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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

May 23, 2014  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Find the might it takes to make God proud of you

by Rabbi David Weizman Congregation Beth Shalom, Clearwater

The same year that the State of Is- rael came into being, George Orwell wrote a book about what government surveillance might look like in the year 1984.

We have come a long way from that imagination to the current reality of our own National Security Agency. In our state of insecurity, the government has its eye on the nation, and in this age of computers and cell phones, our activities can be monitored to the moment. In the private sector, everyone who has paid for an item with a credit card, given an e-mail address or phone number to a merchant or vendor, has a numerical consumer ID that enables advertisers to solicit you according to your buying trends.

When Edward Snowden recently asked Vladimir Putin about the practices of the NSA, he simply said that he was envious that he didn’t have that kind of money to devote to domestic surveillance. If the average American lives in such a glass house, kal v’homer, how much more so do celebrities, billionaires and long time owners of NBA teams. I suppose that what the issue really was in the recorded conversation between V. Stiviano and Donald Sterling. ‘People are watching me, and the people you hang out with reflect on me. I don’t want to be associated with them, so stop publicizing it.’ If I could have been their mediator, I would have told them: first of all, turn off the recorder. This isn’t the Oval Office. People say things that they probably shouldn’t all the time, especially when they think they are speaking in private.

The Warsaw Ghetto Rebbe, Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, taught the following lesson one Shabbos afternoon that is recorded in his book, Derech HaMelech, literally, The Way of the King. This is the path of the accenting spirit and the true meaning of Yiras Shemiyim, the fear of Heaven. Imagine that you are in your living room at night with the lights on and the curtains open to the street. Every passerby can see what you are doing as though you were on a theater stage. With this in mind, we are ever careful to act in a way that brings us honor, and honor to our family. Now, draw the curtains closed so that those outside can only see the shadows moving about inside. You act in the same dignified manner. Now turn off the lights inside the house. You feel like someone is watching you? It is the Kadosh Baruch Hu, and He wants you to be upright in your ways; when you lie down and when you rise up, when you walk by the way and when you are sitting in the privacy of your own home. And that feeling, says the rebbe, is what we mean when we say Ahavah, You should love God with all your heart, your soul and your might, because it takes a lot of might to make God proud of you all of the time.

The Torah prohibits us from using language in ways that damage other people: against richilus, gossip, against motze shem rah, slander, and against lashon ha’rah, spreading rumors. These are some of the most difficult commandments to uphold. We can see how many people were hurt by the words that Donald Sterling used in a private conversation, and perhaps that can help us to control our own language and be more aware of the power of words uttered. But there is yet another lesson here to be learned about our house, the House of Israel. When you live in a family, you are bound to one another. The victories and the defeats are felt acutely by each member of the family. The Talmud says that the Jewish people are all connected like one big family; Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh. When one of us becomes the commissioner of the NBA, we are proud of his accomplishment. But when one of us is recorded saying disparaging things about black people, we are ashamed. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook spoke about the soul of the nation, that it grows dim with the sins of the people. It is the Sabbatical year, he says, the Shmittah, that allows the soul of the nation to redeem its light, to shine God’s glory into the world once again. So let us incline our hearts towards the year that is coming, 5775, with the intention of polishing the soul of our nation, and may we bring pride to one another.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned, on a rotating basis by the board.


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