The Story Of Irene Gut Opdyke, The Polish Nurse Who Saved Countless Jewish Lives During The Holocaust
The Story Of Irene Gut Opdyke, The Polish Nurse Who Saved Countless Jewish Lives During The Holocaust
וְאָמַר רַב אַסִּי שְׁקוּלָה צְדָקָה כְּנֶגֶד כׇּל הַמִּצְוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְהֶעֱמַדְנוּ עָלֵינוּ מִצְוֹת וְגוֹ׳ מִצְוָה אֵין כְּתִיב כָּאן אֶלָּא מִצְוֹת
And Rav Asi says: Charity is equivalent to all the other mitzvot combined, as it is stated in that verse: “We also established mitzvot upon ourselves.” A mitzva is not written here, but rather mitzvot, in the plural, thereby teaching that this mitzva is equivalent to all the other mitzvot.
וַיְהִ֤י בַבֹּ֨קֶר֙ וַתִּפָּ֣עֶם רוּח֔וֹ וַיִּשְׁלַ֗ח וַיִּקְרָ֛א אֶת־כָּל־חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם וְאֶת־כָּל־חֲכָמֶ֑יהָ וַיְסַפֵּ֨ר פַּרְעֹ֤ה לָהֶם֙ אֶת־חֲלֹמ֔וֹ וְאֵֽין־פּוֹתֵ֥ר אוֹתָ֖ם לְפַרְעֹֽה
"Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; so he sent and called all the necromancers of Egypt and all its sages, and Pharaoh related to them his dream, but no one interpreted them for Pharaoh." (Bereishis 41:8)
In commenting on these posukim from parshas Miketz, Rav Shimon Schwab z’tl asks why Pharaoh should be so troubled by a dream. He knew most dreams are just the result of daytime musings and not to be taken seriously.
He explains that Pharaoh relied on his military might for confidence. In his mind, victory went to the powerful, so he had no need to fear his people since the army was in his command. However, his dream contradicted his way of thinking. In his first dream, emaciated cows consumed fat ones, and in his second dream withered stalks consumed healthy ones.
This caused him to panic as he took it as a message from his gods. The dream couldn’t have emerged from his mind. On his own, he would never entertain the thought of the weak conquering the strong. He feared a rebellion and summoned his advisors to strategize.Rav Schwab notes that it is fitting that we read parshas Miketz during Chanukah where we thank Hashem for delivering “the mighty into the hands of the weak.” During Chanukah, the mystery of Jewish national survival is demonstrated once again. Hashem protects the nation despite the odds and against the postulations of military analysis on who appears weak and who appears strong.
Most of us generally associate Chanukah with the nisim of the military victory and the oil as well as various mitzvos and minhagim surrounding them. However, looking deeper, we see other inyanim at play, in particular tefillah, the unity of Hashem, and the identity of Klal Yisroel. It starts with tefillah. Not only do we today add special tefillos for Chanukah that commemorate the events of the past, but the Avos themselves davened for the welfare of the yidden for the events that would take place in the future. Rav Elimelech Biderman, shlita, brings Rav Menachem Nochum Twersky of Chernobyl (18th century) to explain. At the akeidah, Avraham said, וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶל־נְעָרָ֗יו שְׁבוּ־לָכֶ֥ם פֹּה֙ עִֽם־הַחֲמ֔וֹר וַאֲנִ֣י וְהַנַּ֔עַר נֵלְכָ֖ה עַד־כֹּ֑ה וְנִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֖ה וְנָשׁ֥וּבָה אֲלֵיכֶֽם (Bereishis 22:5). “Then Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the ass. The boy and I will go up there; we will worship and we will return to you.” The word כה has the numerical value of 25, hinting at the 25th of Kislev, when Chanukah begins.
Yosef HaTzadick offered similar tefillos. We see this in the posuk וַיִּשָּׂ֣א עֵינָ֗יו וַיַּ֞רְא אֶת־בִּנְיָמִ֣ין אָחִיו֮ בֶּן־אִמּוֹ֒ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הֲזֶה֙ אֲחִיכֶ֣ם הַקָּטֹ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֵלָ֑י וַיֹּאמַ֕ר אֱלֹהִ֥ים יׇחְנְךָ֖ בְּנִֽי (Bereishis 43:29). “Looking about, he saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and asked, “Is this your youngest brother of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “May God be gracious to you, my boy.’” יחנך, be gracious, alludes to חנוכה.
