Motti Wilhelm

Don’t be the couple fighting in the restaurant

When couples fight in a restaurant they are often defeating the purpose of their evening. Image by DC Studio on Freepik
When couples fight in a restaurant they are often defeating the purpose of their evening. Image by DC Studio on Freepik

It’s super frustrating to see a couple fighting in a restaurant. One has the urge to approach them and say, “Stop it! You’re defeating the purpose of your evening!”

You came here to grow together, and here you are ripping each other apart! Your purpose was to show mutual respect, and now you’re throwing digs!

How often does the way we are doing things ruin why we are doing them?


Each time Moshe instructs the Jewish people about the construction of God’s home, he reminds them that it must not be built on Shabbat.

As the Jewish people are about to embark on their first and most important national project, he is telling them, “Remember what you are doing and why it’s being done. It’s a home for Hashem you are building, and if He doesn’t want it built on Shabbat, doing so defeats the purpose.”

The Jews fully internalized the message and took it to the next level:

Over 1,000 years later when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the Kohanim would bring honor to it with a daily pre-dawn wellness inspection by the light of a torch.

On Shabbat, Torah law prohibits kindling or extinguishing a flame. The sages further instructed that outside of the Temple, no flame be transported on Shabbat at all, lest it go out during transport.

Though carrying a torch is only prohibited outside the Temple, the Kohanim refrained from moving the pre-lit lamps during their Shabbat morning inspection and instead placed lamps in the Temple hall and lit them on Friday in place.

If they were to bring honor to the temple, they would do so while maintaining standards that are “beyond the letter of the law.” If a lamp should not be moved in Jaffa, they felt that moving one in the Temple could not be considered “bringing honor to the Temple.”

We cannot bring honor to Judaism by doing anything even remotely questionable by Jewish standards. They remembered what they were trying to do and that shaped how they did it.


Four months into this war, remembering what we are fighting for will remind us how to fight.

If we were fighting for world opinion, it would likely be best to capitulate. If our struggle is to be tolerated, it would be advisable to “stay silent.” If we simply seek to be left alone, we should basically “do nothing.”

But we are fighting for Jewish survival, and that requires determination and grit. Our goal is to thrive and doing so will require us to stand out. We are trying to make a difference, and thus we need to be loud and get noticed.

Hiding our Judaism now is like arguing with one’s spouse on a date. It defeats the whole purpose of what we are trying to accomplish. Too many people have paid too much for too long for us to defeat the purpose.

About the Author
Rabbi Motti Wilhelm received his diploma of Talmudic Studies from the Rabbinical College of Australia & New Zealand in 2003 and was ordained as a rabbi by the Rabbinical College of America and Israel’s former chief Rabbi Mordecha Eliyahu in 2004. He was the editor of Kovetz Ohelei Torah, a respected Journal of Talmudic essays. He lectures on Talmudic Law, Medical Ethics and a wide array of Jewish subjects and has led services in the United States, Canada, Africa and Australia. His video blog Rabbi Motti's Minute is highly popular as are his weekly emails. Rabbi Wilhelm and his wife Mimi lead Chabad SW Portland as Shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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