What Will People Think?

· Judaism, Politics, Torah

Tornados, flooding, forest fires, runaway inflation, massive foreclosures, food shortages, record unemployment and gay marriage; aside from the fact that we are at war for our very survival against unseen enemies who are plotting who knows what. We have weather woes, fiscal firestorms and a public character plunging into moral chaos, while we worry about terrorists being among the thousands of illegal aliens pouring across the Mexican border every day; perhaps this is the perfect storm. America, the society that G-d has blessed with more power and wealth than the world has ever known, is facing enormous challenges on all fronts. Yet most of us seem to be living our lives still intact, thank G-d, so we need to look at all these unfortunate circumstances as a series of warnings. If you would ask what these warnings are about, take your pick. We have a social order that has clear distinctions between moral and legal. Immorality can be legal and the police can arrest people for doing the right thing. That is very different from living a Torah life where morality is the law.

However, we can also look at everything from the opposite positive side, that G-d is giving us the opportunity to look more closely at our collective mission to elevate the world to holiness. It is a daunting task indeed, especially when we see two newlywed “husbands” on the TV news saying, “We don’t understand why some people are so upset. Marriage brings more joy into the world.” Thus, when violation of G-d’s law becomes legal and its imposition becomes immoral (a so-called impingement of civil rights) the secular society runs the risk of evoking G-d’s wrath because the community at large has stopped caring about “What will people think?”

To explain, the Torah reminds us that the principle of “how things look” was the only thing that saved the Jewish people from the ultimate Divine punishment for the sin of the golden calf. Moshe argued successfully that the Egyptians and Canaanites would conclude that G-d lacked the power to conquer the land and therefore killed His people to cover up His limitations. Certainly, one would have to ask why the Almighty would be concerned about what our enemies would think. After all, Egypt was decimated and the inhabitants of Canaan where about to be evicted with extreme prejudice. The answer is that this was for our benefit to learn that being concerned about what other people might think is tantamount to our survival because it goes to the very core of decency.

Moreover, when we adhere to the Hassidic principle that everything comes from our Creator, we can also conclude that He is reminding us that our public behavior and demeanor is key to elevating the world. It is our obligation to reach out to everyone who will listen to G-d’s Laws. When G-d set the Jews apart from the nations commanding that we become holy, He made us the example rather than the exception. Thus, the lesson of Moses’ argument of “What will people think?” is that people follow what they see, more than what we tell them and if we say one thing and do another, we lose all credibility and our mission in this world would be doomed to failure.

In conclusion, we are facing many challenges today along with the Gentiles in America and have a shared responsibility to heed the warnings against the mockery of several of G-d’s universal laws, including the positive commandment of “Be fruitful and multiply” and the negative one against the “abomination”. Once the purveyors of purulence obliterate the sanctity of the family as the foundation of society, the house will crumble and tumble. Therefore, we must take our mission seriously and put forth the effort to educate others to the Joy and ecstasy of following G-d’s will. We can’t just tell them; we have to show them. We need to display ourselves with our dress and behavior so that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that when we tell others that obedience to G-d’s will is the only way to prosperity and joy, they can see it.

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