So not only do our tefillos to Hashem connect us to our ancestors who battled the Syrian Greeks, but they connect us to the Avos who davened on behalf of their descendants in their struggle against the Syrian Greeks. Our tefillos on Chanukah take us all the way back to the Avos. We all meet, with the Avos going 1,600 years into the future, and we going 2,161 years in the past. We are one nation, not only in any one era, but across eras. Hashem Echad, the unity of Hashem, is reflected in the unity of His people across time and space.
"Judaism is not a mere religion, the synagogue is not a church, and the rabbi is not a clergyman (priest). Judaism is not an appurtenance to life, and to be a Jew is not part of the mission of life. Judaism encompasses life in its entirety. To be a Jew is a sum of our life's mission-in synagogue and in kitchen; in field and in counting-house; in the office and on the speaker's platform; like father, like mother, like son, like daughter; like servant, like master; as man, as citizen, in thought and in feeling, in word and in deed, in times of pleasure, in hours of abstinence; with needle as with chisel or with pen. To be a Jew--in a life which in its totality is borne on the word of the Lord and is perfected in harmony with the will of God-this is the scope and goal of Judaism. Since Judaism encompasses the whole of man and in keeping with its explicit mission, proclaims the happiness of the whole of mankind, it is improper to confine its teachings within the "four ells" of the house of study or of the home of the Jew. Insofar as the Jew is a Jew, his views and objectives become universal. He will not be a stranger to anything which is good, true and beautiful in art and in science, in civilization and in learning. He will greet with blessing and joy everything of truth, justice, peace, and the ennobling of man, wherever it be revealed He will hold firmly to this breadth of view in order to fulfill his mission as a Jew and to live up to the function of his Judaism in areas never imagined by his father. He shall dedicate himself with joy to every true advance in civilization and enlightenment. But all this on condition that he be never obliged to sacrifice his Judaism at any new level but rather fulfill it with even greater perfection."
R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, 1854
Quoted in Guardians of Our Heritage, p. 290
Akeidat Yitzchak 51:1:7
הנך רואה איך טרח ומצא אדוננו דוד עליו השלום והכין לפנינו הדרך הישר להיות לנו המצוות האלהיות והלמודים התוריים לעסק מיוחד בו נחיה תמיד עד שיהיו שמורות בלבנו ונקנות לנו לנחלה ויוכרע לבנו אליהם בנטיה טבעית אשר אי אפשר ליפול בהם השכחה כשכחת הימין או השמאל והוא הדרך עצמו שאמר החכם באותו לשון שכתבנו למעלה בעבור רוב גודל התמדת חיות בהם מאושרי'. והוא מה שאמר דוד במקום אחר (שם) לעולם לא אשכח פקודיך כי בם חייתני. אמר כי אחר שנתנם לו לעסק מיוחד אשר בו יחיה תמיד יחוייב שלא ישכחם בשום פנים כי אי אפשר לבא לידי שכחה אם לא שיסכים בלבו להבטל מהעסק ההוא ולהרחיקו מעליו שזה יהיה מאד מפורסם אשר לא יפול עליו התנצלות…
The upshot of all this (David's outpourings in Psalm 119) is that mitzvah performance must become as automatic to us as life itself. Therefore, the Mishnah in Avot 3, 10, says that "whosoever forgets part of his studies has sinned gravely," since the Torah has provided memory joggers. The word "Talmud" in that Mishnah refers to knowledge of the commandments and their performance. Unless a person has tried and failed to remember, he is guilty of a sin. If he did the latter, he is subject to the saving grace of pen yassuru mi -levavcha, lest they depart from your heart…
Iverson said, he wished he had listened better to Brown (Larry) in the early years of his playing career.
“I just felt if I had a slight regret to anything that has anything to do with my career, I wouldn’t have been playing tug-of-war with him early in my career,” Iverson said. “You know, like I said, I didn’t know any better. I was trying to mature as a player and as a man.”
The two had very public ups and downs at the time, but Iverson told Maxwell that the player and coach shared common goals.
“He wanted everything that I wanted for myself and for our team, and I didn’t take constructive criticism the way that I was supposed to — and that’s definitely a lesson to be learned for any young dudes out there, is that if they have a great coach, like I had, [listen],” Iverson continued.
“Once I started buying into everything that he was selling, it took me from just a talented player to obviously a Hall of Fame MVP. And our team got a lot better as I grew.”
How to be humble and effective. See Barry Sanders the football player. In this interview.
And talked about here:
One commentor wrote:
"It’s weird to see a player who was so dynamic and exciting on the field, be such a low-key, mild mannered and genuinely humble dude off the field."
