The Talmud (Yoma 9b) suggests that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed due to the sin of sinat hinam, baseless hatred. Yet, “baseless” hatred seems to be rare, if not impossible. Whenever people hate, they don’t think their hatred is baseless.
Angel for Shabbat
"...I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea which cannot be numbered for multitude." "and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth...." "I will multiply thy seed as the stars in heaven."
It sometimes happens that people have an authentic and precious tradition—but they don’t appreciate it! They want something new and different, something more “relevant,” something that will supposedly appeal to the masses. The Talmud (Arakhin 10b) describes an amazing situation that transpired during the days of our ancient Temple in Jerusalem.
Students were told by their teacher that Rivka was three years old when she married Yitzhak--who was forty years old. A student asked: Is it reasonable to think that a forty year old man like Yithak would marry a three year old girl? The rabbi responded: if our sages say that Rivka was three years old, that's how old she was! There is no room for further discussion. Actually, there is a lot more room for discussion.
In his book, “Games People Play,” Dr. Eric Berne wrote of a phenomenon that he described as recognition hunger. Humans have a deep psychological need to be recognized, to be validated. It is a natural desire to want to be loved and appreciated. These signs of affirmative recognition convey a message: your life matters, you are good, you make a difference. When someone sincerely praises or thanks us, we feel better about ourselves.
“The Emperor has no clothes!” These words pierce through the illusions and propaganda and political correctness that engulf us. The many will ignore or deny these words. The few will listen, will face the truth, and will maintain their dignity and the dignity of humanity.
A story is told of the great Hassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. He had been visiting a town and attended prayer services in the local synagogue. One day, he stopped at the synagogue door and did not enter the sanctuary. People asked: Why did the Rebbe not enter the synagogue? Rabbi Levi Yitzhak told them: “The synagogue is too crowded.” But the synagogue was empty! The Rebbe explained: “The synagogue is full of prayers, there's no room left for us."
"...for I am dust and ashes." (Bereishith 18:27)
When God informed Abraham that He was intending to destroy the wicked city of Sodom, Abraham immediately challenged the Divine decision. Perhaps, argued Abraham, there were righteous people in the city: should they perish along with the wicked people? "Will the Judge of all the world not act justly?"
Fasting and praying are important ingredients of Yom Kippur and are signs of repentance for our transgressions against God. But, as is well known, Yom Kippur does not provide atonement for sins committed against human beings. Rabbinic tradition has it that a person can expect to be judged by God with the same standard of judgment that a person applies to others. If a person is mean-spirited and unfair in treatment of fellow human beings, these same qualities will be applied by the Heavenly court.
(This is the first sermon I delivered from the pulpit of Congregation Shearith Israel, Simhat Torah 1969. Many years have passed since that first sermon, and yet the ideas within it continue to ring true.)
...though we may never enter the Promised Land, we will be able to stand on a summit and see our dreams realized in the future through our children. We may never walk into the land, but we will have led an entire generation to the point where they can enter.