Friday, September 30, 2016

Greatness vs. Mediocrity 1976

Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Meir Kahane- Parshat Nitzavim
There is no more fundamental axiom in Judaism than the one that decrees that man has free will, the ability, the right, and the obligation to choose for himself the path down which he will walk his life. "See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil...therefore choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).
Choose life. Choose to be great or mediocre, choose permanence or passing transition. It is an individual and a collective choice, an individual and collective decision for the Jew and the Jewish people. "For you are a holy people unto the L-rd, your G-d; the L-rd, your G-d, has chosen you to be His own treasure out of all the peoples that are upon the face of the earth" (ibid. 7:6).
It is a decision that faces the Jew, individual and collective. A simple and so difficult decision. Shall I be great with all the difficulties that come with it or shall I choose mediocrity? Shall I desire to be chosen and special and carry out the sacrifices and the burdens that go along with choseness, or shall I flee from greatness and desire to be as all nations and individuals- all the other ordinary and transitory people who live and pass on, leaving nothing behind except their own petty and narrow lives?
To borrow the language of the Rabbis, "To what is this comparable?" To a woman who is beautiful and desirable and who is wooed by two suitors. One is wealthy and can offer her comfort and security and prestige but within a mediocre and myopic life of small-mindedness. The other not only cannot offer her the comfortable life of material pleasures and security that the first can give, but he also lives a life of difficulty and sacrifice. But he has one thing that the other has not. He is a life of doing for people, of vision and holiness. He has chosen greatness and permanence and the exciting way of life that is truly chosen. The other suitor, with all his comfort and security, is ordinary, narrow. His is not the life of the chosen but of the commonplace. In short, the poorer suitor has chosen true life and offers it to the woman he loves deeply- he wishes to grow with her, he loves her so much that he yearns to give her greatness by his side.
So is it with the Jew, Knesset Yisrael- the Congregation of Israel. The choice is before her. One suitor- the world- offers her the opportunity to be like the nations, following their mediocre, petty, narrow values. The "reward" will be apparent comfort and security. But the price is the loss of opportunity to be holy and great and special. The destiny that is offered is mere "ordinariness." The other suitor is the Almighty and He offers difficulty and sacrifice. But with it there are two rewards. Not only is Knesset Yisrael promised truth and nobility and greatness, but even the sacrifice is beautiful because G-d, the suitor, will walk and share it with her.
The choice is the same for both. The woman and Knesset Yisrael. Will both be great and strong enough to choose life?
The Jewish Press, 1976
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