What he's getting at is that Mr. Sanders was an usually exciting player. He ran all over the place, cutting left and right, defenders tripping over their own feet trying to catch him. He had such an explosive style. Yet, he was a very humble man. He never spiked the ball in the end zone. He handed the ball to the referee and sat down on the sidelines. In this interview, he joked that it was because he didn't have enough 'rhythm' to put on a good dance, but we know from other comments of his that he did this out of respect for and as influenced by his father who told him to act with dignity. Act like you have been in the end zone before. Even here he doesn't boast about that or pontificate as it would be a criticism to nearly all the other players who do dance around in the end zone.
Amazingly, Sanders is only five feet and eight inches tall, which is smaller then the average man and tiny for a football player. Maybe that helped along his humility. But it could have produced a Napoleon complex as well, where the short guy acts brashly as if that would make him seem taller. But that's not what Barry did.
You can do this is a yid too, be very humble but get a lot done, even be a leader. Moshe rabbeinu did that. Avraham did too. Those would be the prime examples. But since none of us have met them, I show Barry as a kind of living example of a humble yet dynamic person in his way. The wise man learns from everything.
In a way, it's easier for a gentile to be humble. Harder and easier. It's easier because he has a simpler life. He can just work and fish. It's harder in that their souls, while still in God's image and capable of greatness, are not as lofty or connected to Divinity. So there's a challenge to middos. But a Jew is capable of such greatness, and he senses it. Arrogance can follow. Today, where yidden in general are less connected to Hashem, there are many with arrogance problems. Particularly, as the frum world is based in New York and Israel, arrogance has become a part of the style of many. So it's helpful to see good examples of humility from wherever they may come.\\
Here's another, Dale Murphy, a baseball player. He won 5 golden gloves and 2 consecutive Most Valuable Player awards. He hit just under 400 home runs. He was a tremendous player. Yet, he too was very humble. Hear it here; (note he is wearing shorts, for those who may find that immodest.)
No surprise, Dale is a religious man.
"Murphy's clean-living habits off the diamond were frequently noted in the media. A devout member of the Church of ... of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Murphy did not drink alcoholic beverages, would not allow women to be photographed embracing him, and paid his teammates' dinner checks as long as alcoholic beverages were not on the tab. He also refused to give television interviews unless he was fully dressed. Murphy had been introduced to the LDS Church early in his career by teammate Barry Bonnell."|
For several years the Atlanta Constitution ran a weekly column, wherein Murphy responded to young fans' questions and letters. In 1987 he shared Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year" award with seven others, characterized as "Athletes Who Care", for his work with numerous charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Georgia March of Dimes and the American Heart Association.
One of his more memorable incidents was reminiscent of a scene from the classic black-and-white baseball film The Pride of the Yankees:
Before a home game against San Francisco on June 12, 1983, Murphy visited in the stands with Elizabeth Smith, a six-year-old girl who had lost both hands and a leg when she stepped on a live power line. After Murphy gave her a cap and a T shirt, her nurse innocently asked if he could hit a home run for Elizabeth. "I didn't know what to say, so I just sort of mumbled 'Well, O.K.,' " says Murphy. That day he hit two homers and drove in all the Braves' runs in a 3–2 victory.
He was ultimately granted several honors because of his integrity, character, and sportsmanship, including the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (1985), "Sportsman of the Year" (1987), Roberto Clemente Award (1988), Bart Giamatti Community Service Award (1991), and World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame (1991 induction). (Wikipedia)
These are exceptions of course. Many athletes are not what you'd call humble people. They brag, they throw the ball at each other's heads. In general we don't look there for role models.
וכן בכל המצות, ובפרט מצות הצדקה, ששקולה כנגד כל המצות
Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 30
To return now to the opening teaching — that whoever is accustomed to come to the synagogue, and one day did not come, G‑d inquires after him. This does not apply only to the communal prayer of which the Gemara speaks; rather:
וכן בכל המצות, ובפרט מצות הצדקה, ששקולה כנגד כל המצות
The same applies to all the commandments, and especially to the precept of charity, which is3 “balanced against all the commandments.” Thus, if the above teaching applies to prayer, it surely applies to charity: If a person retreats from his customary charitability, “G‑d inquires after him.”
הגם שהיא בלי נדר, חס ושלום
Though [one’s regular giving] is not bound by a vow, heaven forfend, for one should of course see to it that an accustomed mitzvah should not become subject to the legal force of a vow,4
Player - It feels like we're in the army.
