July 24, 2024
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July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The following is an email that Rabbi Mendy Lipskier, Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Foun­tain Hills in Arizona, sent to his community:

I’d like to share a real life experience that oc­curred in our family recently. The “Kid and the Yid” is our son, Yossi, 9 years old, an avid base­ball fan and valuable team member on our lo­cal Little League team. We recently dropped him off, “uniformed up” at “the diamond” for the regular game.

We do as all little league parents nor­mally do, sometimes we stay and some­times we drop off. Due to other commit­ments, this particular day we dropped him off leaving him in his uniform with his coach and teammates.

What happened next was the “foul ball.”

The game was going fine, with Yossi (as always) very actively participating and very much looking forward to his “at bat.” As he came up to bat, the umpire happened to notice that Yossi wears two uniforms, his team uniform, and also the fringe under­garment uniform of every male Jew: tzitzit.

And then, for the first time, the umpire insisted that Yossi remove his tzitzit in that it could produce some type of “interference or unfair advantage.”

Yossi—the only Jewish boy, not just on the team, but we think in the entire league—respectfully explained to the um­pire that he is wearing a religious under­garment, had never had an issue with this previously, however the umpire would not listen, decrying in effect “foul ball.”

What was Yossi to do? Disrespect the um­pire (an adult), or disrespect his religion?

To Yossi, the choice was easy and clear. He had “two feet on the ground” in more ways than one. He walked off the field and would not play!

But then another thing happened: The game stopped. Fellow members of Yossi’s team volunteered to walk off the field and forfeit the game in its entirety in support of him.

After a significant “pow-wow” between the coaches and the umpire, Yossi was al­lowed to play, “double uniforms” and all.

So what educational opportunity does this story lend itself to?

1. Tzitzit is a sign of Jewish pride. Jews have always had a way of dress to distin­guish them from the people of the lands in which they lived—even when that meant exposing themselves to danger and bigot­ry. By the grace of God, today most of us live in lands where we are free to (and should) practice our religion without such fears.

2. Religious tolerance means to refrain from discriminating against others who fol­low a different religious path.

3. The freedom of individuals to believe in, practice, and promote their religion of choice without interference, harassment, or other repercussions shall always prevail.

4. Ignorance, unacceptance [sic], and re­ligious intolerance still run rampant, and people exhibiting those traits, among oth­er “blind acts,” might see tzitzit as just part of a “fringe religion.” However, we actually see it as a symbol of “forget-me-knots.” Today, whether it be a yarmulke, a mezuzah, or tz­itzit (ideally all), as Yossi did, we should all wear our “Jewish uniform” unapologetically with pride and with our heads held high.

As we know, self-assertion often demands a lot of humility. Doing something out of the ordinary requires putting our image on the line. It means that I care more about my truth than what other people think about me. This is self-esteem that is rooted in soul-conscious­ness.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught a pow­erful lesson gleaned from the location Hashem chose from where to give us His Torah, as explained on Chabad.org: The Midrash tells us that God chose Mt. Sinai, and not a more impressive mountain, to teach us the value of humility. The ques­tion, of course, is this: If humility is para­mount, why did God give us the Torah on a mountain at all? Why not a plain, or even a valley? The mere term “Mt. Sinai” is an ox­ymoron. It’s a mountain, towering and ma­jestic. And it’s Sinai, meager compared to her sister mountains, humble. If humility is paramount, why did God give us the To­rah on a mountain at all?

When God gave us the Torah and inau­gurated us into Jew-hood, He said, “You are going to need to be real strong to be a Jew.” Be a mountain. Have a backbone. Be a char­ismatic light unto the nations, and don’t give a hoot if people laugh at you. But be a humble mountain. Humble in your recog­nition that your strength comes from God. Your life’s value is not about your image, it’s about your higher calling. Don’t measure yourself against the standards set by your neighbors; measure yourself against your soul’s potential.

reprinted with permission from Rabbi Lipskier

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