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Thought for the Day: Jews From All Backgrounds

My family and I started our journey to Orthodoxy at Ohev Shalom, in Dallas.  The mission statement was and is, "Where Jews Of All Backgrounds Feel At Home".  It is a beautiful idea and implemented with sensitivity and good ol' southern hospitality.  I was reminded of that last week when a coworker came over to me with a big smile and asked if I knew any Jews because he had a question.

The question was, "What is that little box I see on the doorposts of Jewish homes?"  My answer was, of course, that there is a commandment in the Torah to affix a document of faith on our doorposts.  The document is a piece of parchment on which is written a selection from the Torah.  The document in its box is called a mezuzah, because mezuzah is the hebrew word for doorpost.  I continued that we actually put them on all our doorposts, not just the front door.

I saw a look of surprise on his face and realized the Jewish friends he has are very likely not Orthodox.  I quickly added that Jews who are less observant very often only have a mezuzah on the front door; and they are made of paper instead of parchment.  I went further and told him that no matter how far Jews are from observance, there are certain things that you will always find: mezuzah, chanuka candles, and a passover seder.  And so ended our conversation...

... but not my thinking about the conversation.  Many years ago I heard a vort from R' Nachman Bulman, z"tzal concerning tachanun.  There are three paragraphs in tachanun where we ask for particular mercy: shomer yisrael... ha'omrim "sh'ma yisrael"; shomer goy echad... ha'omrim "HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem Echad"; shomer goy kadosh... ha'm'shal'shim b'shalosh k'dushos l'kadosh.  The last group, says R' Bulman, are the Orthodox/observant Jews.  The second group are the unobservant Jews who believe in G-d.  The first group are those Jews who are so distant that they only proclaim their Jewishness with no particular theology.  Amazing!  Just realizing and being proud of their Jewish heritage is enough for them to merit a special t'fillah for HaShem, the ultimate Shomer Yisrael, to protect them.  As much we must fight against foreign influences and philosophies, we must also remember that the Jews involved with those distortions are our brethren who need our help.  (Of course, the goyim is those groups do not merit that consideration in any way shape or form.)

They say that an ex-smoker is hardest on smokers; and ba'alei t'shuva can sometimes be hardest on those who have not yet done t'shuva.  So it's good to occasionally take a moment or two to reflect on how those we battle are also victims.


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