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GOOD MORNING! My friend, Tuvia Chaim Ariel, of blessed memory, grew up in New York. One of his best buddies was a nice Jewish boy - who became a guru in India with a considerable following of spiritual seekers. Whenever the guru would come to New York, he and Tuvia would head to the nearest kosher deli for a hot pastrami sandwich. Though this was against the precepts of the eastern philosophy he espoused, the guru had a passion for pastrami.
One time Tuvia and the guru were sitting in the deli when lo and behold -one of the guru's followers spotted him, entered the deli and beseeched the guru, "Oh, guru - how is possible that you are eating a pastrami sandwich?" To which the guru replies, "The swallow wings skyward as the moon waxes full. Meditate upon it."
When the follower left, Tuvia asked, "And what is that supposed to mean?" And the guru replied, "What am I supposed to tell him? That I love pastrami?" I like the story for its own sake, but if you want a lesson: Look for consistency and honesty in your leaders - and in yourself.
The Torah refers to the Jewish People as a Chosen People:
"For you are a holy people to the Lord, your God ... Who has chosen you to be for Him a treasured people among all the peoples that are on the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Many people find this term distressing, feeling that it is a racist concept which appears to fly in the face of the Western ideal of all people being equal before God. However, it cannot be racist. It is impossible to define the Jews as one monolithic race; Jews are as racially diverse as there are races. Caucasians, blacks and Orientals are all part of our nation.
While the concept of Chosen People does not mean a racially superior people, it implies something about the Jewish people. The Torah describes us as a "treasured nation" with a special closeness to the Almighty.
The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 14:10) tells us that the Almighty went to the nations of the world and offered them the Torah. Each one asked, "What's in it?" The Almighty replied with a commandment that would be the most difficult for that particular nation and then each nation rejected it. The Jewish people, however, said "Na'aseh V'nishma" - we will do (the commandments) and we will analyze afterwards how they impact our lives.
Because of our voluntary acceptance, the Almighty made an eternal covenant with us that we will be His people and He will be our God. Any individual can come close to the Almighty, but the ultimate relationship comes through entering the covenant of Abraham and fulfilling the Torah. This special relationship is open to any member of humanity who wishes to enter the covenant.
The concept of Chosen People means both chosen and choosing. Chosen for the responsibility to be a light unto the nations, to be a moral signpost for the nations of the world. Choosing means that on Mt. Sinai the Jewish people undertook to fulfill this mandate and to do the will of God. We are not chosen for special benefits; we are chosen for extra responsibility.
Every nation, every people, every religion thinks that it is better than any other nation, people or religion. The Jewish people know that the issue is not whether we are better than anyone else, but whether we fulfill our part of the covenant with the Almighty to hold high the values of the Torah and to do the Almighty's will to perfect ourselves and to help perfect the world.
For more on "God's Chosen People" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Here begins the story of the Ten Plagues which God put upon the Egyptians not only to effect the release of the Jewish people from bondage, but to show the world that He is the God of all creation and history. The first nine plagues are divisible into three groups:
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that these were punishments measure for measure for afflicting the Jewish people with slavery. The first of each group reduced Egyptians in their own land to the insecurity of strangers, the second of each group robbed them of pride, possessions and a sense of superiority; the third in each group imposed physical suffering.
The Torah states:
"And the Almighty spoke to Moshe and Aharon and He commanded them about the Children of Israel." (Ex. 6:13)
Rashi, the French commentator (who lived from 1040-1104), clarifies that the Almighty commanded Moshe and Aharon to lead them gently and with patience. The Shaloh, a later commentator, writes that this is a lesson for any person in a position of leadership. Whenever you are in a position of authority, be very careful not to get angry at the people you are dealing with. Watch out that you do not scream and shout. The reward for a leader who has this patience is very great.
There are two possible attitudes for a person in a position of leadership. The first is personal power - the person seeks leadership for his own ego. The leader demands that people listen to him because of his selfish vanity. Such a leader will become angry when people do not follow his orders: "How dare they disobey me!" His entire focus is on his own success. The only reason he cares about other people is because that is how he will be successful. The people he deals with are not his goal, but just a means to an end. The end being his own self-aggrandizement and power. Such a leader will get angry easily.
The Torah ideal of leadership is to help as many people as possible. The focus is to benefit people and to be of service to others. When they are suffering, the leader realizes that they are likely to be moody and complaining. The more difficult they are to deal with, the greater the need for patience and tolerance. That was the Almighty's command to the first leaders of the Jewish people. This is the model for all future leaders. Regardless of whether you have authority over a large group or a small group such as a class or your own children, this lesson applies to you. Every difficult encounter is a tool for growing in the trait of patience.
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearances, giftedness or skill. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past ... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play out the one string we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it."
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 19
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 5:33 - Hong Kong 5:45 - Honolulu 5:55
J'Burg 6:46 - London 4:08 - Los Angeles 4:52
Melbourne 8:24 - Mexico City 5:58 - Miami 5:32
New York 4:31 - Singapore 6:03 - Toronto 4:53
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You can live in the past ...
but there's no future in it.
Dedicated on Behalf of the
Leonard E. Zedeck