By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
We will interrupt the series on my dear Rebbetzin for some seasonal topics about the Nine Days and Elul. My daughter Devora commented to me that it’s a little ironic that she gets a vacation from doing the laundry during the Nine Days. Why is it that, at the time when we are at the height of mourning for the Beis HaMikdash, she gets a much needed break? The truth of the matter is we can say the same thing for a lover of dairy foods. The Nine Days are a bonanza for him or her. They can look forward to pleasing their palate with fettuccini alfredo, blintzes and their favorite quiches.
The answer is that it’s not only about the discomfort of not having fresh clothing and not having a barbeque. It’s also about no longer having basar kodshim, the meat of the holy sacrifices, and the bigdei kahunah, the priestly clothing. And, if you wonder why we should miss the bigdei kehunah, we just learned in the Daf HaYomi of Masechtas Zevachim [89b] that each component of the priestly uniform atoned for a different national sin. So, for example, the bells on the cloak atoned for lashon hara, evil gossip, while the tunic atoned for communal negligence in the area of bloodshed. When we refrain from indulging in wine, it’s not only to abstain from its intoxicating effects, it’s also to remind us that we are bereft of the nesachim, the libations that we brought on the altar.
But, I’d like to share with you, my dear readers, a movement of sorts that I’d like to start. We are missing Hashem in our presence because we chased the Shechina away from living in our midst. Hashem, so to speak, picked up and went back to Heaven because we became too nauseating for Him to live in the Beis HaMikdash in close proximity to us. We need to ‘win’ back Hashem. Here, on the Eastern coast of the USA, we have a regional problem. Upwards of three hundred thousand orthodox Jews ascend to Sullivan and Ulster counties for the two months of the summer. In doing so, we unintentionally trample on the “rose garden” of the year round residents of these resort towns. Instead of breezing through Shoprite for bread and milk, the locals now have to wait in long lines with people having filled shopping carts. Instead of breezing through South Fallsburg and Woodbourne in two minutes, they wait half an hour in bumper to bumper traffic to get to their homes. They wait on long lines at the gas pump and all of a sudden there isn’t a parking spot to be found. It’s no one’s fault. That’s the nature of living in a resort area.
But then, added to this, we bring our city ways and we honk after it’s dark and we double park. Our campers go on the pristine mountain trails and our kids litter Paskez nosh wrappers and Taanug bags all over the trails. We angle park instead of parking correctly or pull into a handicapped spot. We can be noisy and pushy. All of this leaves the gentile locals gnashing their teeth with disgust.
Then, there’s a more global point. We’ve watched with pride how our admirable ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Haley, has dealt with open hostility to Israel in the Human Rights Council. Our response to open anti-semitism, which we’ve seen in the UN and on CNN and in the New York Times, is to just rail against just how unfair it is. And we say, “What do you expect? The Prophet says we are like a sheep amongst seventy wolves,” and this is just the way of ‘Esav sonei es Yaakov – The descendants of Esav will hate the Jewish people.’ ” But the same Torah teaches us “V’heyisem li segula mikol amim – You should be for me a treasure amongst the nations.” This means we are supposed to model correct behavior and the nations should be forced against their will to look at us and say, “That’s the way a person is supposed to behave.”
So my movement is to suggest that we go on a Kiddush Hashem rampage! We should look for ways to sanctify Hashem’s Name. You’re wearing a yarmulke, a hat, a sheitl, you’re a Beis Yakov girl who’s dressed modestly in the summer, and you pull up to a gas station and a Black or Hispanic or Italian man pumps your gas, don’t just say “thank you very much.” Give them a dollar or fifty cent tip. People don’t do that anymore. The attendant will remember it though. When you go into the deli or the fruit store, ask the man or woman behind the counter, “what’s your name?” and then address them by their name. Then the next time you come in, you make it a point to remember their name. People don’t do that either. But it will make the clerk feel like a person with an identity and he’ll remember you. If there’s a tip jar leave a few nickles in it . let it make a resounding noise when it falls in. It will get appreciative attention.
Get in the habit of simply smiling at people when you pass by them. If you’re more comfortable, only do this with your gender. But, do it enough that the muscles in your face start to ache. Make it a point to hold the door open for a passing gentile, even if you have to wait a moment. Make sure to say please and thank you, have a great day and a great weekend. Ask your child to get something from a bottom shelf for a senior who can’t bend easily, or do it yourself if you can. It goes without saying that you should make sure to return the shopping cart to its proper location. Let someone in the grocery line with only two items go ahead of you, and when you’re in a car, look for ways to wave your hand so someone else can go first.
Be on the lookout for Kiddush Hashem opportunities. Hashem will take notice and mitzvah goreres mitzvah, one mitzvah generates another mitzvah and you will find plenty of ways to make the Name of Hashem loved through you. And, if we all participate, I humbly believe we can expect Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily in our days!
Let me take the opportunity to wish my dear readers and their families to have an easy and inspiring fast, and in the merit of making a Kiddush Hashem, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmas of Miriam Liba bas Aharon.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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