A Good Heart

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“It doesn’t matter what’s going on around you. A good person will rise above it”.  My father had always been a good person, but I had never realized the extent of his wisdom. His words were true. The whole world can be on the wrong path, but if you are strong enough, you can rise above it. 

Today in my University lecture, Professor Steven Katz was talking about those who rescued Jews from the Nazis during world War II.  His ultimate message was that their background didn’t matter, what mattered was their character. If you have good character, you’re going to do the right thing.

In the second chapter of Pirkei Avot, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai says  “Go and see which is the good a man shall cherish most.  Rabbi Eliezer said, a good eye.  Rabbi Joshua said, a good companion. Rabbi Yosi said, a good neighbor. Rabbi Shimon said, foresight. Rabbi Elazar said, a good heart. He said to them: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach to your words, for in his words yours are included”

Character is a  quality that can move mountains.  It can cause a person to rise above a negative situation or to fall below what is right.  As we leave Channukah behind this year, a holiday devoted to standing up for what is right, we should all invest ourselves in building beyond our resumes and becoming people that we would be proud of. We should stand up for what we believe in, build on what makes us good people, and finally, do the right thing.  

אהבת אחות Sisterly Love

“The Mitzvah to love G-d is really a conduit to loving your fellow Jew (for God is within your fellow Jew.)” -The Rebbe

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it.”- Hillel

“Love every single Jew, without exception, with the full depth of your heart and with the fire of your soul, no matter who he is or how he behaves.”- Rabbi Eliazer

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I can still remember the words of my mother in the car as she tried to keep the peace on our way to school.

 

“There is never an excuse for hitting your brother.”

 But he said this, and he did that, and he won’t stop this.

 Doesn’t matter.  There is never an excuse for hitting your brother.

 We learned early on that the solution was never hate. It was never violence.  For my family to work, we had to get along.

The Jewish people necessitates a similar attitude. We are a family.  Do we really need someone to tell us that there is never an excuse for hitting our brothers?

Lately, the Women of the Wall have been making headlines as they push for reform in Israel.  The Haredi community has also been making headlines for hateful acts toward the activists.

Whether you are for the Women of the Wall or against the Women of the Wall, there is never an excuse for hitting another Jew.  As they fight for freedom of worship, they should not have to deal with objects being thrown at them.  We were all slaves in Egypt, we were all in the Holocaust, and now we are all throwing chairs and water bottles at each other? How does that make someone a “good jew”?Something doesn’t quite fit.

 Rabbi Hillel said that the meaning of the Torah was “love your fellow Jew, and the rest is commentary.” If this is the case, then shouldn’t respect toward another Yehudi override any ideas of tradition? The laws of Judaism exist to teach the value of loving your fellow.   Regardless of what they are doing, whether it be wearing tallit,  donning kippahs, or being annoying on the way to school, there is never an excuse for hitting your brother.

Never Forget יזכור

“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”

―Elie Wiesel

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A siren rang out in Israel today to honor the memory of those lost in the Holocaust. All over the world, communities are paying respect and keeping the memory alive of those who perished. Today is Yom Hashoah.

Today is a day of remembrance for the Jewish people. A day to mark the Holocaust, one of the most devastating tragedies to befall the people. But today is also a day to be hopeful.

March of the Living is a journey that Jewish youth from all over the world take.  From their hometowns they arrive to Poland and see the death camps where millions of our people were massacred.  They see the gas chambers, the ovens,  the details of a truth and a story that beg to be told, to never be forgotten.

Among all of this pain, however, there is hope.  As the painful story of our past is handed down to these generations, so too is the hope for a stronger Jewish people.  The youth who see the death camps are part of a strong and hopeful nation.

After touring the death camps, March of the Living takes its participants to Israel. Hope arrives out of desperation. Life arrives out of death.  Gabriel’s parents met on a March of the Living trip.  His father was a photographer on the trip and his mother, a participant.  Their grandparents experienced the horrors of the holocaust but today are able to see a family born out of tragedy, two people that would not have met if not for their experience.  Today, they have a thriving family. Two children carrying on the hope of the Jewish nation.  Out of suffering came hope and out of this experience came a family.

The importance of this day, Yom Hashoah, is not only in remembering those who perished, but also remembering the hope of the Jewish people and the gratitude to be felt that we are a stronger people today.

Elie Wiesel wrote “If the only prayer you say throughout your life is “Thank You,” then that will be enough.” So here’s your challenge for the day.  Remember those who have perished. Remember the millions who so unjustly lost their lives during World War 2. But don’t forget to remember Gabriel. Remember this generation of Jewish people.  Regardless of what your opinion on prayer is, be thankful that today you are a part of a hopeful nation and a people who only get stronger and more unified as time and history attempts to bring us down. This, also, is something you should never forget.