Coach - You are. You're in my army. Every day between three and five. [Some local men try to sit in on the practice.] Listen, guys, practice is closed to outsiders. I don't want any distractions.
Men - Outsiders? Coach Tidd never closed practices.
Coach - That was Coach Tidd. This is something else. [Large farmer enters the gym with his teenage son.] Yeah?
Rollin Butcher - Hi. I'm Rollin Butcher. My son's got something to say to you. [The son had earlier opposed the coach and walked out on practice.]
Son - Sorry, Coach, about walking out. I'd be obliged if I got myself another chance. Won't happen again. You're the boss.
Coach - OK. There's still an hour of practice. Get dressed.
Rollin - My boys get a little mixed up. You get any trouble from Rade or Whit, let me know. [Rollin addresses the local men.] Coach here says he's closing practice to outsiders. You ever...
Coach - I'll handle this.
Rollin - No, I got this. This man's got a job to do. He wants you outta here. You'd better be on your way.
I'm not saying any of this applies when kids have questions or their own personalities or a little spunk. But if they are bullying little children, if they are breaking laws, if they are all chutzpah, that's when it applies. There have to be consequences.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who gives the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night.
This signifies intellectual discernment, the ability to think, to use your own mind. That's how you start your day (after Modeh Ani, which is a testimony of your innate connection to Hashem - see Chabad literature for more on that.)
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who gives sight to the blind.
Using facts, seeing things as they are, not as twisted by ideologies.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who releases the imprisoned.
Using your mind will free you.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who straightens the bent.
Using your mind will straighten you out, make you honest and upright.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who clothes the naked.
It will give you dignity as clothes dignify a person and raise him above the animals. It will make you human.
Blessed are You, Adonoy our God, King of the Universe, Who gives strength to the weary.
You'll have energy.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who spreads the earth above the waters.
You'll see that there's a big world out there.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who prepares the steps of man.
You'll be able to move about this world to accomplish.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who provided me with all my needs.
You'll become aware of Hashem as He helps you.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who girds Israel with might.
You'll find you have now the self-control that eluded you before. Chastising yourself didn't do the trick. You needed intelligence and dignity.
Blessed are You, Adonoy our God, King of the Universe, Who crowns Israel with glory.
Now you'll be honored for what you have become.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who did not make me a gentile.
You'll be a real Jew.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who did not make me a slave.
No longer a slave.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who did not make me a woman.
You'll be a real man. And when there a real men, women can be women for whom all of this applies as well.
All of this is because you used your mind, applying reason to facts! Now doesn't this contradict the current popular mantra of shutting off your brain and obeying the 'experts' on everything as if anyone else can be an expert on your life?
Pirkei Avot 1:17
שִׁמְעוֹן בְּנוֹ אוֹמֵר, כָּל יָמַי גָּדַלְתִּי בֵין הַחֲכָמִים, וְלֹא מָצָאתִי לַגּוּף טוֹב אֶלָּא שְׁתִיקָה. וְלֹא הַמִּדְרָשׁ הוּא הָעִקָּר, אֶלָּא הַמַּעֲשֶׂה. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה דְבָרִים, מֵבִיא חֵטְא:
Shimon, his son, used to say: all my days I grew up among the sages, and I have found nothing better for a person than silence. Study is not the most important thing, but actions; whoever indulges in too many words brings about sin.
“… it has always been G-d and G-d alone Who has given us, and still gives us to this very day, that good in which we have had cause to rejoice; and that for future good, too, we may look to none other but G-d, and none besides Him.” (R' Samson Raphael Hirsch)
“Prayer is one of the greatest opportunities of exercising the Free-Will. In the realm of actual deeds we are limited by circumstances: we are not wealthy enough to feed all the needy and to heal the sick, or to erect enough Torah institutions and to maintain them. But in the real of T’fillah we are not limited. We can ask Hashem’s help and entreat Him for everyone, and we thus activate our Free-Will and demonstrate our desire to help all the poor and rescue all the afflicted.” (R’ Avigdor Miller)
is one of the greatest opportunities of exercising the Free-Will. In the realm of actual deeds we are limited by circumstances: we are not wealthy enough to feed all the needy and to heal the sick, or to erect enough Torah institutions and to maintain them. But in the real of T’fillah we are not limited. We can ask Hashem’s help and entreat Him for everyone, and we thus activate our Free-Will and demonstrate our desire to help all the poor and rescue all the afflicted.” (R’ Avigdor Miller)
“If a man with his physical brain is to approach the innermost reaches of sanctity, this may be achieved by ‘the service of the heart, which is prayer.’ And this in turn springs from an awareness of G‑d’s sublime exaltedness, and from meditating and ‘gazing upon the glory of the King.’” (6th Lubavitcher Rebbe)
The Rav Thinking Aloud, p. 69
Bottom line: Hashem acts, so we must act.
