Influence…?

Shlishi (Tues) 22 Nisan 5774 Yer.

In the Holiday mussaf prayers, we say that 3 times a year, on the 3 pilgrimage holidays, all males should “appear before Hashem…(in Jerusalem).. and should not appear empty-handed, but each according to the gift of his hand”. This teaches us to be givers, to affect others positively. How much can we influence in the world?

Saul Bellow wrote in an essay, that we all stay informed of all kinds of issues, but how much do we influence current events, or the debates on them? We don’t really, he said. The best we can do is have good opinions. He said that except for a small corps of seemingly professional activists, who must be ind. wealthy or something, and fly around the country protesting this or that, who really “affects” debate on these issues? The frustrations of modern man.

I was thinking of these thoughts when I was in Washington earlier in the month. On a Friday aft.  I rode my bicycle down Penn. Ave. past the White House. There was a demonstration there, not too big. It was against circumcision! I thought that odd, but hey, it’s a free country as they say, thank goodness. Actually I think it is weird for people to protest against circumcision, like is that really a problem in the world? Do you have anything better to do? Makes you think it must be a deeper psychological issue.

In fact, I think this protest, and the act of brit milah itself, exemplify two polar ways of influencing the world.

Abraham Our Father circumcised himself at age 99 or something. Soon after, he was visited by the messengers from Hashem who informed him of two things: that he would have a son, and that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed.

It is not co-incidence that these events followed on his circumcision.  Sodom and Gomorrah had a heyday of prosperity, before their demise, of fifty-two years, according to our legends. For the last 25 years, they had warnings which were intended to encourage them to repent: molten lava would rain down near them. But they did not repent.

When Abraham circumcised himself,  he made himself “temim”, whole and pure. Then the inhabitants of Sodom, in comparison to him, were judged too wicked and were given the fate they met.  Abraham sensed that he was in some way “responsible” for their decree, and tried very hard to pray for them. But Hashem taught him that He can’t always be “Mr. Nice Guy” like Abraham would like.

So we see that it is not always the fellow who is out there making a demonstration in front of the White House or elsewhere who is influencing world events. Nor the perhaps narcissistic politician and his high blown exploits, which often cause more harm than good.

The individual who is perfecting himself in the privacy of his home can often have a much larger impact.

Who do you think has influence?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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