Looking for Good

looking-for-goodEverything that occurs comes from Him, and He is only good.

But if you and your world are not prepared to receive such good, it may manifest itself as apparent bad.

Struggle hard to see the good, think positively—and then the good will become revealed.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

My father once said to a Rav, who labored in avoda and was an especially diligent scholar: A Rav must remember at all times and at every moment that he always stands on the threshold between being one of those who bring merit to the public and, G-d forbid, one of those who cause the public to sin – the threshold between the loftiest of heights and the most abysmal depth. All issues must touch him at the innermost core of his soul, literally, because his very soul is at stake.

“Today’s Day”
Tuesday, Adar Sheini 23, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

For the past few days, I’ve written about my frustration over the apparently endless debates, which sometimes degrade into sniping and back-biting, in my little corner of the blogosphere over matters of identity and religious practice. It’s like one kid has some special toys and when he doesn’t share with another kid, the second kid just takes them and says, “these are mine, too.”

Anyway, I want to be done with all that now because I realize that it’s not really my problem.

Well, yes it is if only because I can’t be so callous about the body of Messiah and the Jewish people. As John Donne famously wrote, “Each man’s death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind.”

No one is dying on the blogosphere, but I’m still involved.

But as ticked off as I can sometimes get at the “goings on” on the web, I can’t let it affect me as a person of faith (although sometimes I do let it affect me). There are days I want to throw in the towel and be rid of the lot of you. If this is your idea of serving God, good luck with that.

But I can’t say that either, because I’m no better than the lot of you. I’m one of you if only in the most generic sense as a poorly functioning disciple of the Master and a barely ambulatory follower in Christ’s footsteps.

The above quoted words serve as message and cautionary tale, reminding us that we can choose to view the acts of God as either good or evil, and what we do can either serve good or evil. Do we magnify and sanctify the Name, or diminish and desecrate it? Our choice.

One choice I can make is to try to rise above the din and even if I should occasionally be a voice in that chorus, I don’t have to let it define me. I don’t have to crawl on the ground when I can stand up and step over the mud. As Rabbi Freeman says:

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, known as “The Rebbe Maharash,” the fourth in the golden chain of rebbes of Lubavitch, had an attitude.

Many wise people say if you can’t go under, go over. The Rebbe Maharash said, “Just go over.”

Meaning that instead of first trying to work through a problem by its own rules, and then—if that doesn’t work—gathering the strength and courage to step brazenly over it . . .

Instead, just start by stepping right over it, as though there were no obstacle to begin with.

After all, that’s why obstacles are there in the first place—so you will go higher.

Iván-Fernández-AnayaInstead of considering all the religious online chatter and discord as an obstacle, maybe it exists to remind me that blogging and pontificating is hardly the end-all and be-all of a life of faith. Certainly communicating is important, but only if it serves an uplifting purpose. Too many religious bloggers use their platforms to tear down their opponents, sometimes by name. I don’t want to be among that crowd. I’m afraid of what they’ll have to face when asked by God to give an accounting of their actions.

But I too am responsible, not only for what I write on this blog, but especially for how I serve him (or fail to do so) when I’m doing everything else.

Not long ago I read about a long-distance race with a very unusual finish:

Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Spain, running second behind Abel Mutai of Kenya. As they approached the finish line, he saw the leader mistakenly stop, thinking he had already crossed the line. So Fernández Anaya also stopped – and guided the Kenyan to the line, letting him cross first.

Suffice to say, this story would not have garnered much attention if Fernández Anaya had exploited the mistake by speeding past to claim an unlikely victory. It was the act of “doing the right thing” – ostensibly at personal expense – that earned Fernández Anaya the real victory.

True greatness does not come at the expense of others. It comes from doing the right thing.

-Rabbi Shraga Simmons

How do you define winning?

“A person should always strive to do the ‘right thing’ simply because it’s the truth. And [if one does so], the end result will be good.”

-Maimonides (Teshuva 10:2)

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 (ESV)

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 14:7-11 (ESV)

Today, I will look at everything we talk about, and even if it seems, on the surface, to represent strife and self-serving, I will try to see the good in it, or by God’s grace, try to find the good in Messiah.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (ESV)

2 thoughts on “Looking for Good”

  1. Ahh, poor James, I know your frustration. But isn’t it amazing the work that God is doing right under our noses! We live in amazing times indeed and people are coming to their senses about who Messiah is and others are learning, even with baby-steps at times, to actually be his disciples. Don’t worry, MJ is His work! Keep looking up.

  2. Ahh, poor James, I know your frustration.

    I’ll live Ruth, but thanks. I suspect that most of us feel the same frustration, I just tend to wear it on my sleeve, so to speak. One “extra meditation” coming up in about thirty minutes and an appeal to “come together” in tomorrow’s “morning meditation.”

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