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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 3, 2004 /17 Elul, 5764

Improve oneself or society?

By Rabbi Berel Wein

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What the Bible expects of us individually and collectively


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | One of the salient points of Judaism is that it treats and deals with individuals and their behavior while at the same time it sponsors a program for the national entity, as well.


In Judaism, the individual is responsible not only for personal behavior but for society as a whole. The Talmud long ago reminded that we are all guarantors one for another.


Personal piety, if not extended into the social improvement of the society as a whole, will be found wanting on the scale of Eternal judgment. Personal piety is easier to achieve than is its exportation into societal behavior. There is a Yiddish phrase that describes this shortcoming graphically: ah tzadik in peltz — a self-righteous person wrapped in his own fur coat to protect himself from the cold. Judaism searched for those who would light a fire to warm all by its heat and not for fur coat wearers, no matter how personally pious they may be in their private lives.

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Yet, on the other hand, people committed to improving the public life of society must themselves be grounded in personal morality and goodness. Immoral people, no matter how talented they may be and how high in office and power they might rise, leave a sour legacy within the society they mean to serve. The rabbis in composing the blessings after the haftorah (weekly reading from the Prophets) were careful to thank G-d for having provided Israel with prophets who were good people. This in contrast to other prophets outside of the Jewish world, like Bilaam, who, though possessed of great plans and gifted prose, were unscrupulous and immoral in their personal lives.


Such prophets bring only sadness and disappointment to their societies.


Throughout Jewish history, lasting Jewish leadership was always measured by the yardstick of personal probity and decent behavior by the leader. The Talmud compliments Rabbi Hillel not only for his intellectual prowess and devotion to Torah study but for his sterling character and his behavior in the general world of society. His ability to restrain anger, to encourage compromise and moderation, his welcoming of strangers and his soothing influence in a tumultuous period of Jewish history (30 BCE - 10 CE) are the hallmarks of his leadership success.


The sage's constant efforts towards his own character self-improvement proved to be the catalyst for his immense stature and influence in society generally. He was able to transform Hillel, the private individual, into a society of many Hillels that proved to be the key to Jewish societal survival at that time.


Jewish history always stressed the need for a balance between the struggle for private piety and the necessity to work to improve the general society at one and the same time. Oftentimes the demands of improving society contradict the efforts to achieve greater personal spiritual accomplishment. And the same is true the other way around as well, as the Torah (Bible) does not draw a hard and fast line regarding this balance. It is clear though, that the Torah demands that both the public and private goals of improvement must be attempted.


Our forefather Abraham supplies the role model for this venture.


According to Rabbi Menachem HaMeiri (14th century Provence) Abraham influenced half of the world towards the concept of monotheism. And he accomplished this by being Abraham and struggling always for his own continued spiritual growth and character improvement. His efforts at achieving this personal greatness which he shared with his world's society, earned for him the approbation of G-d: "Behold, I have made you into the father of a multitude of nations!"


The month of Elul, in which we now find ourselves, has traditionally been the time for self-introspection and renewed commitment in Jewish life. Our society faces many difficult social and moral problems. But if charity begins at home, so does societal improvement. Being better people, inculcating Jewish values and outlook into our personal lives, will accomplish more for curing our society's ills than the best intentioned piece of legislation can do. Being kinder and gentler at home will eventually make us kinder and gentler on our roads, in our markets and malls and in our public discourse.


This is a goal well worth pursuing for in its achievement lies the ability to have the fairer, more equitable, democratic society that we so crave.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Berel Wein is one of Jewry's foremost historians and founder of the Destiny Foundation. He has authored over 650 tapes, books and videos which you can purchase at RabbiWein.com. Comment by clicking here.

© 2004, Rabbi Berel Wein