We are obligated not just to worry about ourselves, but to do our part in improving society and working to create a world in which “there shall be no needy among you.”
Angel for Shabbat
The Pirkei Avot describes the controversy of Korah and his cohorts to have been “not for the sake of Heaven.” Their goal was to overthrow the leadership of Moses and Aaron, in the hope of seizing political power for themselves. They did not offer a positive agenda; rather, they preyed on the fears and frustrations of the public. These kinds of controversies are a zero sum game. One side wins, one side loses.
As we begin the book of Devarim, and as we approach Tisha B’av, it is important to not only focus on observance of the Mitzvot, but also to always try to be “upright and just,” and to seek to make the will of God our will.
It is fashionable in some religious circles to idolize cult leaders and to refrain from (and even deeply resent) any criticism aimed at these great ones. It is fashionable in some circles to foster “echo reasoning”, where it is only licit to speak with others who share the same views, where it is forbidden to hear opposing ideas and critiques. Such circles represent a genuine danger to healthy religious life.
The greatest people are precisely those who are most generous and sensitive to the feelings of others. They conduct themselves with good manners and thoughtfulness. They are humble, natural, and kind. They do not cut in lines; they pay their debts on time; they demand no extra honors or privileges.
This week's "Angel for Shabbat" column is by Jonathan Arking, Summer Student Intern of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
When people face a crisis, they need to be told the truth about the challenges ahead. But they also need to be given a realistic plan of action. It is destructive to create alarm and panic; it is irresponsible to ignore genuine threats.
When teaching the words of our Sages, we need to have the literary tact to know how they used language. If we teach hyperbolic statements as being literally true, then we not only misconstrue the teachings of our Sages, but we unwittingly mislead our students into believing problematic things. As they grow older and wiser, they may say to themselves: if our Rebbis were mistaken on this, perhaps they were mistaken on many other matters.
If we are to imagine peace, we must look beyond the hatred, war and violence; we must look to a better day...and we must pray that the Almighty will bless the people of Israel--and all good people everywhere--with genuine peace.
War is ugly. War entails fighting and killing enemies. It entails a vast commitment of resources to mobilize and arm one’s forces and to strengthen one’s defenses. It entails casualties and loss of life. Peace is so much nicer. No nation wants peace more than Israel. And no nation is under more constant threats than Israel.