Such is the level of humility for which we are expected to strive.
No, the rabbi's point wasn't really that some act arrogantly. It was more that there is a kind of arrogance in maintaining and promoting standards that tower too high over us, a wrongheadedness in not just accepting that--to paraphrase only slightly--we're all, for better or worse, "a bunch of schleppers." As if to say: for the sake of shalom bayis, we should just all resign ourselves to spiritual mediocrity.
I thought immediately of this parsha, when Moshe Rabbeinu brings to the Jewish people the offer to accept the Torah. I could recall nothing about schleppers in G-d's conception of what the Jewish people are meant to be in the world, of the ideal and standard that we as a people--all of us--were chosen to accept and exemplify:
What do these two phrases in bold mean? Here are the unmatched comments of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the great German leader who made it his life's work to combat all efforts to modify or lower the eternal standards of the Torah:
A kingdom of priests, each and every person loyal to G-d and His Law. A holy nation, unique in the very basis of its existence--to carry out the Torah, and through it, bring about the Kingdom of G-d on Earth.
I know that it sounds a bit AWESOME, and perhaps even daunting to some. We certainly need to be tolerant, compassionate and good-humored with ourselves and others as we slowly and gradually schlep--er, traverse the path that leads (from the secular wasteland below?) to the lofty summit on high.
But one thing's for sure, in this age of non-idealism: we need to start looking more at the summit. To focus on the nobility of the Torah ideal, to see clearly the very goal and purpose of our Judaism, the Big Picture--which is not to "stay committed" or "attend synagogue," or "maintain Jewish continuity," but to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Rather than bring the Torah down, let's strive to raise ourselves up to its level...for the sake of truth, and of the greatness that is, truthfully, within us--Children of Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya'akov.
If there's any parsha which lends itself to getting in touch with the grandeur of our Torah and its blessedly uncompromising standards, it's parshas Yisro. May Hashem help us to become duly inspired.
Edelstein is Director
of the Savannah Torah Education Project (STEP). Phone: 912-355-0157;
Please be in touch
The Holocaust, and its Connection to Purim--This Tuesday night, February 9th, 7:45, at the J.E.A., as part of Rabbi Yosef Edelstein's, "Issues in Jewish History."
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