Be a Jew Through and Through
Another guest entry. The following was originally submitted to (but not picked up by) Hamodia. Rav Hirsch’s quoted words are clearly the predecessor of R’ Breuer’s talk on “Glatt Yoshor“, which was also posted to this blog from an email by R’ Dr Levine.
Be A Jew Through and Through!
Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ 07030
A number of years ago we had a student from Stevens as our guest for the last days of Pesach. He came from a non-religious home and had become observant. At one point he confided in me, “My father once told me that every time he had business dealings with an observant Jew he felt that he was being cheated.” To put it mildly I was taken aback by what he had said.
I explained to him that what his father told him was clearly a broad generalization that could not be the truth about how all observant Jews behaved in their business dealings. I also pointed out that the Torah requires us to deal honestly and fairly with all people – Jew and Gentile.
Nonetheless, what he said has remained with me, and even now I find such a statement disturbing. Sadly, there are some “frum” Jews whose dealings with others are not in accordance with what Yiddishkeit demands from its adherents.
Recently I came across something from the writings of Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch that deals with this topic. In his essay “Tammuz I” found in the Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, Volume I, pages 279 – 281, Rav Hirsch points out that one of the five tragedies that took place on the Seventeenth of Tammuz was that “The tablets [Luchos] were broken when Moshe descended from the mountain.” He then goes on to point out
“And the tables were written on both their sides, , on the one side and on the other were they written.” (Exodus 32, 15.)
The word from Sinai must not grip us only superficially and one-sidedly. It must penetrate us through and through, it must set its stamp indelibly on every part of our being, and whichever way we are turned the writing of God must everywhere be visible on us clearly and legibly. See the Divine tables of testimony! On them there was no above and below, no front and back. The writing pierced right through them, and yet they could be read on both sides. This must be a model for you. Be a Jew through and through. Whichever way you are turned, be a Jew. Do not engrave the Divine writing only on one side, one part, one aspect of your being, so that you will appear a Jew and a missioner of the Divine name and the Divine will only when regarded from one side and one aspect, but when you turn your back and enter into other relationships you will appear as anything but a Jew, a missioner for anything but the name and the will of God; or at any rate you will not be so completely a Jew, you will not be so clearly stamped as a missioner of God’s will. Be a Jew through and through on all sides and in all aspects. And do not esteem one side as facing more directly towards the Godhead. Do not imagine that you have received the stamp of the Divine word with more emphasis on this one side, and that you can allow the other side to be content with the after-effects of this stamp and with the mere traces of this imprint. Do not think that people as they look on one side can discern that the force of the Divine word has penetrated to the other, when you speak of what you call the main sides and the main periods and the main items and the main articles of your Judaism. In relation to God there is no reverse side and no opposite side; everything is turned to God and must be taken equally seriously, on every side the stamp of the Divine will is to be placed with the same force and care and directness. Let yourself be penetrated through and through from all sides with the Divine word!
We have recently observed the Fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz and are now in the midst of the Three Weeks. It should be a time of introspection for all of us, given the calamities that we have experienced during this sad period. Perhaps each of us should now commit to striving to be a Jew through and through in all that we do.