Parashas Kedoshim addresses the special role of the Jewish people in a way that we don’t see in the rest of the Torah. But feeling like you are special is not a politically correct belief system these days. It seems as if there is an unofficial campaign in society to indoctrinate everybody to believe that no matter who you are, you are nothing special.
We can start with astronomers, who are pushing their theories about other planets with life on them as if this were a reality. They claim that there are so many planets with the right combination of elements that it is inevitable that we will find life on another planet. This planet is nothing special!
Evolutionists push a life view that humans are an inevitable development in the evolutionary story which would eventually be developed. In other words, humans are nothing special!
Atheists, Marxists, and even many psychologists will tout how religion is “the opiate of the masses,” created by mankind to enslave the minds and hearts of those who are ignorant of the facts of life. They see belief in G-d or religious allegiances as an expression of human weakness; hence, anything to do with religion is nothing special!
Then we get to those who claim that being a Jew is antiquated and outdated. They may be “religious” themselves, but Judaism, they claim, has outlived its time on earth and should be relegated to the garbage can of history. For them, there is definitely nothing special about identifying as a Jew!
And in a new development, today’s politically correct value system is pushing a position that being a male or female also makes no difference. There is nothing unique about either and you can be whatever you want to be. Being limited by identifying as one sex as opposed to another is passé, and there is really nothing special about being either!
The adults amongst us are not so vulnerable to the silliness of these many arguments, which can slide off of us as easily as so many of the news features we hear or see. But the youth amongst us, who are evaluating the Jewish values we have tried so hard to teach them, are much more sensitive to this onslaught of undermining commentaries. Teenagers are at a fragile stage in their development, making decisions about their identity that can affect them for a lifetime, and they are exposed to this message on an ongoing basis.
As responsible parents and educators, we have to overcompensate for this reality and send a strong message that there is something special about being a human being, male or female, on earth, observing G-d’s gift to the world in the form of the Torah as a proud Jew. We can never stop this effort, due to no shortage of the detractors in the world who try to find weak links to try to break our chain.
We should have no hesitancy about expressing and looking for sources of Jewish pride. Our young people in particular need to know about our many great accomplishments in the world in every area of life. The Torah still serves as the source of three world religions, and establishes an ethical system which keeps the bar high even in our sophisticated and modern society.
Our oral tradition, transmitted from parent to child and teacher to student, is a treasure that amazes all who study it — from the South Korean students to the Dalai Lama to Christian seminary students in Minnesota. Israel is the start-up nation, which is respected as one of the great accomplishments of our modern era. Our communities, with all their problems, are still shining examples of dedication to education, acts of kindness, and Torah study. Shabbos is Hashem’s gift which the rest of the world, especially in this hectic day and age, stands in awe of.
Thank G-d, the list of sources of Jewish pride is long, and we and our families need to know how special we are as people, and that being a proud Jew is a great privilege that should be cherished. For our part, we need to provide our loved ones with strong sources of personal motivation to overcome the constant negative bombardment we all get from all sides.
The best source of inspiration for Jews of all ages is to learn our Torah, which for almost 3,330 years has been guiding us how to be a holy people in a potentially unholy world. n
Rabbi Tuvia Teldon is the regional director of Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more information and inspiration, visit www.chabadli.org or Facebook.com/RabbiTeldon to view his weekly broadcasts.