The onslaught of immorality and negative influences on the one hand, and antisemitism and Israel bashing on the other, have the potential to give rise to our and our children holding a very negative view of people who are not one of `us’. What should be the approach, the right balance to protect our children from inappropriate influences and hateful sentiments without creating a disregard for other human beings?
The answer lies in Chumash Bereishis. In his very insightful introduction to Sefer Bereishis, The Netziv ( HaRav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin- Sefer Haamek Davar) explains why Chazal refer to Breishis as Sefer HaYashar. The Netziv says this refers to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, who were called Yesharim, straight ones, by none other than Bilaam, the prophet of the non-Jewish world. The singular facet that Bilaam so admired in the Avos, and regretted not possessing himself, is their Derech Eretz, as demonstrated by Yashrus, their straightness. The Netziv comments that this refers specifically to their dealings with the non-Jewish world, as epitomized by Avraham’s pleading for the survival of Sodom, Yitzchak’s repeated non-confrontational approach to Avimelech and Yaakov’s mild and respectful encounter with Lavan.
Let’s analyze the mindset of the Avos. Who, more than they, abhorred Avoda Zara (idolatry) and the cruelty of Sodom, Avimelech and Lavan? They devoted every fiber of their being to combat the philosophies and behavior of these people. Their life’s work of serving Hashem was precisely what these individuals and communities tried their utmost to denigrate, ridicule and destroy. And yet, it was the Avos themselves who showed extraordinary concern for the survival and self-dignity of their enemies.
This is the approach we are striving to teach our children. We oppose philosophies, ideas and practices that are antithetical to Torah with great sacrifice and passion. At the same time, we recognize that it is Hashem’s will that these people are alive, and unless they are threatening us physically, we must not wish them bodily harm, rejoice when they suffer or cause them pain.
This should make it clear. We care about the wellbeing of all mankind, albeit on different levels of concern. When we hear news reports of terrorist attacks or natural disasters in places far from any Jews, we should still cringe. When we witness or hear of any human suffering, it should bother us. By following this approach, we will raise caring, sensitive children who are proud to be Torah committed Jews, and kind and compassionate human beings.
Have a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann