During one of those recent, frigid days, my wife noticed a lady wheeling a stroller with one hand, and, with the other, holding onto a young boy. The boy was crying loudly and bitterly. My wife saw that his coat was hanging off one arm, completely open; he was obviously freezing. Her heart went out to him, and she said to the lady, “Maybe you’d like to close his jacket.” The lady looked directly at my wife and said, “No.”
This, my friends, is insanity.
From small to large events, the temper of our times seems to be more and more insane. People are not even doing things which would benefit them and increase their happiness. They are simply not thinking, acting without reason and therefore hurting themselves and other people by engaging in actions which make no sense at all. Irrational behavior is catastrophic on all levels, because it threatens the peace of the individual and the peace of the world.
I wrote once in this column about the non-Jewish traffic policeman I met at the entrance to the Goethals Bridge. We were discussing some of the people he meets in his daily routine. His comment, which I have never forgotten, was, “Today, insanity is the norm!”
My readers are familiar with my personal story, how I grew up among assimilated Jews in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and had what is considered a privileged upbringing, attending a “sophisticated” private school reserved for those of wealth and power. The school was overwhelmingly Jewish, from the same liberal and assimilated background as our family. We did not know there was a Torah. My wife and I were two of the very few who later found our way back to Hashem and out of this world of torture.
Over the years, we have attempted to keep in touch with our childhood friends. What amazes us is that all these old friends – I spent eighteen years with some of these people – not only reject our way of life but totally reject us, refusing to speak to us or respond to us in any way, as if we had some dangerous disease. I believe that they are in mortal fear of having to acknowledge the Truth of our lifestyle or the existence of the One G-d. If they acknowledged His existence, they might be forced to confront the emptiness of their own lives.
“That too is futility and a vexation of the spirit!” (Ecclesiastes 2:26)
Hashem in His mercy has given mankind a perfect gift called the Torah. This is the single basis in the world for rational behavior. We witness the giving of this gift in this week’s Torah Portion. This is perhaps the central Portion in the entire Torah. Everything has led to this and everything after this is an elaboration of what transpires in this Portion.
I want to tell you an amazing story. Rabbi Shlomo Ephrayim of Lunshitz, a student of the Maharshal, was known as the “Ollelot Ephraim.” At one point, he appeared before a gentile ruler with a plea to help the Jews of a distant province. As he was speaking, a malicious priest in attendance at the court stood up and declared to the ruler, “How can you possibly do a favor for these Jews, when their own Talmud states that only Jews are called ‘adam,’ human, but all non-Jews are not called ‘adam?’ (Yevamos 61a). They don’t even consider us human!”
The ruler was taken aback and asked the Ollelot Ephrayim to explain the meaning of that passage. Understanding the great damage that could come through any negative attitude this ruler may have toward Jews, both then and in the future, he carefully explained that only the word “adam,” of all words describing mankind, cannot be pluralized. “Enosh,” for example, can be pluralized as “anashim,” but “adam” has no plural form. This, he said, reveals that every other nation is composed of unrelated individuals. There is no connection, for example, between a German and an Italian. Even in the same country, people have nothing to do with one another. What does one person care if someone else is starving?
But the Jews, he said, are all one unit, one body. If a Jew is suffering at one end of the world, a Jew on the other side of the world will try to help him, without even having met him! This is why Jews and only Jews are referred to as “adam.”
“The honored rabbi is one hundred percent correct!” declared the ruler. “The proof is,” and he turned to the stunned priest, “that this rabbi troubled himself to come here in order to help his brethren, and he does this often, which is something that you never did, even for those who are close by!” (Heard from Rabbi Shlomo Bussu Shlita”h, a grandson of the Baba Sali)
As I write, legislators in Washington, D. C. are unable to agree on a budget, threatening to shut down the United States government. Everyone is fighting with everyone else.
My friends, “mi k’amcha Yisroel … who is like Am Yisroel, a unique nation on earth?” (I Samuel 7:23) There is no other nation like ours, and our unity is totally bound up with the unity of our Torah, given to us in the Desert by Hashem.
Soon the entire world will understand that the Torah is the sole basis of life upon earth, when our Father and King sends the Redeemer, “who will be great in authority and have peace without limit upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to establish it and sustain it through justice and righteousness from now to eternity. The zealousness of Hashem, Master of Legions will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6; this week’s Haftara)
May we see it soon in our days!