GOOD MORNING! Once, while visiting people in the hospital, I met a man who was especially happy to see me. He told me, "You are the first rabbi I have spoken with since my Bar Mitzvah 50 years ago! I want you to know that you'll never find a Jew with more pride in being Jewish than me! If anyone says anything against another Jew or the Jewish people, I'll beat him up!" I was duly impressed with the commitment and bravado of this 63 year-old man. I then asked him, "Please, I would love to know what it is that you take so much pride in the Jewish people?" He responded, "Rabbi, weren't you listening? I told you that if anyone says anything against another Jew or the Jewish people, I'll beat him up!"
I tried twice more to find out the source of his pride in being Jewish, but there was nothing he could articulate; he only reiterated his pugilistic prowess. There are many reasons to be proud of being Jewish; if one is proud of being Jewish, he should know the source of his pride. One source of pride is how the Jewish people have impacted the world.
What if you could buy one book that would fill you (or your children or your brother-in-law) with pride in being Jewish and give you all the ammunition you needed to respond to a curious rabbi visiting you in the hospital?
Rabbi Ken Spiro, my colleague and friend, has written such a book -- WorldPerfect -- The Jewish Impact on Civilization. For years, Rabbi Spiro, a historian, would begin his class on Jewish history by canvassing his students as to what are the values that they and the world hold dear which are necessary for a utopian society. Here are the results compiled from approximately 1,500 students:
- Value of Life -- People have the right to life, and to live with a certain basic dignity and rights.
- World Peace -- On all levels, communally and globally, people and nations should co-exist in peace and harmony with mutual respect.
- Justice and Equality -- All people, regardless of race, sex, or social status, have the right to be treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law.
- Education -- Everyone has the right to be functionally literate as a basic tool for personal advancement and the ability to attain knowledge.
- Family -- A strong, stable family structure is necessary for the moral foundation of society.
- Social Responsibility -- Individually and nationally, we are responsible for each other. This includes responsibility for disease, poverty, famine, crime and drugs, as well as environmental problems and animal rights.
Where do these values come from? Most people would say Greece or Rome. Would you be surprised to find out that they are wrong? In a highly readable, well-documented and fascinating book, Rabbi Spiro illuminates the origins of values and virtues in Western Civilization. Would you be surprised to learn that these values came from the Jewish people?
If you are thinking "the good rabbi is exaggerating a 'bit' about the Jewish influence on civilizing humanity," I bring John Adams, Second President of the United States! Writes Mr. Adams, "... I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. ... They are the most glorious Nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a bauble in comparison of the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily than any other Nation, ancient or modern." (from a letter to F.A. Van der Kemp, 1808. Pennsylvania Historical Society.)
Paul Johnson, a Christian historian, writes in his book, The History of the Jews, (New York: Harper & Row, 1987) : "One way of summing up 4,000 years of Jewish history is to ask ourselves what would have happened to the human race if the Jewish people would not have come into being. Certainly the world without the Jews would have been a radically different place. Humanity might have eventually stumbled upon all the Jewish insights. But we cannot be sure.
"To [the Jews] we owe the idea of equality before the law; of the sanctity of life, of collective conscience and of social responsibility; of peace and love, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind.... It is almost beyond our capacity to imagine how the world would have fared if they had never emerged."
If you are fascinated to learn more about the impact of the Jewish people on humanity, you can purchase a copy at any bookstore (though it is nice to support your local Jewish bookstore!) or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242. There is also an online interactive multi-media seminar at www.aish.com/worldpefect .
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's portion includes further job instructions to the Levites, Moshe is instructed to purify the camp in preparation for the dedication of the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary.
Then four laws relating to the Cohanim are given: 1) restitution for stolen property where the owner is deceased and has no next of kin -- goes to the Cohanim 2) If a man suspects his wife of being unfaithful, he brings her to the Cohanim for the Sotah clarification ceremony 3) If a person chooses to withdraw from the material world and consecrate himself exclusively to the service of the Almighty by becoming a Nazir (vowing not to drink wine or eat grape products, come in contact with dead bodies or cut his hair), he must come to the Cohen at the completion of the vow 4) the Cohanim were instructed to bless the people with this blessing: "May the Lord bless you and guard over you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His Countenance upon you and give you peace."
The Mishkan is erected and dedicated on the first of Nissan in the second year after the Exodus. The leaders of each tribe jointly give wagons and oxen to transport the Mishkan. During each of the twelve days of dedication, successively each tribal prince gives gifts of gold and silver vessels, sacrificial animals and meal offerings. Every prince gives exactly the same gifts as every other prince.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states what a person should do if he or she has transgressed by doing a "trespass against the Almighty" (Numbers 5:6).
What does the Torah mean when it uses the language a "trespass against the Almighty"?
Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (an Italian Biblical commentator who lived 1475-1550) comments that this refers to one who steals from a convert to Judaism. Harming him is considered a trespass against the Almighty because this person had the idealism to come to the Almighty's Torah. One desecrates the Almighty's name in the convert's eyes by deceiving him.
A person who comes to Torah on his own volition does so because of the beautiful and elevated ideas he hears about Torah principles. He made his decision on the assumption that those who follow the Torah will act towards him in accordance with all the Torah laws pertaining to interpersonal relations. If someone cheats him financially or in any other way wrongs him, he will not only suffer a monetary loss. Rather, he might also feel disillusioned with his decision to accept the Torah way of life. Go out of your way to be especially friendly towards converts.
CANDLE LIGHTING - June 1
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 6:10 - Hong Kong 6:45 - Honolulu 6:51
J'Burg 5:04 - London 8:51 - Los Angeles 7:41
Melbourne 4:51 - Mexico City 7:53 - Miami 7:51
New York 8:03 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 8:34
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Do not be afraid of growing too slowly;
be afraid of standing still