Why is learning Torah so important that we say תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם, that it’s equal to all other mitzvos?
"The bottom line is that the world was created not just for righteous souls of Israel but for righteous converts. The Moshiach can only come from righteous converts." 47:00
"The most amazing phenomenon in the world that Hashem created for His glory is a righteous convert." 48:02
Read this on Quora:
But I’d like to share a story about Buddy Ebsen. My daughter worked for a law firm in LA where Buddy was a frequent client. He made it a point to know the employees personally, even the “lowly secretaries”. My daughter’s friend/co-worker had an unsightly huge birth mark on her face that she’d had since birth. After starting a conversation about it a couple of times and gleaning what info he could, Buddy paid for the medical bills to have it removed.
My daughter mentioned me to him, because I was a HUGE fan, also told him I was auditioning for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He asked her to mail me an autographed photo with a personal letter to me, wishing me good luck on the audition. Down the line, I did get to meet him, in fact sit with him during the premiere performance of his musical “Turn to the Right”, because he remembered me from my daughter’s conversations at the law office. What a truly kind man he was! I cried when he passed away.
To participate in voting for a memsheles Yisrael lifnei bi’as haMoshiach, a Jewish government in Eretz Yisroel before Moshiach comes, is that against the Torah?
My friend, I am not somebody to pasken such shaylos. Some gedolim hold that even though it’s forbidden to have a Jewish Commonwealth, a Jewish government, before Moshiach comes, nevertheless once there is a kehillah, even a kehillah of reshaim, we have to try to get along with them and try to utilize them in order that we should build up Torah. That's how some gedolim say. You can't just say that it's nothing and we ignore them and we'll kiss Arafat and be his good friend. No. We want to build up Torah in Eretz Yisroel as much as we can. There are a lot of tzaddikim in Eretz Yisroel, beautiful kehillos, so you do the best you can; you try to get along with these reshaim for the sake of the frummeh. That's what some say. I'm not saying that you have to love them or give them too much respect but when it comes to voting some say you should vote in order to get the best benefits.
Others say no; they say you don't vote. You don’t vote at all in order to show that you don’t support the government.
I'm not mixing in such a question. I'll leave it for the manhigei Yisroel. But it's not a simple question. It's a complicated question and I'm not trying to persuade anybody to do anything one way or another.TAPE #E-147 (July 1998)
All People Matter
Rabbeinu Yona of Gerondi (d. 1264)
Mishnah: “Rabbi Chanina, the Deputy High Priest, says: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it man would swallow his fellow alive.” (Pirkei Avos, 3:2)
יוֹנָה בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם גִירוֹנְדִי :זה הענין ר"ל שיש לאדם להתפלל על שלום כל העולם ולהצטער על צער של אחרים. וכן דרכן של צדיקים כמו שאמר דוד ע"ה (תהלים ל"ה י"ג) ואני בחלותם לבושי שק עניתי בצום נפשי שאין לאדם לעשות תחנוניו ובקשתו לצרכיו לבד אך להתפלל על כל בני אדם שיעמדו בשלום ובשלומה של מלכות יש שלום לעולם
Rabbeinu Yona: “This matter is wanting to say that a person should pray for the peace of the whole world and be in pain about the pain of others. And this is the way of the righteous ones, as David, peace be upon him, stated (Psalms 35:13), "As for me, when they were ill, my dress was sackcloth, I afflicted myself in fasting." As a person should not make his supplications and his requests for his needs alone, but rather to pray for all people, that they be at peace. As with the welfare of the government, there is peace in the world.”
