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Notice the Good, Too - August 18 2017

Notice the Good, Too - August 18 2017

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Over the years, especially during the Middle Ages, Jews were often faced with the false accusation known as the 'blood libel'. First appearing in England in 1144, the blood libel was the claim that Jews would use the blood of a child for Passover Matzas. This would often lead to pogroms against the local Jewish community.

One of the prime arguments used by Jews to defend themselves whenever such a libel was leveled at them, was that they are strictly prohibited from eating blood; even one drop of blood in an egg would render it non kosher. How then would it be possible to say that they'd actually use blood for Matza?

Fortunately this libel has been, for the most part, put to rest - the last such occurrence was the Beilis trial in Kiev in 1913.

This week's Torah portion contains the above mentioned prohibition against eating blood. The Torah strictly warns that we should guard ourselves from consuming even the slightest trace of it.

The Talmud - the place to look if you want to understand more about the Torah's commandments - writes an interesting statement about the state the Jews were in when they received this Mitzvah. It says that at the time of the giving of the Torah 3329 years ago, the Jews were repulsed by the very idea of eating blood (as are most people), but also found themselves consuming it very often - hence the strong warning against it.

Why would they eat something that repulsed them? Because in Egypt, were the Jews had just spent over two centuries, consuming blood was commonplace, and unfortunately the Jews adopted this habit into their diet.

I'd like to focus on this point because I feel that it's a microcosm of everything we feel that we might do wrong. Just like the Jews who were accustomed to both consuming blood, yet were also repulsed by it, so too is it with most people.

Doing something wrong usually doesn't feel good. We can easily find ourselves 'addicted' to foods, habits or lifestyles that we very well know aren't good for us, yet we do it anyway. What's unfortunate is that - precisely because of that negative feeling - it's always the actions that we feel guilty about that we notice. 

That's nature - a sure sign of something working well is that you don't notice it. If you have a brand new car you probably won't notice many of its features - for the precise reason that it works so smoothly. If your car has 100,000 miles on it, then you might start to notice the brakes, steering wheel and AC - because they don't work as well.

The White Supremacist rally this week and the violence that ensued have many people worried. Everyone is talking about it, and I don't have much to add other than to echo the sentiment that we need to promote peace, tolerance and coexistence; and fight racism and violence.

I would also like to point out something else. For every upsetting story, whether in Charlottesville or Barcelona, there is so much good in the world too. Just like the broken AC or steering wheel, it's only the things that go wrong that make the news. Yet how many good things can we count just by walking down the street? The sun, the birds, people calmly going about their daily lives, children laughing in school? Isn't that worth noticing too?

I don't mean to encourage complacency or naïveté in the face of disturbing events. Quite the opposite. The best fuel to drive ambitious engagement to fight evil in the world, is the ability to notice all the good as well. Positivity and hope are necessary ingredients to overcome challenges. Taking note of the good in the world can give us just that.

Rabbi Avrohom 

 

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