3 Teves 5782 / Tuesday, December 07, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
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What it Means to be a Jew    

What it Means to be a Jew

Every moment. Every word. Everything we own. The closer something is to us, the more important we dedicate it to Hashem. That is a Jew.


On my son’s Bar Mitzvah, a simple Rabbi taught me what it means to be a Jew: 


Forget reform. Forget progressive. Forget ultra-orthodox, whatever that is.  A  Jewish  person  is  anyone who has a Jewish mother or converted according to the Torah G-d  gave  us 


A Jew is someone who gives it all to G-d.  


Upon waking up, before he even gets out of bed, he recites Modeh Ani to thank Hashem for waking him up and giving him another day of life to perform His service. His last moment he says, Adon Olam right before closing his eyes for the night 


He gives his desires to G-d, substituting a lobster dinner for pastrami and blessing Hashem for the bread he eats. He gives his dreams to G-d, choosing to be a family doctor rather than a city surgeon so he has enough hours in the day for Torah learning and to spend time with the wife and children Hashem gave him.  


He gives his freedoms to G-d, choosing not to engage the new 20-year-old secretary in idle chatter because the only person Hashem allows him to talk like that to  is  his  own  wife.  


He gives his home to G-d. He lives in Israel. He lives in a Torah community. He lives close to the Beit Knesset, the Yeshiva, the mikvah so he will always have instant and immediate access to the true necessities of life.  


He gives his children to G-d. He pays whatever it takes to make sure his children receive a Torah education to live a Jewish life. If his children tell him that they don’t want to be investment bankers, doctors, or entrepreneurs, but to learn Torah day and night, he is satisfied.  


He gives his money to G-d. If everything costs ten times as much to live a holy life, so be it. Always giving 10% of his earnings to Jewish charity is the standard.  


He gives his life to G-d. Rather than commit murder, idolatry, or any type of sexual transgression, he gives his life first.  


Every moment. Every word. Everything we own. The closer something is to us, the more important we dedicate it to Hashem.  


Everything is for G-d. 


That is a Jew.  


The Necessary Challenge of Life 

Moshe and Yehoshua gave every moment of their lives for Hashem. They are the two greatest Jews in history. They are the benchmark. They are the standard. We are supposed to go through life asking ourselves, “What would Moshe do in this situation?” 


It’s like baseball.  


Anyone can do it, but of the five hundred million people ever to play the game, only 50 were as good as Derek Jeter. Everyone who takes the field at one point dreams of playing on his level. Even when they are past their prime or discover that they aren’t ready for the Hall of Fame, they still want to play like Derek Jeter 


Once the standard is set at the highest point, we all want to meet it – even if it is impossible.  


That is why the first step in giving everything to Hashem is to always try to be a Jew like Moshe and Yehoshua.  


Home Field Advantage 

There are two differences between Judaism and baseball: 

  1. 1. The Sages tell us that every Jew can be like Moshe or Joshua. Every Jew has the potential to grow to a point where they dedicate everything in their life to Hashem. At 47, and a bit overweight, I am pretty sure I won’ be able to match Mr. Jeter’s 358 career stolen bases. Yet, even if I have spent a big part of my life secular, even if I haven’t reached the point where everything I do I ask myself, “How is this for Hashem?” – That doesn’t change the fact that I can still inch closer to being like the only two men in human history G-d split the waters for. We all can.  

  1. 2. In Ethics of the Fathers (2:21) it says, We are never allowed to give up trying with all our might! Even if we concede that we won’t reach Moshe’s level by the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves what we can do tomorrow to inch us closer. We cannot make a half-hearted effort and pat ourselves on the back for trying – like when your wife tells you to clean the bedroom and you shove off three magazines from the bed so you can take a nap – it has to be real effort. We don’t have to complete the task, but we must do everything we can to accomplish it.  


This is why we are here on earth. To give everything to G-d. To spend every day giving more and more. To tear ourselves apart from the sweet scent of fame, influence, success, money, or even just “being normal.”  


This is where Hashem determines where we will spend eternity – the part of the Next World that mirrors Jersey or the part that resembles Jerusalem 


* * * 

David Ben Horin lives in Afula with his wife and children. Since moving to Israel in 2002, David has discovered Torah, writing hi-tech, hiking, coding ReactJS Apps, and hearing stories about the Land of Israel from anyone excited to tell them. Check him out on Highway 60 or email him your favorite Israel story at:  david.ben.horin@spreadyourenthusiasm.com. 

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