Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Be Perfect

The chasidah, the anafah, according to its kind, the duchifas, and the atalef (Vayikrah 11:19).

The Torah lists the birds that we are prohibited from consuming.  Rashi explains that the chasidah is a stork.  Its name, chasidah, is derived from the root chesed, which means kindness.  What is the connection between stork and kindness?  Rashi answers that the stork performs kindness with its friends.

According to the Rambam, Maimonides, one of the reasons the Torah forbade us to eat non-kosher birds is because they possess cruel character traits.  If we were to eat such birds, these traits could become part of our personalities (ie. 'you are what you eat').  If so, asks the Chidushei HaRim, what would be wrong with eating a chasidah?  It appears to have a fine and giving character, as evidenced by the fact that its name is derived from the word chesed, kindness.

Chidushei HaRim answers that the stork performs kindness only with its friends.  This is a very negative trait, and the stork is not really a kind creature after all.  The Scriptures demand that we become creatures of true kindness, who are concerned for and help all people, whether they are known to us, such as our friends, or strangers.

The name chasidah indeed alludes to kindness, but the name is also concerned with the world of chassidus. The Sages tell us that chassidus means doing something above the letter of law, lifnim mishuras hadin.   The stork is kind to its friends, but it always feels that its kindness is going beyond the letter of the law, that it is doing something quintessentially generous.  The stork always looks at itself as being a chassid, a very pious being.   In reality, being kind to others is an obligation, and we must never feel that we are doing something 'above and beyond our duty' when practicing kindness.  This is a negative character trait the Scriptures want us to avoid.

As the Alter from Slabodka said: The Torah tells us in Leviticus 19:18 that we must love our fellow man as we love ourselves.  When we love ourselves, we do not feel that we are doing a mitzvah, for love is an emotion that is natural and deeply rooted; so too when we love our fellow man, we should not do it merely for the sake of a mitzvah, but as a natural tendency.

For example, we should never visit a sick person with the intention that the patient can become the object of our mitzvah.   Rather, we must sincerely care for the patient and demonstrate our concern.  The opposite is also true: we must not perform a kindness only because we think it is moral and 'the right thing to do.'  We must bear in mind as well the mitzvos of chesed and to walk in His ways.  It is difficult but critical to do, so that we become the complete person that G-d demands.

We are obligated to go out of our way to serve and be kind to others.  One way to accomplish this is very simple and basic, but often eludes us: greeting people properly.  How important is it to offer a friendly welcome to someone?  How vital is it to say hello to someone?  The Sages teach that when we greet someone we are giving them a blessing. 

In fact, there is an interesting halacha, rabbinic custom, that we are not allowed to interrupt and talk while reciting the Shema (Hear O Israel, the L-rd your G-d the L-rd is One cf. Dty. 6). However, if someone else greets you in the middle of your recitation of the Shema, you are allowed to respond.  How are we to understand this?

From this halacha we can begin to appreciate just how vital friendship is.  People are not meant to be alone, to be lonely.  Hashem wants us to relate to and help one another.  Perhaps the easiest way to help my fellow man is by greeting him.  When I greet him, I acknowledge that he is meaningful to me.   I am stating that he has touched my life, even if ever so slightly.

I tell him that it is good to see him and that I am happy that he is in the world and I am joyful that I am not alone.  I always try to make it a point to call the cashier or whoever is helping by their name.  It's amazing how much a person's face lights up or brightens, even if ever so slightly, when you remember to quickly glance at their name tag and say "Thank you so-and-so."

Y'shua taught us in Matthew 5:

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I have been thinking a lot about the commandments to love and to serve one another lately.  I have been meditating on the phenomenal example of Y'shua, G-d in the flesh, Who on the night He was betrayed, took a basin and filled it with water and washed the feet of every one of His disciples, even the one who was shortly to betray Him.  How the Son of Man came to serve and not to be served.  The command that we go and do likewise.  That people will know we are His disciples and belong to Him when we are careful to follow His profoundly moving example set before us on the night He was betrayed.

Lately, as I mediate disagreements that my children occasionally have with one another, I begin by asking them how they are serving one another and if their behavior is what G-d requires of them in the critical areas of love and service.  I am reminded that whoever claims to live in Him, must not ask himself "What would Jesus do?" but simply live as He did (cf. I John 2:6), since I have no idea what Y'shua would do in any given situation, but I do know what He did: that He laid down His life and poured it out on the tree on behalf of those who hated Him and who loved the darkness, only to take it up again, so that in Him we would have eternal life, and experience life to the fullest during our short sojourn here on earth.  

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from G-d.  Everyone who loves has been born of G-d and knows G-d.  Whoever does not love does not know G-d, because G-d is love.  This is how G-d showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 

This is love: not that we loved G-d, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.   Dear friends, since G-d so loved us, we also ought to love one another.   No one has ever seen G-d; but if we love one another, G-d lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  (I John 4:7-12).

6 comments:

  1. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[i] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

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  2. Something I learned about parenting Rabbi, is that everything matters. I mean EVERYTHING. Sometimes you won't see today's results for maybe 5 years or more down the road. But one of the greatest pleasures of parenting is that when you see those results, you know they are listening. It might not always seem so, but they are.

    Also, you get to do the parental happy dance in your head too. It wasn't until my kids reached high school that I understand all the references to farming, planting, growing crops. Successful parenting is exactly like that. Just very long term.

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  3. Yes. I am looking forward to reaping what we have sown in our children's lives. It hasn't always been easy, and I feel like such a failure at times. My greatest joy will be to see them walking in the truths I have tried to impart to each of them throughout their lives.

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  4. Rabbi, if there is one thing I learned as a parent, you cannot allow that feeling to stop you from doing what is right as a parent. A good parent's goal is NOT to be the friend of their child. Because they can make lots of friends in school.

    They need a DAD and that very critical influence in their lives. When your child gets to "that age", they will indeed fight you because they are simply grappling with what it means to be getting older, and what it means to be a man.
    Best thing you can do is to be there, make sure that they can tell you anything. I mean ANYTHING, and you will not judge them for it. Kids need somebody to listen to what is on their mind, and who better than their earthly father as a start?

    You know one thing that will tell you that you are on the right track? Is if one of their friends feels like they can talk to you about something huge in their life.

    One other thing Rabbi B, is that it is totally normal to feel at the end of their schooling years, that they might have graduated, but you feel like you spent that time in a battle for their souls. The world has a lot of influence on their vulnerable minds right now, and you just have to keep fighting and hanging in there, no matter how it appears to be going.

    When my own kids graduated HS, I felt like I had gone through a 12 year battle zone. But I will tell you, it is soooo worth it.

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  5. Rabbi B, I just wanted you to be aware of something very serious going on with Res. It is posted on his blog, and I just thought you would like to be aware. He is truly in need of your comfort Rabbi.

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  6. Thank you, Susan. I'll try to get in touch. Also, praying.

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