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888)
"Compassion is the feeling of sympathy which the pain of one being awakens in another; and the higher and more human the beings are, the more keenly attuned they are to re-echo the note of suffering, which, like a voice from heaven, penetrates the heart, bringing all creatures a proof of their kinship in the universal G-d. And as for man, whose function it is to show respect and love for G-d's universe and all its creatures, his heart has been created so tender that it feels with the whole organic world… mourning even for fading flowers; so that, if nothing else, the very nature of his heart must teach him that he is required above everything to feel himself the brother of all beings, and to recognize the claim of all beings to his love and his beneficence." (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 17, Section 125)
“God has dispersed Yisrael among the nations as עבד and שפחה, as 'servant' and 'handmaiden,' to labor on behalf of God's great work on behalf of mankind. Yisrael is called 'a servant' to indicate the arduous labor inherent in its outward position vis-à-vis the nations, and 'a handmaiden' to denote the joyous fulfillment of its life's task within the sphere of its own homes, families and communities. For the proper discharge of both these tasks Yisrael needs extraordinary spiritual and moral talents and energy; and it is for these faculties that Yisrael looks up to God its God even as a 'servant' and a 'handmaiden' would look up to their Master.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on Tehillim 123, 2)
“The more, indeed, Judaism comprises the whole of man and extends its declared mission to the salvation of the whole of mankind, the less it is possible to confine its outlook to the four cubits of a synagogue and the four walls of a study. The more the Jew is a Jew, the more universalist will his views and aspirations be, the less aloof will he be from anything that is noble and good, true and upright, in art or science, in culture or education; the more joyfully will he applaud whenever he sees truth and justice and peace and the ennoblement of man prevail and become dominant in human society: the more joyfully will he seize every opportunity to give proof of his mission as a Jew, the task of his Judaism, on new and untrodden ground; the more joyfully will he devote himself to all true progress in civilisation and culture--provided, that is, that he will not only not have to sacrifice his Judaism but will also be able to bring it to more perfect fulfilment. He will ever desire progress, but only in alliance with religion. He will not want to accomplish anything that he cannot accomplish as a Jew. Any step which takes him away from Judaism is not for him a step forward, is not progress. He exercises this self-control without a pang, for he does not wish to accomplish his own will on earth but labours in the service of God. He knows that wherever the Ark of his God does not march ahead of him he is not accompanied by the pillar of the fire of His light or the pillar of the cloud of His grace.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Collected Writings, Vol. VI, pp. 107-150, “Religion Allied to Progress”)
“When Abraham, the first Jew, was sent out into the world, he was commanded: 'Heyai bracha.' 'Be a blessing.' Unlike those self-centered others who seek blessings only for themselves, you are to devote yourself completely to your calling, namely, to become a blessing, to help increase the happiness and prosperity of those among whom you dwell, and to advance the work of God in your environment with every breath of your life and every ounce of your strength.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, "The Educational Value of Judaism")
“And, indeed, if most of our brethren would live as true Jews, then most of the conditions that now bar the Jew from so many careers could be eliminated. If only all Jews who travel or who are active in business life were to insist on observing their duties as Jews, this insistence would bring about the possibility of fulfilling all religious requirements...Why, even in official institutions of civic and political life, enlightened governments and nations would gladly accommodate a loyalty of conscience which would represent a significant contribution made by a Jewish citizen to the overall society of fellow citizens among whom he dwells.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, "Religion Allied with Progress")
“At the end of Psalm 95 we were told of a negative aspect of our task while in Galuth, namely, of the errors from which we must guard ourselves during our long wanderings through exile. This Psalm, on the other hand, has as its theme the fulfillment of the great and blissful purpose of our journeys among the nations, namely the 'wakening of awe' of God throughout the world, of which mention was already made in Verse 1 of Psalm 95. It is Yisrael's task to enter into the midst of the nations with a 'new song' that is to 'behold' God's greatness, and the 'newness' of this song lies in the fact that in it, we read the call שירו לה' כל הארץ, summoning all of mankind to unite in 'beholding' the greatness of the One God.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Commentary on Psalm 95)
“All thy holy ones serve as Thy instruments to this end. Not only Israel but also the rest of mankind will benefit from the educational and moral influence of those among Israel who hallow their lives by faithfully observing this Law. These individuals tacitly serve as a light to all mankind, as models showing how man's sacred calling is to be put into practice. Though we are told above that even Seir and Paran, nations closely related to Israel, were not yet sufficiently mature to accept the Law, the revelation of the Law to Israel on Mount Sinai was intended to benefit all mankind. With and through Israel, the ground was prepared for the future gathering of all mankind to perform its duty toward God .... Only through the Law, whose bearer Israel became at Sinai, will the lessons imparted to the other nations by historical experience attain their purpose ....” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Commentary on Devarim 33:3, translation by Gertrude Hirschler)
