Motti Wilhelm

Show Me Your Podcasts & I’ll Tell You Who You Are

Man Choosing a Podcast for his Jog (Getty Images)
Last week, along with 98% of the American people, I could not name the head of the ruthless mercenary group fighting alongside the Russian army. A week later we’ve likely heard the name of this sadistic tyrant hundreds of times.

The events currently unfolding are critical today and will shape world history. At the same time, the fame rewarded to “bad guys” is troubling and self defeating.

How many times after a mass casualty event is the shooter given a name and the victims relegated to a number? What does it mean for a society when its most famous podcasts are about serial killers?

King Solomon teaches “The mention of a righteous man is for a blessing, but the name of the wicked shall rot.” The Talmud explains, “What is the meaning of “the name of the wicked shall rot? We do not call others by their names“.

By mentioning the likes of Avrohom, Moshe, Rachel and Esther we fill our homes and environments with blessing. When we tell their stories, we pass on values and create sacred spaces. Through talking about these heroic men and women, they live with us and inspire us.

Of course we speak of  Pharaoh, Haman and Amalek too. We use them to help accelerate and ensure the decay of evil.

Pharaoh represents what happens to one with a stubborn ego and Haman symbolizes the end those who attempt to annihilate us meet. Our villains not only bring us holidays, they become teachers of morality. We bring them up to further the demise of what they stand for. In this week’s Parsha of Balak, Ba’alam in an attempt to curse the Jews becomes the very source of our blessing.

Google “most popular podcasts” and in the top 10 you will get My Favorite Murder, Crime Junkie and Morbid. Try “most popular Jewish podcast” and Meaningful People and Inspiration for the Nation are right up there. That’s how it ought to be.

“Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are” goes the famous saying.  Let’s allow our enemies’ failures to be a source of positive motivation and let’s intentionally fill our spaces with the names and stories of heroes we wish to exalt.

(For further study of about the Jewish approach on bringing up the memory of evildoers see Likkutei Sichos Volume 23: Balak,1)
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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