Life is essentially a question of values. Every man sees as his goal in life the target that he deems to be most desirable. Every man judges his own happiness and satisfaction with life in terms of his possession or lack of possession of those things that he considers worthwhile and valuable.
The observant Jew has his own sense of values. Torah Judaism is his blueprint for this life, his target for existence. It directs his path, it decrees his actions and motivations. He sets his sights on these values, and moves toward them, ever toward them.
And slowly, as the community of Torah-Jewry moves along the lines of life directed by the Torah, a shape and image begins to emerge. A distinct and unique form of individual and community takes shape. The Torah man steps forth and onto the world stage, unique and different.
Judaism, the system, and Torah Jew, the man, have their values which they have put into practice. I submit that we have much to be proud of. What Moves Others There are those who swell with pride at the tramp of marching army feet. Torah Jewry has no armaments to which to boast. There are those whose men of science flirt with the fringe of space. We boast no such accomplishments.
There are those who build empires of steel and oil, who drive to heights of power, who amass fortunes of wealth, who achieve material success, who climb the stages, mount the easels, shape the sculptures, and subdue the muses of the arts. It is not here that we are among the leaders. There are those who leap across obstacles, race with the speed of the wind, strike an object awesome distances, swim against the watery elements. Not in their ranks are we to be found.
Our appears to be such a constricted role, such an insignificant image. No newspaper would find us worthy of great headlines, and even our fellow Jews find little in us to boast of.
For them Jewish pride exists in a Jew who achieves high political office. To them it is a great thing when a Hollywood figure is revealed to be a son of Abraham; to them an athlete who is of the faith is a thing to be honored. To them, Torah Jewry is, if anything, an old misfit in a modern world. A man who surrounds himself with prohibition; a woman who turns her back upon pleasure; a child who is trained to dress and behave differently. Much bewilderment but little cause for pride is the prevailing attitude of even fellow Jews. Little to Boast Of
It is all in the eyes of he beholder. It is all a product of what one considers real and permanent and valuable. There is the illusion of the world and the reality of the Torah. And if we ourselves sometimes have doubts about what is real and meaningful, I submit again that we have much to be proud of. For theirs is a world of Auschwitz and Siberia and the Congo. Theirs is a world wherein people fear the night, as from its recesses pour forth the criminals of the dark. Their society is one that knows of men struck down by muggers and women violated by perverts. Their creation knows children who learned to kill, seldom having been educated in much else. Their product is patricide and fratricide, genocide and suicide, an abomination the likes of which has not been seen since the great flood temporarily cleaned this earth with its boiling waters.
What Moves Us
We have our own values; we build our own special, our JEWISH life–and we are proud, so very proud. We are proud when our children sit before us and translate a chapter of Chumash; this is Jewish pride. We are proud when a Gadol delivers a beautifully analyzed lecture in an area of the Talmud; this is Jewish happiness.
We are proud of our Friday evening meal as with white tablecloth and rich red wine, soft brown challahs and deep polished silver, sparkling candlelight and twinkling eyes, the Torah family sits in warm closeness and raises its voice in song, its lips in praise, its tongue in Torah parables.
We are proud of our children who know nothing of the slime of crime, of the filth of delinquency, of the shame and disgrace that tears apart the parents of the world. We smile in contentment as they grow into the qualities that mark the seed of Abrahan, merciful, modest and charitable. We know peace of mind as they sit in the Beis Midrash and drink deeply of our waters, the well of Torah. This is Jewish nachas. We are proud that the giants of the earth dwell within our tents. That men of great Torah knowledge, of deep perception, of mighty hearts are our leaders. The outside world sees in them oddly dressed, bearded men, outdated and out of contact.
We smile. We see in them the mighty wells of wisdom and rushing waters and teachings. In their light do we find the path upon which to walk, and we travel in contentment.
We are proud that our families are rarely racked with the disease of divorces, that husband and wife live in harmony and respect, in modesty and gentleness, that children honor parents and parents love their children, that harmony and peace are forever dwelling mates in our homes.
We are proud of all this because we feel–we know–that this is what man was created for. This is the real truth, this is the real essence, this is the real value. We are a wealthy people and a happy one. Others pursue shadows, we grasp substance. With Nehuniah ben Hakane we give thanks to the Almighty for our lot. It is a sweet one, a good one, a proud one.