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994)
“In order for this be a reality a prisoner must be allowed to maintain a sense that he is created in the image of God; he is a human being who can be a reflection of Godliness in this world. But when a prisoner is denied this sense and feels subjugated and controlled; never allowed to raise up his head, then the prison system not only fails at its purpose, it creates in him a greater criminal than there was before. One of the goals of the prison system is to help Jewish inmates and non-Jewish inmates ... to raise up their spirits and to encourage them, providing the sense, to the degree possible, that they are just as human as those that are free; just as human as the prison guards. In this way they can be empowered to improve themselves ...” (Lubavitcher Rebbe, “The Backstory of the Chassidim Who Got Criminal Justice Reform Done Inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe,” Dovid Margolin)
“The true and complete Redemption depends on 'bringing the entire world to recognize the sovereignty of G-d.' Every person must hasten this, and help prepare the world to serve G-d as one. Although one might think his interaction with non-Jews is mainly for economic purposes, a Jew’s real intention should be to guide and inspire them to fulfill their Seven Noahide Laws. The Seven Noahide Laws are not simply legal matters – they are principles which precede and give meaning to all other laws. Laws only apply to people who are living; once someone is alive, he can be told to follow the law. But true 'living' means being connected to Torah, which is 'our life,' and observing its Mitzvos, by which 'we live'. So, first and foremost, one must see to it that his non-Jewish neighbor is alive!” (Lubavitcher Rebbe, 20 Menachem Av, 5745 • August 7, 1985, Disc 31, Program 123)
“Egyptian society was steeped in the pursuit of self-serving carnal pleasure, which is reduced by circumcision. Thus, by having the Egyptians circumcised, Joseph subdued their obsession with carnal indulgence. Pharaoh himself instructed them to go along with Joseph’s condition; thus, even the living symbol of Egyptian corruption was willing to be refined, at least somewhat. We follow Joseph’s example by remaining spiritually uncontaminated by our materialistic environment and even refining it. By strengthening our own commitment to Judaism, we influence our fellow Jews to strengthen theirs. Moreover, we influence the broader community of non-Jews to keep the Torah’s laws that apply to them (the 'Noahide' laws). Thus, we will ultimately transform the entire world into G‑d’s home.” (Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot, vol. 10, p. 141.)
“By studying the Torah regularly, we construct a 'Tabernacle,' i.e., a dwelling for G‑d, in our personal lives. By commanding the Jewish people to encamp around the Tabernacle, G‑d teaches us that we should center our lives around this inner sanctuary. The innermost point of the Tabernacle was the Ark, which housed the Tablets of the Covenant, i.e., the Torah. When the Torah is the focal point around which our lives revolve, it can positively affect all facets of our lives, as it is meant to. Furthermore, once the Torah is illuminating and influencing our lives as it is meant to, its influence can spread still further outward, enlightening and refining all humanity and the entire world.” (Lubavitcher Rebbe, Daily Wisdom, Ha'azinu, p. 429.)
“The Machpeilah Cave is the burial site of Adam and Eve, the first human beings; as such, it originally belonged to all humanity. In purchasing it, Abraham articulated G‑d’s intention that the mission originally given to humanity as a whole now be passed on to the Jewish people. By accepting this task, the Jewish people were fundamentally separating themselves from the rest of humanity and assuming the role of its mentors. It is our challenge to recognize this destiny today, as well.” (Lubavitcher Rebbe, Daily Wisdom, Chayei Sara, First Reading)
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993)
(On Nishmas prayer on Shabbos) “Although this prayer has the same theme as the blessing of Yishtabach (“May your name be praised”), emphasizing God's attributes and the privilege given to us to praise Him, it is recited only on Shabbat and Holidays simply because there is not sufficient time to recite it during weekdays. It may be described as the great universal hymn of the salvation of mankind. A Jew is not satisfied with his redemption unless everybody will be redeemed with him; the Jew feels the beat of the heart of the universe. The Jew prays even for the cosmos. Once a month, he prays that God restore the diminution of the moon. The Jewish experience is all-inclusive, all-embracing, sympathetic to all.” (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Days of Deliverance in Mesorat HaRav Siddur, p. 476-7)
“He [Abraham] was a resident, like other inhabitants of Canaan, sharing with them a concern for the welfare of society, digging wells, and contributing to the progress of the country in loyalty to its government and institutions. Here, Abraham was clearly a fellow citizen, a patriot among compatriots, joining others in advancing the common welfare. However, there was another aspect, the spiritual, in which Abraham regarded himself as a stranger. His identification and solidarity with his fellow citizens in the secular realm did not imply his readiness to relinquish any aspects of his religious uniqueness. His was a different faith and he was governed by perceptions, truths, and observances which set him apart from the larger faith community. In this regard, Abraham and his descendants would always remain 'strangers.'” (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Reflections of the Rav, p. 169)
