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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Are you tough enough to be G-d's Chosen One?


Beitzah 25

The best-selling book of all time is the Bible.  Despite being few in number, the Jewish people have influenced the world more than any other civilization.  What’s our secret? 

Aussie actor, Paul Hogan, used to kvetch that his favourite scene in Crocodile Dundee was lost on the American audience.  After demonstrating to his potential muggers what a real knife is, Mick walks across the heads of the people in the crowded subway station, a clever allusion to how we impact the world around us. 

The Torah states, “From His right hand, [G-d gave the Torah] to those whose ways are fiery.”

Rabbi Meir explains that the Torah was given to the Jews, because we are tough.  In fact, says the Beraisa, had the Torah not been given to the Jews, no nation or tongue would have been able to stand up to us!

Is being tough a good or bad attribute?  Rashi teaches that the Torah was given to the “tough” Jews to keep them occupied, thereby weakening them and softening their hearts.   In other words, toughness alone is not a positive attribute.  Properly channeled, however, it has the propensity to change the world.

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish explains:  There are three that are tough – the Jews amongst the nations, dogs amongst other animals, and roosters amongst fowl.  Some add goats amongst smaller animals or the caper-bush amongst other trees.

Ever watched a sheepdog herd the flock?  It does an incredible job of keeping the sheep together, moving them forward as a herd.  If it sees a poor lamb lagging behind – as Mick Dundee reminds us – it will run across the heads of the other sheep to reach the straggler and encourage it to keep up!

How about the rooster, what makes it special?  Every morning, we thank G-d for “giving the rooster the intuition to distinguish between day and night.”  The rooster is tasked with waking up the world to greet the new day.  With its mighty crow, all are awakened to their life’s task. 

Goats bleat their message of inspiration to their fellow creatures, directing them to their roles and duties.  But in a certain way, goats are even greater than roosters.  The rooster only crows first thing in the morning.  The goat understands that often a more constant reminder is necessary. 

And caper-wine, teaches Tosfos from the Mishnah, was utilized as a toughening agent for the Temple spices.  The caper might not have been the sweetest species itself, but that didn’t matter – it was dedicated to doing its part to enhance the Temple spices.

The nation of Israel was given the Torah and charged with becoming “a light unto the nations.”   Throughout history, many have attempted to silence our voice of morality.   But we are tough.  So tough, the Beraisa says, that had we not been softened up by the Torah, we would have walked all over everyone else. 

The Holy One blessed be He gave us the Torah so that we would utilize our tough character to change the world.  Just like the sheepdog is concerned for every last lamb, we are enjoined to seek the welfare of all peoples of the world.  Just like the rooster awakens the other creatures from their slumber, G-d has empowered us with inspiring the world to live with morality. 

Just like the goat never stops bleating, we are instructed to never allow ourselves to be silenced.   And just like the caper, it’s not about being in the spotlight.  When you develop the right relationships, you can be incredibly effective in impressing Jewish values upon those people, and they in turn will make a difference. 

The Almighty has empowered you with an awesome mission.  You are to teach the world.  You are to inspire the world.  You are to change the world! 

You have tough genes – G-d wants you to use them for the betterment of mankind.   Never stop caring!  Never stop awakening people from their spiritual slumber!  Never be silenced! 

And don’t ever think that the mission is reserved for a few sweet spices – the mission is incumbent upon every individual, whether you like being in the spotlight or prefer working behind the scenes.  In the Almighty’s production, all the roles are of paramount importance!