This week's Angel for Shabbat on the Torah portion of the week was written by Jake Nussbaum, a student at Yeshiva University, and a member of the University Network of our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
Angel for Shabbat
This week's Angel for Shabbat was written by Jonathan Arking, who is serving as a student summer intern for our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. Jonathan is an incoming Freshman at Princeton University.
How we communicate is just as important as the content we are communicating. Until we learn to engage in discourse that is truly civil, we, too, will be stuck on the precipice of our promised land, unable to progress together toward a greater society.
Religion has two faces. One face is that of saintliness, idealism, holiness and selflessness. But the other face is one of hatred, cruelty, selfishness and egotism. A Talmudic passage (Shabbat 89a-b) links the word Sinai with the word Sinah—hatred. Those who emulate the ideals of Sinai are those who reflect the beautiful face of religion. Those who breach those ideals fall into the trap of Sinah, becoming hateful and jealous.
To focus exclusively on the universal aspects of Judaism, though central to Judaism’s mission, is to do a disservice not only to the Jewish tradition, but all of humanity. Without a real foundation in its particular mission in the world, Judaism will struggle to contribute universally. Similarly, to focus exclusively on the particularistic aspects of Judaism corrupts its very purpose within humanity.
An inevitable feature of human life is making mistakes. No one is always right; no one always makes the correct decisions. The sign of greatness is to recognize our mistakes and misjudgments and seek a second chance. Even if one’s original error had been made with the best of intentions, one needs the strength to say: I was wrong; I need a second chance.
Careful observance of the rules and regulations is important; but this does not in itself make us into religious people. Religiosity entails a philosophic awareness of the presence of God in our lives, and a commitment to live righteous, compassionate and moral lives.
The "diagnosis" is: a loss of the holy. The "cure" is: to take Judaism more seriously, to reconnect with the Almighty, to infuse life with the fulness of Torah learning and observance. We don't want "gimmicks" or short-term and short-sighted suggestions that aim at inflating our egos; we want serious, long-term, visionary suggestions that aim at sustaining our souls and our spirits.
Many people feel the need to be noticed. They dye their hair neon green, or they wear immodest clothing, or they say things that are intended to shock. They will do anything to keep the limelight focused on themselves: they will tell a stream of jokes, they will speak without listening to others, they will take “selfies” and send them to anyone and everyone they can think of. The message they convey is: NOTICE ME.
Whatever kind of work we do, we can see it as a job, or a career--or a calling. A shift in vision, a shift in attitude--and we can become different and better and happier people.