GOOD MORNING! Would you like to try an experiment? Think of the following words and conjure an image -- Ultra-Reform Jew. Got the image? Ultra-Conservative Jew? Have a picture? Ultra-Orthodox Jew. What do you see?
Only for Ultra-Orthodox Jew do I get an image -- and it is an unpleasant one. From where do I get this image? The news media constantly refers to an individual who treats others with extreme disrespect out of his own sense of piety as "Ultra-Orthodox."
Is the "Ultra-Orthodox" label correct or just a pejorative? Is the media resorting to a label and a bogeyman rather than presenting a complete picture and an intelligent analysis which respects the intelligence of the reader and his ability to think and understand?
The questions that must be addressed are:
1) What is Orthodoxy?
The labels describing different approaches to our heritage are relatively new. For the past 3,300 years there has been one primary definition of Judaism -- A belief in one God who gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai and with Whom we, the Jewish people, have a covenant to live according to the Torah law. The term "Orthodox Judaism" is the term used to refer to this definition.
2) Is there such a thing as Ultra-Orthodox?
If a person isn't as observant as his neighbor, he is not "sub-Orthodox." He is less observant. If a person fulfills more commandments, he is not "ultra-Orthodox," he is just doing what he is supposed to do. No one, not even Moses, ever kept every commandment perfectly. We are all on a sliding scale of observance.
3) Is treating someone with disrespect who does not live up to your standards a sign of being more Orthodox?
Absolutely not! One who spits, yells, intimidates -- violates the Torah. It is perverse to refer to those individuals as "ultra" as if this were the ultimate goal or expression of fulfilling the Torah.
The Torah teaches to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18). The way of the Torah is peace, respect for others. We are the ones who taught the world about right to life, the concept of co-existence in peace and harmony with mutual respect, that all people have the right to be treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law, that we have personal responsibility for each other and the world (See Ken Spiro's Worldperfect). Our Torah and our laws respect and protect all people, young and old, man and woman.
4) What would be a proper label for someone who treats others with disrespect?
The first word that comes to mind is meshugenah, crazy. Ideally, one who has a Torah background would act with more refinement. However, everyone understands that there are secular crazies and there are religious crazies. There are people who act emotionally and they do not represent the norm. Everyone justifies his own behavior -- and usually they are mistaken. Their behavior can be attributed to the arrogance of self-righteousness. It is important to remember that being self-righteous does not make you righteous! These individuals act impetuously and besmirch the ways of the Torah.
5) Why does the News Media use the term "Ultra-Orthodox"?
To label aberrant behavior to a "group of crazies" does not draw as much attention, viewership, readership as playing on people's fear of extremism. That these people think they are on the cutting edge of piety brings up images of the Taliban. However, virtually every Orthodox rabbi and Orthodox organization has condemned this behavior. Unfortunately, one does not see that reported in the press.
The next time you hear the "Ultra-Orthodox" label, you can instead choose to conjure up the image of the person who started a food bank to feed poor families, the woman who donated a kidney to save the life of a complete stranger, the man who drives a 10 year old car so that he can give an additional scholarship each year. These deeds far better represent the people who strive to fulfill the Torah to the best of their ability.
Torah Portion of the Week
This week we conclude the ten plagues with the plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. The laws of Passover are presented, followed by the commandment to wear Tefillin, consecrate the first-born animal and redeem one's first born son. The Torah tells us that at some time in the future your son will ask you about these commandments and you will answer: "With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I, therefore, offer to God all male first-born (animals) and redeem all the first-born of sons. And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes (Tefillin), for with a strong hand the Almighty removed us from Egypt" (Ex. 13:15).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And Moshe and Aharon came to Pharaoh and they said to him, 'This is what the Almighty, the Lord of the Hebrews said, "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go and they shall serve Me" ' " (Exodus 10:3).
What can we learn for our lives from Pharaoh's lack of humility?
The great commentator Rabainu Bachaya writes that the Almighty requests a person to submit his will to the will of the Almighty and this takes humility. Pharaoh was a very arrogant person and refused to humble himself and therefore this caused his own downfall.
Unfortunately, there are many people who cause themselves problems in life because of their arrogance. It is their arrogance which makes them retaliate when someone slights them in some manner. A person with humility would remain silent and that would end the matter. The arrogant person answers in an attacking manner and this prolongs the quarrel.
A person with humility will ask forgiveness when he wrongs someone, even if he feels that the other person is more to blame than himself. The arrogant person will not ask for forgiveness even when he knows that he is really at fault. A person with humility will reach out to others when he needs help. The arrogant person will feel that it is beneath his dignity to show that he has any weaknesses and will suffer rather than do what he considers belittling himself.
In what ways do you cause yourself needless suffering because of arrogance? What will you do to overcome this fault?
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 27
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Guatemala 5:41 - Hong Kong 5:50 - Honolulu 6:00
J'Burg 6:43 - London 4:23 - Los Angeles 5:00
Melbourne 8:20 - Mexico City 6:07 - Miami 5:44
New York 4:49 - Singapore 7:01 - Toronto 5:03
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Self-righteousness does not make one righteous
With Deep Appreciation to
Bob & Zivia Gill
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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