Parashat Emor

The Pursuit Of Happiness

As identified Jews, our speech and actions reflect on our families and the larger Jewish people.

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In the words of the Midrash Vayikra Rabbah, "Why is Israel compared to a sheep? Just as if you strike a sheep on its head, or on one of its limbs, all its limbs feel it, so if one Jew sins, all Jews feel it."

All Jews have a stake in each other. Our deeds, our behavior and our character alter the way other people perceive us as a group. Indeed, the behavior of one Jew can even influence how other Jews perceive Judaism!

Shaming the Tradition

When Jews engage in fraud, we shame the values cultivated by our tradition. When Jews express contempt against other Jews--either through word or deed--we betray our common ancestry and endanger our shared future. When Jews ignore the suffering of other people--in our own community and around the world--we implicate the Source of our humanity.

Identifying as Jews, we agree implicitly to preserve the Jewish people as a "light to the nations." How we act will affect how non-Jews think of us all. How we act will mold how we think of ourselves as well.

Jewish self-hatred is often absorbed from the attitudes or behavior of our fellow Jews. And one courageous, pious or decent Jew can inspire a score of us to emulate those same precious ideals. The 'kippah' (skullcap) on your head, the 'mezuzah' (parchment) near your door, or the chain around your neck is a pledge to reflect the highest standards of Jewish morality. The Jewish people depends on you. Through our 'brit' (covenant) with God, our history and our heritage, we are one.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.