Tuesday, 27 October 2009

One Man Does Make a Difference

Many Jews find themselves in the uncomfortable position of desiring to fulfill Mitzvot, yet feeling embarrassed to do so. The Baal Teshuva may feel this more so than others when he finds himself surrounded by family and friends who may not be as observant as he is. If it relates to eating out, or just socializing, the Baal Teshuva may feel it necessary to mix with others doing what they consider "the right thing."

The Shulchan Aruch – the ultimate guide to Jewish living on a daily basis and for one's entire life, begins itself with the law that one should never be embarrassed in front of other people who may mock him for his strong beliefs and his strong desire to do what is truly right i.e. following the rules of life as laid out in the Torah.

It seems straight forward, yet the task can take a lifetime of working on oneself until one truly appreciates what it means to be a Jew, to study Torah and to fulfill Mitzvot. There is nothing greater than this, and it steers oneself and the world in the right direction.

For this reason, the Shulchan Aruch begins its laws in this way: Before we can even begin to do what is right, we must know and internalize that fulfillment of Torah is the task required of us in this world. There is no need to feel ashamed of this – ever.

There will be many who may laugh. Many laughed at Noach. Many laughed at Avraham our father. But where are they today?! Those who mocked the life of Noach – a man who wished for nothing more than to really do the right thing – were wiped out in a massive flood. Those who laughed at Abraham our father – where are they?! Those idol worshipers of old are long since gone – together with their idols that have long since been destroyed and burned (with only their "children idols" who have continued the cults.) Yet Noach established the world with his righteousness. Abraham established the entire Jewish nation – that nation devoted to setting the world straight with values and morals that are the foundations of a just, upright, healthy and happy society. That nation has continued until this day. And Noach's "nation" – the entire world – has continued until this day.

Those who stood up to the correct value system demanded of them have brought life to the world. There were those too, who being just "one person" were able to destroy the world. They have come about in every generation. (May we see no more of them!) Such is the strength (value) of one person in this world.

We look at ourselves each day and wonder if we're worth anything. Can we make a difference to the world? Are we making a difference to the world? Does our life count for anything at all?

It has certainly counted when it came to those who chose to destroy the world, having killed millions of people – single-handedly! They made a difference to the world. Just like every person with the basic make up of an ordinary bodily system, two arms and two legs etc. just with these vessels – they destroyed millions of lives.

And it has certainly counted when it has come to building the world. Adam – one man, brought life into the world. His descendants destroyed it – not appreciating the power that each had. Noach valued life, and he valued his own. He knew well his own power. Nothing stopped him from doing the right thing. Not all the laughing in the world. He continued his life – building an ark, building a place of refuge. Secluding himself to the lifestyle that G-d had wanted. Noach was righteous!

Thanks to Noach's righteousness, the world continued. Just one man. His descendants, even during his lifetime did not value their lives either – nor those around them – doing everything they could to destroy others. Murder, adultery, theft – these were the goals of those generations – even in front of the eyes of their own grandfather who watched it happening! But these nations have also disappeared. They have turned into a conglomeration of idol worshipping nations scattered around the globe – even those people who while cleaving to their "religion" will claim no association with idolatry at all.

But Noach's tenth generation son knew the value of life and he chose to follow the path begun by Noach. A path of the acknowledgment of One G-d. The path of doing really the right thing – and not having concern for the laughers out there – the scoffers, jokers and merry-makers. Abraham knew well the importance that one person could have in the world. And through him 70 souls came about – who descended to Egypt. And from these souls came about the 600 000 souls of the Jewish people who have inhabited this world since then in every generation. You'll find these people scattered around the globe. You might even be one of them…

And if you are, it would be worthwhile to once again reflect on the Abraham's and Noach's of the world. Those people who knew well the value of one life – and what it could contribute to the world. In reflecting about this, one is sure to realize that a person such as himself is one of these people. He is one of these people, who can make a world of difference… to the world.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us about the value of one life in the video clip below.

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