Labels Belong on Clothing not Holy Jews
By Ariella Bracha Waldinger
The Jewish nation is extraordinarily holy.
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook zt’zl, first chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, teaches us in the book, “Song of Teshuva” that as Jews, “we must appreciate the fact that we all share a common soul identity and that the soul of the Jewish people is absolute righteousness, goodness and kindness.” If we accept this as truth, we should be cognizant of the impact of our choice of words and thoughts on other Jews because as the (Be’er Moshe) teaches us, “G-d values those who speak well of His people.”
And yet, a divisive habit of assigning labels to our fellow Jews, as a religious identifier, has snuck into our hallowed behavior. I often hear stories, where the teller of the story, chooses to define another Jew, who does not appear outwardly observant as NOT RELIGIOUS. We cannot see inside the soul of another Jew, and therefore, we have no right to place a label on them which diminishes their essence. Rabbi Twerski states in his commentary on Tetzave,
“Arrogance arises when one considers himself to be superior to others and this stems from a lack of humility. Humility is the source of all noble character traits. Arrogance and judgment on others is a violation of both modesty and humility which are two fundamental traits of Derech Eretz, without which a person cannot be considered to be Torah observant.”
I suggest the following: Labels belong on clothing not Jews.
Would you ever consider wearing the label of your garment on the outside of your clothing to show the world what brand you bought? Would there be any value in making that choice? Labels on clothing intrinsically have no value. They simply identify the company or brand. Of course, there are more desirable brands with better qualities than others for wear-ability but they do not make one wearer better or less than another.
Would a parent allow their children to assign negative labels to their siblings, thereby degrading their souls and disrupting the unity of the family? I don’t believe so because the Jewish family itself like the family of Jewish nationhood cannot survive such divisiveness. The Jewish people are one nation! G-ds chosen! We were redeemed as one nation, received the Torah as one nation and were saved from extermination in the Purim story as one nation.
“When we attempt to impose our identity unto the identity of another, trying to make them reflections of ourselves, we usurp their free will and uniqueness. This way can never seed greatness, because greatness must grow from within. To enable them to grow, we must nurture their greatness with faith the greatness of their souls.” Bereshit Rabbah Likutey Moharan I, 8:7)
Chuck Gallozzi, an online journalist, in an insightful online article titled, “Avoiding the Consumption of Assumption” states that
“the problem with labels is that they are merely shells that contain assumptions. When we willingly accept statements without evidence of their validity, the assumptions become stereotypes, which soon become put-downs and can lead to verbal abuse.” He goes on to remind us that “people are complex, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional and when we label them, we put on blinders and see only a narrow view of an expansive and complicated human being. The use of labels is unfair, hurtful and ultimately judgmental.”
As Jews, we know through the teachings of the Torah that G-d is the ultimate judge and it is not our place to judge others. Additionally it is forbidden by the Torah to speak ill of another Jew.
In a Breslov commentary on Rebbe Nachman’s teachings on Megillah Esther compiled by Rabbi Yehoshua Starret, it states the following,
“the thinking that one of us is better than another or that Jews can be compared is a delusion. If ‘I believe I am better than another’ like Haman believed about himself, then we are out of touch with both reality and Torah truth. When we recognize that our greatness stems from a humble self and we believe that each Jew has their place in the scheme of G-d’s world, then we have no need to compare ourselves with others nor attach a label to our perceived assessment of their level of religiosity. The real truth is that our self is not ours to compare with another’s but is our essence, our eternal spark, our G-dly self. When we have awareness of our G-dly soul and of that of our fellow Jews, we seek only to serve G-d and to help others do the same but from a place of respect and caring.“
In the times of the Purim story, Mordechai was able to reveal what was special about each and every Jew from the level of love and appreciation. He brought everyone to accept their specific role and to understand that each one’s role was unique. He reminded us that we must know beyond a doubt that each of us is extraordinarily special and was created with a specific unique part in G-d’s plan. The spark of our Jewishness burns in the soul of every Jew, and yet sometimes those souls have not been shown the way to inflame the spark that lies within them. No matter how distant we perceive they might be, in G-d’s eyes, they always remain Jewish. Every Jew can always return by attaching to something holy but it will never come through labeling which merely creates a separation.
“Your people, when all together are righteous. They shall inherit the eternal land.” (Isaiah 60:21) According to Rabbi Avraham Twerski in the Artscroll series titled “Living Each Day,” he states that “ brotherhood among Jews is so dear to God that it obscures individual defects.” Collective righteousness depends on a feeling of equality. One of the Hasidic Masters, said that when two yuds (Jews) stand alongside each other it represents G-d. If one yud is above the other, then this is not G-d.
Since we just experienced the extraordinary, joyous, unifying holiday of Purim, and we are on our way to the Redemption of our nation during Pesach, it would behoove us to take these teachings to heart and stop negative judgments or labeling our fellow Jews. May we be clear that we are all precious in G-ds eyes and that the teachings of both Purim and Pesach remind us that:
LABELS BELONG ON CLOTHING NOT HOLY JEWS.
With Blessings of love, light and joy, Ariella Bracha