Av 17 5777
COMPARE AND CONSIDER
Written by the rabbi
Talk about your "left-handed" compliments! In his final charge to Am Yisrael, Moshe Rabbeinu warns the nation of becoming too haughty & too full of itself:
"It is not because of your righteousness & uprightness of heart that you possess this Land; rather it is due to the utter wickedness of the nations surrounding you!"
All too often, events occur both in Israel & around the world which bring home just how despicable others can often be. A beautiful family gathers around its Shabbat table to celebrate the birth of a new baby, & they are savagely
attacked by a Palestinian terrorist. Congregants arrive at their shul in Miami, or Berlin, on a Shabbat morning, only to find the door painted over with swastikas. Mourners arrive at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis only to find most of the tombstones toppled over or defaced. Pre-Shabbat shoppers come to a kosher supermarket in Paris to buy provisions, & are suddenly taken hostage & assaulted by Islamic hoodlums. And the list goes on & on….
We shake & shudder at these horrible events, & wonder why we seem to always be the favorite target of the criminals. No doubt, we have to examine our actions & engage in constant, continual Tikun & Teshuva. But there is a hidden blessing here, too: When all else fails, & our merits are less than exemplary, we still shine out in comparison to others around us. Yes, we have our failings; but we do not engage in the kind of atrocities that abound in the world at large. And that invokes Hashem’s mercy; He sees that, comparatively speaking, we are still a holy People.
The story is told - & I have personally experienced this! – about the rather unsavory character who passed away. The officiating rabbi upon called to give the eulogy was not familiar with the man, but his relatives were quick to "update" him. "He was thoroughly degenerate," they told the rabbi, "without a single redeeming quality! Now, don’t try to fabricate or embellish his life-story; just tell it like it is, or we’ll all be upset!"
The rabbi was at quite a loss as to what to do. Of course, he didn’t want to paint a false picture of the deceased – especially after that stern warning. But he also didn’t want to denigrate the man at such a fateful moment.
So what did he do? He walked up to the podium, looked out at the crowd, took a long look at the casket, and simply said, "His brother – was worse!"
Even in pointing out our faults, Moshe – our great defender till the end – is able to find an "escape clause," a merit in our favor that will somehow serve to keep us in G-d’s good graces – until we really deserve it.
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