“Toras Hashem temima … The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of Hashem is trustworthy, making the simple one wise. The orders of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart. The command of Hashem is clear, enlightening the eyes….” (Psalm 19)
Great Jewish leaders throughout history, from our Father Avraham through King David and down to the present, have above all elevated the glory of Torah in this world. We, the Children of Israel, give honor to the Torah in the eyes of the nations. We strive to make it clear that these are Hashem’s words, and that all our success in life, personal and national, is due to our adherence to the Torah’s holy words. As the Prophet says,“Hashem desired, for the sake of [Israel’s] righteousness, that the Torah be made great and glorious.” (Isaiah 42:21)
In this week’s Torah portion, the residents of Hebron say to Avraham, “Nasi Elokim ata … you are a Prince of G-d in our midst.” (Genesis 23:6). Avraham had a unique reputation in the world, and his children have continued to live on the exalted level to which the Torah elevates those who adhere to it.
Rabbi Meshulam Halevi Jungreis zt”l was the beloved Rav of North Woodmere, N. Y. and Chaplain of the Nassau County Police Department. At the time of the rabbi’s death, the Police Commissioner of Nassau County said publicly, “Rabbi Jungreis was my bridge to G-d.” Think about this. This was an amazing declaration for a non-Jewish public official to make, and it represented a tremendous sanctification of G-d’s Name.
“Bridge to G-d.” This is what we are supposed to be in the eyes of the nations.
I have quoted in the past the words of Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz zt”l regarding his remarkable interview in the early 1950s with former U. S. President Harry S. Truman, who said, “Three thousand years ago, you Jews saved humanity, wild mankind, via your Torah, so too I believe and hope that, even nowadays, you, the Jewish Nation, will be successful again, to enlighten and to heal the beasts of cruelty in our midst and save the world from total destruction.”
Rabbi Lorincz repeated President Truman’s words from the podium of the Knesset, and added: “The wise among the nations know that the job of the Jewish Nation is to be a light unto the nations, and through the Torah that is in our hands to save the world from destruction and to cause goodness to come to the world. If we don’t actualize this mission, our friends will turn their backs on us and they will conduct themselves solely focused on their own interests, and then they will favor the hundred million Arabs and the billion Moslems over the handful of Jews.” (Introduction to Miluai Shlomo, courtesy of Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Weinfeld Shlita”h)
Years ago, when we met Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis o”h, it was the first time we had ever ventured inside a synagogue. The Rebbetzin told her audience: “You are a Jew. You stood at Mount Sinai. We are descended from Kings and Prophets. We taught the world there is a G-d. We taught the world morality, not to steal and not to kill ….”
This is the legacy of our Father Avraham. Our mission in this world is to make the Torah beloved and honored in the eyes of the world. This was the accomplishment of our earliest parents, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka, Rochel and Leah and this must be our goal.
It is not only to non-Jews that we must direct our thoughts. We have to make sure that our own brethren see from our behavior the beauty and perfection of the Torah. To the greatest extent possible, our honesty has to be perfect; our kindness has to be perfect, so that the positive effect upon our brethren will be maximized and, as a result, our entire Nation will return in teshuva (repentance) to our Father, our King.
I heard an amazing story from my distinguished chavrusa (study partner), Rabbi Moshe Grossman Shlita”h, about an observant Jew who was walking down the street and averted his eyes from something inappropriate. Another Jew was watching him and began to think: “I wonder why he is not looking at that. Maybe there is an important reason for him to avoid looking at that. He wouldn’t do it just for nothing. I wonder why he did that.” This non-observant Jew started to think about his entire lifestyle. He started investigating the Torah and eventually did teshuva and became completely observant, all because this Jew, whom he did not know, turned his eyes away from something inappropriate. The first man had no idea that anyone was watching him, but he saved this man and all his generations because he was acting with yiras Shomayim (fear of G-d)!
Without getting involved in details, I want to point out that, recently, in the Holy City of Yerushalayim, there have been acrimonious demonstrations involving hundreds of yeshiva students. All of us have a responsibility, in all our actions, to ask ourselves whether we are following in the footsteps of the Avos, our Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
The eyes of the Jewish as well as the non-Jewish world are upon us. We have to ask: Am I making the Torah beloved in the eyes of the world? Am I showing by my actions that “its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its pathways are peace?” (Proverbs 3:17) Am I acting in such a way that those who want to perfect their lives will be encouraged to follow the Torah? Am I acting in the manner of “a prince of G-d?”
If we act in the manner of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Moshiach ben Dovid will soon arrive, and all our goals will have been achieved!