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Jews, People Are Watching
Mom with a View

Jews, People Are Watching

It’s an awesome privilege – and responsibility – to be part of the Jewish people.

by

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.

March 15, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 8

(6) yisroel, April 8, 2015 9:22 AM

Great Scott! you are so right! The gemara Yoma defines kiddush hashem

And "chillul haShem" With whom would you find "kiddush haShem?" Someone who (1) learns Torah, (2) repeats Mishnah and (3) "serves scholars (meaning, he learns gemara and the halachic conclusions)" AND (4) his dealings with "the creations (people)" are with nachas, that is, gentle (please, thank you, open doors, polite), WHAT do People say? Happy is one who learns Torah, I want my son to learn Torah, etc. With whom would you find "chillul haShem?" Someone who (1) learns Torah, (2) repeats Mishnah, and (3) "serves scholars," AND his dealings with "the creations" are NOT gentle, what do People say? Woe is to one who learns Torah, I don't want MY child to learn Torah, etc! I heard the famous Maggid, Rav Shalom Schwadron, qoute this gemara and then ask, "Do the People test us on the Torah, the Mishna or the final halacha? NO! They only test us on the 4th item,our dealings with them.... And today, he added, a Yeshiva bochur with a yarmulka represents that person in the gemara who is an accomplished scholar! (to our chagrin) and he represents Yiddishkeit to the person on the street! Therefore, he concluded, we must be oh so careful with our interpersonal dealings to make a KIDDUSH HASHEM, because it is WE that do so by our actions. I also had the zchus to drive him once from Lakewood to NY several years later, and, when going past a toll booth, I greeted the toll taker warmly. He questioned me as to why I did so? I responded, "to make a Kiddush haShem!" He was very pleased....

Ra'anan, October 29, 2015 4:22 PM

beautiful, thank you for writing that!

beautiful, thank you for writing that!

(5) Zsolt, March 20, 2015 12:13 AM

Light onto the nations

I just copied these two parts of this fantastic article:

"...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…
...reminding me of the tremendous potential we all have and of the importance of the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, being God’s ambassadors."

Most importantly our responsibility is not individual but collective. We are a Nation of "one man with one heart", we eat, feast and pray assembled together.

What is crisis ridden, desperately helpless world mostly wants to see from us is the practical implementation of mutual guarantee, the unlikely, "super-natural" interconnections and mutually complementing cooperation above and despite our inherently self-serving nature.

Only this unique Jewish method, taught to others through positive example can give global humanity hope and a platform for a better future.

(4) Nancy, March 18, 2015 11:31 AM

We can all do SOMETHING.

Whether we hold a door open for someone or help a person out financially, we can all do some type of mitzvah. As someone who has made her share of mistakes in life, I do my best to learn from these gaffes so that I can grow.

(3) J Efram, March 17, 2015 5:31 PM

Impressions

I forget which Rav said it: "Bad press is not always a chilul hashem." Sometimes the deck will be stacked no matter what. There are certain sine qua non v-a-v derech eretz that [should] apply 24/7, but we can't please everyone, nor should we try.

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