We were in Starbucks last Sunday when a stranger approached my husband. “Are you Jewish?” he asked. My husband responded in the affirmative. “I just wanted to let you know that I stand behind Israel and believe in Israel.” He then muttered some deprecatory words about the current American administration and reiterated his support. We thanked him and left.
We will never see him again (and probably wouldn’t recognize him if we did) but he left an impact on us. It wasn’t so much his support of Israel that affected us – although we were certainly moved and grateful. It wasn’t his simple and sincere wishes – although they were definitely appreciated.
Rather it made us stop and think about how people see us. We are constantly being told that people are looking at us, that we are representatives of the Jewish people, that it’s our job to make a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of the Almighty’s name in this world. But these ideas can seem very abstract and remote.
Am I really walking around imagining people are looking at me? Observing and judging my behavior? I’m not but I think I should be. It’s an awesome privilege to be part of the Jewish people. And it’s an awesome responsibility as well. People are watching. People are noticing. People have expectations. And we are only human after all. The pressure seems too great…
I started to look at my clothes. I had just thrown them on to drive one of our kids to the airport. Were they too schlumpy? Had I even bothered to brush my sheitel? I know I didn’t put on any makeup. Were there stains on our clothing? Were we smiling and friendly? Were we in the middle of an argument? (I don’t think so!) We need to constantly be aware of this. Sometimes I’m really put together; I’m teaching a class and I know I have to look my best. But I may have violated my own principles and dressed down when I was just “running out with my husband.” Yes, it was just an errand. But we were together and I should have been more sensitive. Now I have to worry about my husband and anonymous strangers!
And yet our interaction was very simple and heartfelt. In our situation we hadn’t behaved in any unique way at all – it wasn’t our actions but my husband’s kippah that gave us away. We hadn’t actually done anything particularly kind to attract or particularly rude to deter him. It had nothing to do with us. But it could. It certainly would be nice (make that wonderful) if people would look at our actions and say “God bless the Jewish people. Look at their caring. Look at their consideration. Look at their thoughtfulness.”
It would be wonderful if people would look at me and notice a dignity, an inner peace, a sense of my place in the world and my relationship with God. Okay, who am I kidding?! But a girl can dream, can’t she? And all of us, the whole Jewish people, need to share this goal. We should all be aware of the impression and impact we make on those around us – and try to do even better.
That unassuming man whose name I’ll never know did a god job of reminding me of the tremendous potential we all have and of the importance of the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, being God’s ambassadors.