“We certainly share the concerns of man in general, but at the same time we have interests and concerns of our own. We are part of humanity and at the same time, we are alone.” (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “Lonely Man of Faith,” Trailer)
“And you shall say to Pharaoh, so said Hashem: Yisrael is my eldest son.” (Shemos 4,22)
“What the Almighty God said, בני בכורי, what is the conclusion that is to be drawn from it? If I say, 'he's my oldest' or 'he's my bechor', it means that I have more children. He is the oldest, but there are many more children. When God told Moshe, 'say to Pharaoh, Yisrael is my son, he is my bechor,' what does it mean? God has more children, He has many sons. Otherwise, the expression 'beni bechori' is inappropriate. If one has a single son he would say 'beni yechidi', like 'your son, your only son who you love' (Bereishis 22:2). But now it's 'beni bechor'.” (Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, The Rav Thinking Aloud on Shemos, p. 50)
“Every nation is a son of HaKadosh Baruch Hu.” (Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, The Rav Thinking Aloud on Shemos, p. 50, See also Rabbeinu Ephraim, p. 176 and Chizkuni on the passuk)
“There are religiously committed Jews who are indifferent to the concerns of the larger non-Jewish society. They are content to reside in isolated communities with unconcern, if not actual disdain, for the Gentile world and for the problems which afflict humanity. This introversion can be explained as a reaction to the centuries-old derision and persecution which have been the Jewish historical experience and to which they were subjected with particular ferocity in modern times. Nowadays, there are particular aspects of moral perversion afflicting the general society which are repellent to Jewish sensibilities. Nevertheless, this insularity cannot be vindicated as authentic Judaism even if it can be understood and justified in particular historical periods and situations.
“The fullest realization of Jewish history will be achieved in Messianic days. The Jewish vision of the Messianic era includes tranquility and fulfillment for all mankind, not only for the Jewish people. The Yalkut writes: 'Every people or nation which did not oppress Israel will partake of the Messianic era' (Bo, 212). A universal brotherhood will accompany a restored and vindicated Israel, and a worldwide regeneration was foretold by prophet Zechariah: 'And the Lord shall be king all over the earth; in that day shall the Lord be one and His Name one' (14:9). Isaiah elaborated on this universal theme: 'And many peoples shall go and say: Come, let us go up the Mount of the Lord, to the House of God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways and we will walk in his paths (2:3).'” (Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, “Man of Faith in the Modern World,” “The Universal and the Covenantal.”)
He discusses the danger of community for community sake as it obliterates the individual.
When there are differences between different groups among the Jewish People, how are we to know who is right?
Everyone is right. And everyone is wrong. Nobody is perfect in this world. We have to live with the principle of knowing that we ourselves are not altogether right. And we have to do our best to improve. Although we don’t have to adopt what everybody else does, and everyone should follow the customs and manners of his kehilla in the very best manner, nevertheless, he should know that there are things to be learned everywhere.
Even though you’re a chossid, when you walk into Telshe Yeshiva, you can learn good things there too. And if a Telshe bochur goes to Williamsburg, he can learn good things there, no question about it. Therefore, everyone should try to steal from others all the good things they can. Instead of going around and saying “Well, I saw in this shteibel that they talk during davening so it’s not so bad.” Or, “In the other place they daven fast, so I can also daven fast.” So this person goes around collecting all the wrong things from all the places. No! Go around collecting all the good things from everybody – that’s what they’re there for.
And that’s the person who will succeed. That’s what jealousy is for. Kinah means to be koneh, to acquire, to be jealous of all the good things that you find. “Why is he saying a long shemonah esrei and not me?” “Why does he treat his wife so nicely and I’m so gruff?” “Why does he go out to learn at night and I’m still wasting away?” And everybody should try to steal from everyone else all the good things that they find.
And thus the first mother, Chava, gave the first child ever born in this world the name Kayin which means to be koneh, to acquire. She wanted him to think about that all the time because that’s our purpose – to acquire all the qualities that find favor in the eyes of Hashem. Because what Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants of us is shleimus, perfection. Shleimus in knowledge of the Torah, perfection in knowing His ways, perfection in recognizing Him in history and in nature. Perfection in character and self-control and perfection in kindliness to our fellow man. Every form of perfection that’s possible for a person to emulate, to imitate, to steal from all sides, he should do that. Whenever he comes into contact with people, whenever he sees anything good in the world, he should emulate it and decide that he wants to take it for himself.
TAPE # 781 (April 1990)
Itzhak Perlman reminds me of this Beethoven quote:
although I don't hear any wrong notes.