What was supposed to be a Chanukah week of joy and happiness has in fact been challenging and difficult. On the very holiday celebrating our liberation from the Syrian Greeks occupying our most sacred space, Har HaBayis, the Temple Mount, the UN Security Council passed a resolution declaring that we are in fact illegally occupying the very location of our miracle. Acutely painful was the abstention from the vote by Israel’s closest ally in the world, who participated in — if not outright orchestrated — the ambush and betrayal. That pain was compounded by the lopsided, unfair, historically inaccurate rebuke of Israel by the Secretary of State before the entire world.
I think these events have been particularly agonizing because they represent a harsh wake-up call to the reality that as much as things have changed over time, they have by and large stayed the same. Israel may contribute to global medical and technological advances, may be the first to arrive at humanitarian disasters, may be a beacon of democracy and human rights in a region devoid of either, but at the end of the day, the prophecy of, “Hein am levadad yishkon, they are a nation that will dwell alone,” remains true. The vote was 14-0, with our greatest ally abstaining. That is the epitome of levadad yishkon, isolation and solitude.
As excruciating as these developments have been, they were predicted and prophesized. While we should never stop fighting anti-Israel activism, standing up for truth, justice, and our beloved Israel, we should stop allowing ourselves to be lulled into the fantasy that Israel or the Jewish people will be treated more fairly now that we have a modern state, than we have as a people throughout our long and mostly lonely history.
The Torah predicted our adversaries and opponents from without. What has made this Chanukah particularly challenging has been our adversaries and antagonists from within. The last few weeks have seen prominent scandals and arrests involving observant Jews, including the second largest hedge fund fraud in history. In the week in which we light our Menorahs to dispel the darkness and illuminate the world, our light and our sacred mission have been dimmed by these heinous alleged crimes and the great desecration of God’s name that has resulted.
We cannot control the enemies that rise from without, but we can and must stop being our own worst enemies from within. We have a mission and mandate to model for the world a life of values, guided by ethical principles and lived with kindness, dignity, integrity, and sanctity. Following each headline featuring a scandal, we must redouble our efforts to offset the damage by making positive impressions and conducting ourselves in ways that will bring all with whom we interact to appreciate the Ribono Shel Olam, the Master of the Universe, and to jump on board to perfect His world.
Opportunities for Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name, are all around us. Just this week, Mr. Hershel Waldner, a Chassidic employee of B&H in Manhattan added great light to the world and helped offset the darkness with a generous act of lovingkindness. He was walking in Manhattan when he found a wallet with a driver’s license, credit cards, and cash, but no contact information other than a business card with a handwritten phone number on the back. Mr. Waldner called it and the man who answered was the boss of the wallet’s owner, who was in New York for a few days of vacation. The boss put them in touch and the stranger came to B&H Photo to retrieve his wallet with great gratitude and appreciation.
We don’t all discover wallets and aren’t presented with prospects for acts of Kiddush Hashem that will make it to the newspapers, but we do have daily opportunities to advance the mission. Here are a few to consider, particularly during this season of the year:
- I have not formally studied the subject, but it stands to reason that, on average, there is more garbage picked up after the weekend outside Observant Jewish homes than from our neighbors. We have all seen the multiple garbage cans plus overflow bags following each Yom Tov, let alone a three-day holiday. Wouldn’t it be amazing if every observant Jewish family tipped their sanitation workers once a year and communicated gratitude for literally handling our garbage? The same goes for the people who deliver our mail. True, they are paid, but so are many of us who still appreciate gestures of appreciation.
- When we go out to eat, we are served and waited on by people who work hard and are not retiring on the salary the job provides. At the end of the meal, we have an option. We can be stingy, exacting, and look to reduce the tip because of flaws in the service. Or, we can be generous, magnanimous, appreciative and overlook what might not have been perfect. If we choose the latter, coupled with common courtesy like please and thank you, we can advance the mission more than we think. The few extra dollars between a generous or miserly tip will unlikely affect our lifestyle or savings but they are a great investment in making a Kiddush Hashem.
- Some people have part-time or full-time help at home. Often, these individuals clean our messes, scrub our toilets, do our laundry, and much more. They add great value and service to our family and while they are paid for their work, they are too often mistreated, dealt with disrespectfully, or taken advantage of. Be fair and transparent about whether they will be partially paid when you are on vacation. Consider giving a gift or tip this time of year to say thank you. Treat them as you would want your family members treated in the same position.
- Next time you are standing on line in a store or supermarket, watch as people approach the cashier and notice how many are talking on their cell phone and never look at or engage the person helping them. Cashiers stand on their feet all day providing a service. They deserve not to feel invisible or insignificant. When you get to the front of the line, hang up the phone, look your cashier in the eye, ask him or her about their day and say thank you. Consider using their name when addressing them. You wouldn’t believe the positive impression you can make just by using someone’s name.
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l once commented that every generation possesses a mitzvah that is especially significant for its time. Previous generations were challenged with the mitzvah of dying al Kiddush Hashem. Rav Elyashiv said the mitzvah for our day is to “Let the Name of Heaven become beloved through you.” Our mitzvah is living al Kiddush Hashem.
We cannot easily impact the way the UN votes on Israel or how fair or friendly the administration will be. However, it is entirely in our hands to not God forbid hurt our people by setting back the mission, and instead always act like a mensch and thereby bring greater light into the world.
NLEResources.com thanks Rabbi Goldberg for allowing us to share this insightful article that originally appeared on his blog on December 29, 2016. Rabbi Efrem Goldberg is the Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), a rapidly-growing congregation of over 650 families and over 1,000 children in Boca Raton, Florida. In 2010 Rabbi Goldberg was recognized as one of South Florida’s Most Influential Jewish Leaders. He serves as Co-Chair of the Orthodox Rabbinical Board’s Va’ad Ha’Kashrus, as Director of the Rabbinical Council of America’s South Florida Regional Beis Din for Conversion, and as Posek of the Boca Raton Mikvah. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, Hillel Day School, Torah Academy of Boca Raton, and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. Additionally, Rabbi Goldberg serves as Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Chairman of the Orthodox Union Legacy Group and is a member of the AIPAC National Council. Rabbi Goldberg grew up in Teaneck, NJ, attended Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh in Israel for two years, graduated from Yeshiva University with a B.A. in psychology, attended Ner Le’Elef and received Semicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Yeshiva University. In 2008, he completed the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management Advanced Executive Program. Rabbi Goldberg is married to Yocheved and has seven children, Racheli, Atara, Leora, Tamar, Estee, Temima and Shai.