A Revolution of Mind and Soul by Lauren Shaps
A Revolution of Mind and Soul
Many Americans, along with the rest of the world, were truly surprised by the results of this week’s election, which will make Donald Trump the next president of the United States. What that will mean for the United States and the rest of the world remains to be seen. We always hope and pray that every leader of every nation will do their share to make the world a peaceful and prosperous place, where every individual is treated with respect and dignity and every person has safe access to the fundamentals of life.
Many American presidents have looked to the Bible for guidance and direction. They understood that the Torah is far more than a book of ethics or an explanation of Jewish ritual. The Torah teaches us about leadership, the essential qualities and integral values that we should look for in our leaders and cultivate in ourselves and others.
Last week, we read about Noah, who listened to G-d, built his ark and saved his family and the animals of the world. The great Sages gave him mixed reviews because he didn't teach, engage or inspire others. This week, in Parashat Lech Lecha, we meet Abraham and Sarah, who will soon become the parents of the Jewish people.
Our Creator is the Ultimate Parent and He has a mission for his creations. He chooses a partner, Abraham, to share that mission with the world (in part because Abraham chooses G-d, but that's a discussion for another time). Why does G-d choose Abraham? The Torah is very clear. "Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of G-d by doing what is right and just" (Genesis: 18:18-19).
What is the difference between Noah and Abraham? Abraham will instruct his children. He will teach his children what is right and just. And because Abraham and his descendants will follow through on that responsibility, all of the nations of the world will be blessed. He and his life partner, Sarah, reach out to share the message of one G-d, of how to live in a G-dly way and of how to bring blessing to the world.
Exodus is the story of the nation, the Jewish people. Genesis is the story of families. In the beginning, there were individuals and then there were families. We begin the mission of perfecting the world by looking at ourselves and then our families. Our first obligation is to be a good person, a G-dly person, and our second is to share those values with others, our children, our family, our friends. Like Abraham and Sarah, every one of us is charged with teaching, transforming, engaging and inspiring our children and others. To do the job right, we need the knowledge, the skills and the passion.
Abraham looked at the world with open eyes. He sought purpose and meaning. He cared for others. When G-d proposed to destroy the evil people of Sodom, Abraham argued in an attempt to save them. His tent was open on all sides. He was caring, giving and compassionate. Abraham showed what one human being can accomplish. He was one man who would change the world forever. Judaism teaches that each and every one of us must do our share. The Torah gives us guidance and parameters for what that looks like. The result will be a world that is blessed.
We are the descendants of Abraham and Sarah. We are charged with contributing to their unfinished task. It helps if we step back and look at our big-picture goals, to give our children lives that are rich and full of meaning, to build good values, a positive outlook and resilience.
We want to leave to our children a world that is blessed, but that will not happen without thought and without commitment. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Germany 1808-88) explains, "Not by external means will the world be righted. This cannot be imposed by government or enforced by legislation, nor can it be achieved by worldwide revolution. Only an inner revolution of mind and soul can produce a generation of people educated to a sense of duty; only such a revolution can produce people committed to duty who will transmit a living teaching to children and grandchildren, to keep the way of G-d by doing what is right and just."
This Sunday, I'll be catching a plane for the Holy Land. With me will be 35 fabulous women from Ottawa who will experience the wonders of a JWRP MOMentum Trip. We'll return, please G-d, renewed and inspired, ready to ensure that we do our share to transmit this important message. Whether you are celebrating the election results or nursing the blues, everyone can agree that the world needs help. Like Abraham and Sarah, we can actively seek to live our ideals, teach our children what is right and just, and create a revolution of mind and soul. In that way, the world will come closer and closer to fulfilling G-d’s promise that through Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants – you and me – the world will be blessed.
Lauren Shaps is a JWRP City Leader and a full-time Jewish educator. She works closely with her husband, Rabbi Zischa Shaps, and they are blessed with five children.