By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
As summer approaches there is an annual migration to our favorite vacation spots. In the tristate area, over a half million people make the annual pilgrimage to the Catskills summer homes and bungalow colonies strewn all over Ulster and Sullivan counties. Towns such as Monticello, Woodbourne, Fallsburg, Ellenville, Kiamesha, Swan Lake, Hurleyville and many others are packed with myriads of orthodox Jews. All these city-folk come like an avalanche upon these quiet rural towns suddenly descending at the end of June like a raging bull in a china closet.
This is a good time for us to brush up on the severity of chillul Hashem, the crime of desecrating Hashem’s Name in front of the other nations. (It applies in front of other Jews as well.) The Gemora teaches us that this transgression is so heinous that when it is perpetrated, even repentance, suffering, and the holy day of Yom Kippur combined do not fully atone. Only death completely atones for this terrible crime.
In wanting to convey how horrible chillul Hashem is, the Alenu L’shabei’ach relates the following anecdote. There was once a couple in Eretz Yisroel who suffered from terrible marital discord. The husband, wanting to wreak hurt to his wife, put in motion to send their Jewish son to a monastery in Italy. Horrified, friends of the family wanted to go to the government to stop this at all costs. There was however a concern that the major news outlets would get a hold of the story and it would result in a chillul Hashem. However, those that were involved in the case felt that the risk was justified in order to save the child from shmad, from being sent to a catholic mission. They consulted Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, zy”a, the Posek Hador, and to their surprise he told them that if there was a chance of chillul Hashem, they cannot risk it, even to prevent the loss of a Yiddisher neshama. This is a striking example of how serious the crime of desecrating the Name of Hashem is.
I know a family that was attacked in the secular papers regarding a nasty custody battle. When the papers asked them if they wanted to comment to defend themselves, Rav Dovid Feinstein, shlit”a, ruled that they could not participate in the discussion in the secular press even to defend themselves for it would be advancing more chillul Hashem. That’s asking a lot from a person – not to defend themselves against public humiliation – but that’s how high the stakes are when it comes to chillul Hashem. So let’s start talking about how this subject applies to the many city-folk who ‘invade’ the peaceful mountains during the summer.
The first thing that needs to be eliminated is horn honking from our cars. The bedtime for many rural-folk is ‘early to bed and early to rise,’ while many of us city-people start first waking up when they are already in bed. We have to be aware of this whether it comes to blowing the horn, slamming the car doors, or just carrying on in a boisterous summer-way when many of the locals are already sleeping.
Then there’s our behavior in the supermarkets. If you’ve ever been to the Catskills in the winter, you’ll see how nicely the shelves are setup and how orderly the store looks. So, while shopping if you decide not to take an item, put it back in its place – especially if it needs refrigeration. Try to bring your cart back to the store or to the place where they are gathered, and not leave helter-skelter in the parking lot. And here’s something to really think about. Don’t go around tasting the grapes, having your kids taste them, and popping the olives in your mouth, and even munching on the grapes while they’re already in your wagon. I sincerely believe that if there’s no sign up saying “sampling allowed,” it is theft to taste fruit in order to decide if you want to buy the item. And, even if some stores will let you get away with this and not escort you out, this is certainly not the behavior of the Am Segula, the nation that is supposed to be the model of behavior. If I see a gentile waiting in line who has only two items, I always try to let them go ahead of me so they don’t mutter under their breath, the ‘Jewish invasion.’ Right or wrong, we need to be sensitive when we are trampling on their peace and quiet. And yes, it is true that they are looking for things to blame us for. That just means that we must be doubly careful not to give anyone ammunition.
When driving in the night, we must always shut off our bright headlights to oncoming traffic and we shouldn’t drive like it’s a video game. Let’s remember that the locals are very proud of their pristine unpolluted environment so don’t open the car window and toss out the leftover drink, a bag with a dirty diaper or the wrapper from a nosh, carelessly to the side of the road. There are many more examples but the main thing is to heighten your sense of awareness and to be truly inhibited to causing any type of chillul Hashem.
Finally, I’m sorry there’s a need to mention this but it should be obvious to ensure before having your children with other children that they are properly vaccinated. In Yiddishkeit, we follow the majority, especially in the face of sakana, danger, and chillul Hashem. The overwhelming majority, 90 percent plus of master physicians and Godolei Yisroel hold that it is mandatory to vaccinate. Any other discussion is a waste of time. The massive chillul Hashem that has resulted already on a global stage from measles epidemics needs to be repaired. Furthermore, as a child that had rubella, measles and mumps, I can tell you that only a criminally negligent parent will abstain from vaccinating a child.
One more point. A smile goes a long way in improving relationhips. When you pass a gentile in the parking lot or in Home Depot tilt your head in greeting or give a smile. If thousands of us take this not so little step, we will make a huge difference in their attitude towards us
May Hashem bless us with the smarts to avoid chillul Hashem and in that merit may we be blessed with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Rabbi Weiss is currently booking speaking engagements for the summer in the Catskills. To bring him to your community or bungalow, call 718.916.3100 or email RMMWSI@aol.com.
Start the cycle of anytime Mishna Yomis with Rabbi Weiss by dialing 718.906.6471. Listen to Rabbi Weiss’s daily Shiur on Orchos Chaim l’HaRosh by dialing 718.906.6400, then going to selection 4 for Mussar, and then to selection 4. Both are FREE services.
Rabbi Weiss’s Rebbetzin, Shoshy Weiss, LCSW-R is moving her therapy practice from Monroe and Monsey to Boro Park and Staten Island. She will be in Boro Park on Mondays and Staten Island on Tuesdays. She caters to women and girls only and specializes in the treatment of anxiety, low self-esteem issues, depression, trauma, and relationship enhancement. She is a specialist in E.M.D.R. and I.F.S (Internal Family Systems) and D.B.T. (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). She has been practicing for over two decades. To get a slot, call or text 845.270.3699.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
To receive a weekly cassette tape or CD directly from Rabbi Weiss, please send a check to Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, P.O. Box 140726, Staten Island, NY 10314 or contact him at RMMWSI@aol.com.