“I don’t want my kids’ brains to rot away in front of the TV,” Sandy said to me in exasperation, “we need to get rid of the idiot box!” (Do people still call it that? It’s not really much of a box anymore.)
Bill was more circumspect. “I don’t see why we can’t just keep it in our bedroom,” was his response.
I think that TV in the bedroom is a bad idea for marriage in general; but how about for the Goldsteins who just wanted to keep TV’s bad influences out of reach of their children?
The Mishnah states that one does not fulfil the mitzvah of lulav on Sukkot if it is stolen. Rabbi Yochanan explains in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai that a mitzvah that comes by way of a transgression is invalid. The same would go for a Temple sacrifice offered from stolen goods.
Why wouldn’t G-d appreciate such an offering? After all, the entire world belongs to Him and so we are not actually giving Him anything. The main aspiration for an offering is that one has good intentions, as our Sages tell us “The Merciful One desires the heart.” Thus, the source of the offering – the fact that it was stolen – should not make a difference to G-d, as long as one is entirely devoted to Him!
Rabbi Yochanan offers a parable: The King of America was driving along the New Jersey turnpike stopping at each tollbooth to pay the toll. By the fifth toll, his chief of staff frustratingly turns to him and says, “With all due respect, Your Majesty, you own this country. You really don’t have to pay the tolls!” King Berger responded, “Technically you may be right. But if the number one man doesn’t do the right thing, how can I expect my subjects to pay up?”
Similarly, explains Rabbi Yochanan, while technically as far as G-d is concerned it is not stolen because He owns everything, He must set the example for all His subjects that stolen goods are never acceptable.
When my rebbetzin and I first came to our shul over a decade ago, we immediately pulled out our wallets and asked for membership forms to join the congregation.
“That’s ludicrous,” exclaimed the president, “no rabbi has ever asked to join the shul!”
“Why not?” I inquired, “How can we convince people to join the congregation and pay membership dues unless we are prepared to put our money where our mouth is?”
If we want to influence those around us, we need to be prepared to show by example. If we don’t want our kids to watch TV, then we shouldn’t watch TV either. What kind of message does it send to them if they’re not allowed, but we sneak away to the bedroom to watch?
We all want to have the greatest impact possible on this earth. The only way to truly influence the lives of those around us is to live by example.
Be a fabulous example to your children. If you expect them to be honest in school, you must be honest about their ages when you’re boarding a bus.
Be an incredible example to your community. If you are trying to raise funds for a charitable institution, you must be prepared to make the first donation.
You can move the world! But first you must demonstrate to the world that you can move yourself! Be the most amazing example you can be and you will see your influence and impact magically affect the world around you!