraeli, the celebrated British prime minister, expressed that difference in response to an anti-Semitic parliamentarian’s derogatory reference to him as a Jew: “Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.”

You now become a man, Mendy, and you have a choice as to what kind of man you will be. Small men want to be loved. But big men are prepared to be hated. Small men tailor their actions to suit the multitude. But big men will do the right thing no matter how much it inflames the masses.

Abraham Lincoln was detested by both South and North as he fought for the highly unpopular cause of emancipation. Winston Churchill was loathed in Britain for speaking out against Chamberlain’s fictitious peace with Hitler. And Martin Luther King was cut down by an assassin’s bullet for speaking out against the injustices practiced against black Americans. No great man or woman has ever lived who was not prepared to be hated.

Do not the make the mistake of believing, Mendy, as you bask in the adoration of family and community, that popularity is virtuous. On the contrary, as you steel yourself to become a man, prepare yourself to practice justice whatever the consequences.

While the rest of the world will strive to be loved, you strive to be holy. Do what’s right even it costs you friendship. Do what’s virtuous even if it leaves you lonely. Seek to impress not your fellow man, but none but God alone.

How many Jewish students did I meet in my eleven years at Oxford who were afraid to be different, terrified to stand apart? They would arrive at the university with their yarmulkes on and quickly take them off. They weren’t just abandoning God, they were betraying themselves, displaying weakness and a desire to be part of the pack.

Remember, Mendy, when we traveled in an RV to Badlands National Park in South Dakota? There was a terrible storm, and we saw hundreds of cows herded together, out of fear, under the thundering skies. And that’s what most people do, Mendy, as they confront their one great fear in life: that they won’t be loved. The herd instinct is a reaction to the fear of being different, of being rejected, of being an outcast. The desire to be loved is so strong that most people are prepared to erase their individuality, obliterate their uniqueness, just in order to be accepted.

Abraham Lincoln once remarked that the tragedy of being human is that while all of us are born God’s original, most of us die man’s imitation and copy.

There are kids prepared to start taking drugs just to win friends. There are teenage girls who are prepared to be intimate with boys in the false belief that if they deliver their bodies the boys will offer up their hearts.

You be different, Mendy. Never look to be loved. Look to be holy. Don’t look to be popular. Look to be righteous. Endeavor not to fit in, but to remain you.

The prophet Micah said it best. “What does God require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” Walk with God, Mendy, even when it forces you to walk without human company. Walk with God even when if feels, as it did in Auschwitz, that God Himself has ceased to walk with you.

In my life, I have often made the mistake of thinking that being loved was more important than being holy. I always wanted to do virtuous things with my life, but I wanted to be known for those good things. And in my quest for recognition, I made big mistakes, like believing that Hollywood celebrities would be a proper way to promote Godly values. My need to be loved was too great, the desire for external affirmation too overpowering. I was flattered that famous people admired me.

Now I know that my error was simply to want to be loved rather than to be righteous. Had I wanted to be holy, I would never have lent credibility to a pop star who made himself into an idol. Had I wanted to be holy, I would still have written controversial books to save marriages, but I would have paid greater heed to my detractors in the knowledge that one learns far more from one’s critics than one’s fans.

Devote your life, Mendy, to being a kiddush Hashem, to making God shine. Act compassionately, and you will make God glitter. Greet people with dignity, and you will make God sparkle. Give a homeless man a dollar, and you will make God shimmer. Control your temper, and you will make God glisten.

You have made proud to be your father. But from today, you become a man. Be a big man, Mendy. Live for the big things that electrify the heavens and cause the earth to quake.

Adapted from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s address to his son Mendy in synagogue on Saturday, May 6. Rabbi Boteach is the host of TLC’s “Shalom in the Home” and the author of “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children.” His website is www.shmuley.com.

Babies Are No Longer Considered A Blessing

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

A funny thing happened to me the other day when my wife and I had, thank God, another baby (a boy). Many of my friends didn’t seem all that happy for me. Sure, they went through the motions of smiles and congratulations. But it was evident that many thought me insane. Why would a young man and his wife ruin their lives with eight children? Who could afford the day-school bills? Didn’t we want to live life a little, and not just be burdened with kids?

