Friday, December 5, 2008

VAYEITZEI: Today I Am Crying for the World

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


"Vayisa et kolo vayevk. And he (Jacob) raised his voice and wept."

I have shed many tears this week. What has happened to the world? What has happened to our values? What has happened to the respect for human life? I am feeling great psychic pain. All who care for the value of human life join together with me in mourning.

Whether in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York, or in Mumbai, India. Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season. These are times when our focus should properly be on being grateful for our blessings and for connecting with our common humanity in a shared appreciation of our common brotherhood, linked as we are by our common father in heaven.The point of giving a gift is to share our love. Instead, how twisted have we become as a nation that a mob in a state of frenzy for a discount should trample to death a poor, innocent soul who was trying to earn a few extra dollars. The mob mentality says "I am innocent. It was his fault that he was in our way. I have been here for hours. I deserve it. I am blameless.

And the terrorist mob that chose on the very same day to burst through the doors mowing down anyone in their path - especially Americans, British and Jews, like the assault in Walmart, they claim innocence, while themselves murdering the innocent. They takea perverted frenzied glee in evening some imagined score of some collective grievance from the past.

I mourn for our lost humanity when such ideas are even expressed, let alone acted upon and even justified. Did the remnant of the Jewish people who perished in the gas chambers and crematoria of Europe during the dark days of the holocaust bomb every city and railroad station and hotel in every city of every country that murdered their brethren? Did they seek revenge even upon those countries that "merely" refused to grant them asylum, to allow in refugees when they were facing certain death? For the last sixty plus years since the end of the war did the surviving Jewish remnant make the lives of every European a living hell, when by the morality of today's world they ought to have had every right to do so?

The answer of course is no. The Jewish people swallowed their grief and moved forward, building a progressive democracy, creating a prosperous and vibrant culture in the face of many wars of extinction. Israel is the first in line to teach agriculture to Africa, to respond to any tragedy around the world- be it an earthquake or tsunami, whether Muslim or Hindu, white or black. It's been said that if the Muslim/Arab world would lay down their arms there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down her arms there would be no Israel.

Humanity is evolving to the point where we see past racial barriers, religious hatreds and historic grievances. Each and every human being shares a common Divine spark which links us together as a part of a seamless, common humanity. But it seems that the more we advance, forces still exist which seek to pull us back down into the gutter of hatred, bigotry and racism. And the world's oldest bigotry, Jew-hatred, proved its undying character by the singling out of the handful of Jews in a country of more than a billion people for prolonged torture and murder.

The Jewish idea of the end times is one of peace, tolerance and universal brotherhood. All righteous, moral, good people of whatever faith are equally loved by God, whether Jewish or not. But there are other religions in the world that insist that only their own kind merits salvation and that all others are doomed to purgatory, whether of this world or the next.

Radical Islam that threatens the world today believes in peace and love - but seemingly only for their own. Random terror, mayhem and violence against the innocent are justifiedby their faith. This is Islam's image in the world today. Of their own making. It is not pretty.

World peace would be instantaneous were each one of us to recognize our common bond, our shared humanity. The spirit of the holidays would last well beyond December were we to say to our neighbor across the street or across the world, "You are my brother. You are my sister. We are all God's children."

It is tempting to look back and nurse old grievances, old grudges. And even satisfying on some level. But only if we look to the future and practice love in the present, can we avoid the darkness of the past. Only when we get up at 4:00 AM not to grab a bargain but to perform an act of kindness, will true peace be surely at hand.

© 2000-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!