Thursday, February 4, 2010

Yisro—The Job

My Rav Muvhak, Rav Aharon Bina, used to always quote “ahz ze Blues Brozzers Movie” which was his favorite movie [“ahz for me is kosher movie cause I not understand all ze dirty words”] in his own inimitable way:

“Ahz we are on mission of G-d job”.

To [over simplify], one can use two ways to explain this concept, both from this weeks parsha.

The first: in explaining to my senior class at MTA why we shouldn’t go to rock concerts, Rabbi Mayer Schiller simply quoted two pesukim: Bereishis bara Elo-kim es hashamayim ve-es ha’aretz. Anochi Hashem Elo-kecha asher hotzesicha me-eretz mi-beis avadim. The second pasuk sets the demarcation line from the first; not all of Bereishis is for us. This basically qualified as a stronger re-statement of the first Rashi on the Torah [and it worked, a little; it was another four years before I attended my first rock concert.]

The second: the exhortation to be a “mamleches kohanim ve-goy kadosh”. Interestingly, Rashi has very little to say, other than to explain that “kohanim” simply means “princes” [as opposed to “priests”]. This has been one way to describe our “job”, or “mission”, as Jews, along with the occasional “tikkun olam” and “or lagoyim” one hears from time to time.

Like Rabbi Schiller, I am going to focus on current events to highlight a[nother] possible interpretation of what is not our “job”/”mission”.

The recent Israeli humanitarian efforts in Haiti have received a lot—and not nearly enough—press. Yet this may be an indication of the world’s grudging recognition of the fact that the Jews—and Israel—have a mission to fulfill; so—doing our “jobs” isn’t necessarily all that praiseworthy, even if it is “lifnim mi-shuras hadin”. It also doesn’t sell papers.

What might actually sell papers, however is the story involving 10 American Baptists arrested in Haiti for attempting to kidnap 33 Haitian children. Pastoral pronouncements that Haiti was experiencing divine payback for a deal with the devil wasn’t bad enough; taking advantage of tragedy to further one’s belief definitely does not fit into our mission, especially at the expense of children. [This is why I was fervently pro-prosecution in the Helbrans-Fima case years ago.] It’s cases like these where Hillary Clinton’s assertion that “organized religion stand[s] in the way of faith” actually make sense, and another reason for us to very wary of alliances—political, spiritual, otherwise—with the “religious” right.

Anu amelim, hem amelim.

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