It got downright surreal when a European film company pressed me, while my wife was in labor, to finish shooting a segment that had an urgent deadline (I obviously told them they were insane). The next day I was mildly criticized by a Jewish organization I was scheduled to address – because I had to cancel my appearance when I realized the lecture would clash with the baby’s bris.

I don’t mind that the world doesn’t really love babies. I do mind that it pretends to. It’s time we got honest about our priorities. Most people get a new car every two or three years, but one or two babies through the life of a marriage is plenty. You can get drunk on an airplane, laugh hysterically with your mates, and still not really anger people. But if you dare bring a crying baby on board you will be given malicious looks, as if the little thing is a package that ticks.

If you walk your dog along the street, people will stop you to tell you how cute he is. But walking down the street with a baby? You might run into a cooing woman or two, but for the most part you’ll be utterly ignored.

Indeed, the contempt shown to parents who have many children is the last acceptable prejudice in our society. As a father of a large family, I find myself apologizing wherever I go, as if I’ve committed a crime. The frequent and loaded stares from scornful onlookers imply that the famine in Africa was caused by my selfish insistence on overpopulating the earth. Long ago my wife and I discovered that few hotels were prepared to accommodate so many children, even if we took three of four rooms – which is why we bought an RV for travel.

How strange to live in a world where loving children casts one in infamy. Having a family with many children implies a backwardness and primitivism that is deemed unbecoming in the developed countries of the West. Large families, it is thought, exist only among religious weirdoes or the teeming hovels of the Third World. Rich countries, by contrast, prefer to increase their standard of living rather than the number of the living.

Looking at Western birth rates for the year 2001, the United States averaged only 14.2 births for every thousand Americans, and the birthrate among white Americans is so low that the United States will soon lose its white majority. Indeed, one can go for days in Manhattan without encountering a single pregnant woman.

Hence the high birth rates of extremely poor African nations like Uganda, at 47.52 births per 1,000, or Niger with 50.68 births per 1,000, are deemed to be prime causes and indicators of their penury. The abundant fertility of these countries confirms the unspoken Western view of these country’s inhabitants as being just one step above savages. Contraception becomes a synonym for civilization.

A Christian mother of six once wrote to me: “I find it troubling to worry about getting pregnant again… because I don’t want to face the criticism of friends and family. Why do people not see children as a blessing?” A fair question that deserves a fair response.

Why is it that even many synagogues today are not children-friendly? Why are people impressed that Jay Leno owns twenty motorcycles but disgusted that some religious families choose to have ten children?

Let’s not finesse the response. We all know why. A world that has lost its innocence has trouble appreciating beings that are innocent. A world that has become selfish has soured to the idea of leading a life of selflessness. A world that has become grossly materialistic is turned off to the idea of more dependents who consume resources. And a world that mistakenly believes that freedom means a lack of responsibility is opposed to the idea of needy creatures who “tie you down.”

The world can go fly a kite.

By just looking at my children I become more innocent. By loving them I become more noble. By spending more money on them than I spend on myself I find transcendence. And by being a father and liberating all of the love in my heart, my spirit soars free. I work hard to support a large family and I give up no pleasures in doing so because my children are my foremost pleasure.

I am often asked by women how they can tell whether the men they are dating are marriage material. I tell them, “See if he enjoys children.” A man who loves children is playful. He will spend his life joking with his wife because he loves to see her laugh, and will flirt with her because he loves to see her smile.

There was a time when husbands and wives worked hard to ensure that they could afford the blessings of a large family. Today, the higher your earning bracket the fewer children you have. But then we always knew that many people turn money from a blessing into a curse.

Before he died, the Lubavitcher Rebbe launched a campaign asking parents to have one more child than they originally planned. It is a campaign that a dwindling Jewish community should revive as it continues to disappear.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the host of TLC’s upcoming family dynamics show “Shalom in the Home” and author of the forthcoming book “Ten Conversations You Need to Have With Your Children.” His website is www.shmuley.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/babies-are-no-longer-considered-a-blessing/2006/03/08/

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