Sunday, October 30, 2022

All People Matter


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.”)


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