Positive Vision - Day 49
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 49 - Who Are You? - A Holy Jew!
Everything in this world has a defining feature, a particular quality that identifies it as unique from its neighbors. Take a wooden chair, for example. Many things are made out of wood, but a chair has a specific shape and function that defines it and makes it into a “chair.” If it loses that function, say it becomes too fragile to sit on, you can call it wood and use it as fuel, but you can’t really call it a chair. It has lost its identity.
The same is true with people. Many of us associate ourselves with a certain character trait so strongly that it becomes our defining feature.
Take the kid who dreams of becoming a baseball player. Baseball is his life. He eats, drinks, and thinks baseball, falls asleep listening to the game, and uses his glove as his pillow. It is not just what he does; it is who he is. It is how he identifies himself. Should he seriously injure his leg and thus be forced to abandon his chosen “career,” he does not only have to figure out what to do with his life, he also has to decide who he is. He must redefine himself. In psychological parlance, he has an identity crisis.
Many of us live, in varying degrees, with this crisis.
We don’t quite know who we are. When we go into the work world, we identify ourselves as businessmen or professionals. We then go to shul and try to squeeze in a seder, and think of ourselves as bnei yeshivah. We go home and our wives ask us to spend more time with the kids, and we are reminded that we are also husbands and fathers. We are pulled in a million directions and at times we can feel rootless.
Everyone wants an identity, a clarity about who he is.
But if we think about it, we know the answer, or at least what the answer should be.
Who am I? I am a Jew and if I truly believe that, I can be a businessman, father, husband, and learner all at one time.
But what is a Jew? What is the defining feature of Klal Yisrael? What character trait most strongly makes the Jewish nation “Jewish”?
It is kedushah ... as it is written multiple times in the Torah.
In the words of the Midrash: “For you are holy to Hashem, your G-d - The kedushah that is upon you caused you [to be Hashem’s nation].”
In the words of the Ibn Ezra: “I took you out of Egypt only to be your G-d; if you will not be holy I will not be your G-d. If you wish that I be your G-d, be holy.”
How did we acquire this exalted character trait? It was conferred on us by none other than Hashem Himself, as we say in Shemoneh Esrei of Yom Tov.
In this tefillah we mention seven expressions for the love that Hashem has for His nation:
He has chosen us, loves us, is pleased with us, has raised us up, has sanctified us with His mitzvos, has drawn us near to His service, and finally ... He has conferred upon us His Great and “Holy” Name.
The final and ultimate expression of His love is in the fact that He has called us holy ... and how? By conferring upon us His “Holy” Name. This is our defining characteristic!