Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Yiddishe Nachas


Operation Inspiration

For a few months, my daughter was working somewhere that was rather far from home. One day, I had occasion to pass within a few minutes of the facility in which she was working and I was talking to my other daughter on the phone. She suggested I pop in and bring my working daughter a treat. As I was right near a convenience store which sold a frozen drink my daughter adores, I thought it was a great idea.

I went inside and bought the drink, then drove the few minutes to the building. Not wanting to disturb her, I brought the drink to the front desk and told the receptionist it was for, “Miss B,” which is what some called her, not being able to pronounce her Hebrew name.

She said “ok.” Then, as I turned to leave, I paused and turned back around to face the receptionist. I pointed to myself and said with a shy smile, “I’m her dad.” Suddenly the woman’s face lit up and she got all excited. “She’s your daughter?! Oh! She is amazing, we love her here!” It was such a nachas moment for me. More than that, I became a celebrity because I’m her father. As a reflection of her and her behavior, I was acknowledged and the woman was actually excited to meet me. Presumably, having seen such wonderful qualities in my daughter, she assumed I must have many of the same ones. After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say.

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It struck me that my daughter’s exemplary behavior, from her diligence to her friendliness to her caring and concern for others, reflected so positively on me. This is precisely how we are supposed to act so that when people hear about OUR Father, they are excited to meet and get to know Him!

We say in Shema multiple times every day, “V’Ahavta es Hashem Elokecha,” you shall love Hashem, your G-d. What Chazal say this means, is, “shet’hai Shem Shomayim misahev Al yadcha,” that the Name of Heaven shall become beloved through you.

This means that our behavior as Jews, about whom it is said, “Banim atem LaShem Elokeichem,” you are Hashem’s children, should be such that when people see Jews, they should get a warm, fuzzy, admiring feeling. They should see as us refined, charitable, concerned members of society who are givers rather than takers, for whom the World to Come is more real than the world of today. More than that, they are supposed to grow in admiration and love of Hashem, because He’s our Father who taught us how to behave.

This ought to make us pause and ask ourselves how the world perceives us. Yes, there is an anti-Jewish bias out there, but usually, it is the one-on-one behavior that can make the difference in how people who see us look at Hashem. Rather than give up and say, “It doesn’t matter what I do, they will hate us anyway,” recognize that you have to do what YOU can, to fulfill this direction of Chazal to glorify Hashem through your actions.

For example, someone sent me a picture from a NJ resort town which gets an influx of Jews in the summer. A local had posted, on social media, a picture of a car parked crookedly in a parking space so it was blocking two other spots. The local added a few choice words and pointed out the New York license plate. It was obvious that this was a visiting Jew, and the feeling was that he didn’t care about others. [To that point, I was at a store recently and a fellow pulled in crookedly next to me. Instead of looking at the lines and straightening out, he simply got out of his car and didn’t pay attention.]

However, the New York Jew in New Jersey, who may not have been a Jew at all, but because we’re so prevalent at this time of year, and have been known to act this way, it was assumed to be a Jew, was not viewed as a one-off individual. No, because he was Jewish, it reflected on all of us AND on Hashem. And this is as it should be – because we are a unified nation. If even one of us is thoughtless or doesn’t care about others, then all of us have fallen short and onlookers feel we were raised in a barn, not a Bais Midrash.

I know none of us can or should police others, unless they are our small children. When your kids get older it will be too late to change them, and nobody can really police their spouse, parents, or other family members. It’s like trying to quiet a room full of people. You can’t quiet them by shushing, but if each person understood the importance of the silence and stopped talking, it would be silent instantly.

Similarly, we can each make sure that we behave properly, are considerate, and remain conscious of the fact that people are looking at us and getting impressions about Hashem. We should be extra careful to make sure that when Hashem says, “This is My child,” the person He says it to will be overjoyed to give Him a Nachas report about that child and how proud He should really be of him.

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