One thing I love about Elul is that it’s my birthday month which means that I make Duncan Hines brownies (fudgy, of course) for one Shabbat. One other thing I like is that we’re getting ready for Rosh Hashanah and we can reflect. And something came up in my reflections.
In recent times, I’ve heard people say things along the line of “don’t judge Judaism by the Jews.” I see two major problems with this. The first is that no matter what we tell others what to do or not do, people are going to judge Judaism by what Jews do. That’s a fact. Our Torah acknowledges this fact with all the teachings about Chillul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem. The second is that too many Jews use this as a platitude without actually trying to call out the bad behavior and the Chillul Hashem.
Instead of platitudes, I think we need to work on being the kind of Jews by which Judaism can be judged favorably. What kind of Jew is that? Here’s how I see it…
I want to be the kind of Jew who follows Halacha and doesn’t compromise on it even if it doesn’t appear to be politically correct.
I want to be the kind of Jew who does not stand idly by while other Jews twist Torah and use it to hurt fellow Jews or others.
I want to be the kind of Jew who tries to raise awareness of the abuses and tries to take a stand for what’s right.
I want to be the kind of Jew who cares about what Hashem wants enough to learn about it and understand it as best I can.
I want to be the kind of Jew who also cares about what Hashem wants enough to remember that I won’t find all the answers and that I need to trust in Him.
I want to be the kind of Jew who understands that Chumrot are very risky and are best left to the Gedolim who know how to apply them without putting other halachot at risk.
I want to be the kind of Jew who treats others with kindness and who judges others favorably.
I want to be the kind of Jew who remembers that I’m only human and that I’ll make mistakes and that I need to acknowledge them and just keep trying.
I want to be the kind of Jew who remembers that I have my own inherent value as a woman, that it’s not one iota less than that of a man, and that I don’t need to be a man or do what the men do to have value in Hashem’s eyes.
I want to be the kind of Jew who remembers that we women must not allow ourselves to be objectified or dehumanized in the name of “tznius.”
I want to be the kind of Jew who understands that true tzniut is about expressing your personal style whether that’s behind-the-scenes or front-and-center and that both ways are valid.
I want to be the kind of Jew who understands that we each have our own unique talents and strengths with which we can serve Klal Yisrael (within Halacha) and that to not use them is a form of cheating.
I want to be the kind of Jew who remembers that within Halacha, there is a lot of room for individual expression and that we all need to take advantage of that.
I want to be the kind of Jew who remembers the importance of Eretz Yisrael and the importance of having a Medinah and who never takes any of it for granted.
I want to be the kind of Jew who remembers that there are many valid reasons to not make Aliyah (or not do it yet) and that non-Olim deserve to be treated with respect, understanding, and sensitivity.
I want to be the kind of Jew who remembers that the best way to avenge our Kedoshim and the best way to stand up against Jew-hatred is to be proud of being a Jew and to keep Torah and mitzvot.
I want to be the kind of Jew who can set the right example for my children and for others.
Yes, this is a tall order. I know that I have a lot of work to do. But I hope that I can be the kind of Jew by whom people will judge Judaism for the better.