Tag Archives: Respect

Thank You For Your Courage

Flipping through a publication recently, I noticed an interesting pattern. There were quite a few letters to the editor, many of them with strong takeaways. However, the majority were signed anonymously. This bothered me, as it felt like the anonymity of the authors took away the entire message. If you cannot sign your name to something, how can you expect others to listen? 

Thinking about this over the past few days, I have come to realize that we live in an age of anonymity. We have become protective of ourselves and our families to such an extent, that we are afraid to be associated with our very own actions. We, therefore, have an abundance of anonymity in our midst, ranging from letters to the editor to mega donations. Many Instagram, Twitter, and other social media users hide behind a name, not their own. It seems to have become an incurable plague. 

Why Do We Act Anonymously & What Does This Have To Do With Your Courage?

Anonymity helps to protect from stigma or other self-doubts that one has, and it is also used to do things selflessly. However, it is used too much; in fact, it appears to have become a selfish act. Why does our generation feel like we cannot show who we really are? It is as if there is the external person and the internal person, and they calibrate via the anonymous factor. 

Much has been written on the cowardice hiding behind anonymity, and how it rears its ugly head all over the internet. I would like to focus on the lack of self courage hiding behind anonymity. 

People write books, articles, letters and tweets anonymously, for many reasons, the crux of which is to protect themselves or their careers from any collateral damage. What they do not realize is that ideas, when communicated anonymously, lose their force in the battle of ideas. Pseudonyms normalize the idea that people should be frightened to express unpopular views. Consequently, they indirectly serve to delegitimize the views being expressed.

Courage = 100% Accountability

A mentor taught me that when one acts with courage and knows their view is correct, it no longer makes any difference what others think. If I can express my opinion without hiding behind a mask, I am thereby empowered to follow through on my expression and not let the detractors get me down. As a caveat, courage is the ability to take 100% ownership of your actions, which includes the courage to admit when it’s a mistake.

“ The courageous can be anonymous, like fallen heroes with stars on a wall, but the anonymous are not necessarily courageous.”

Danny Pharr

Imagine everyone being true to who they are. When people express their views courageously, conversations take place, policies change, the world becomes a better place. When we hide behind a pseudonym we are enabling a status-quo that people should be afraid to express their opinion, however unpopular it may seem. As a result, it causes the opinion expressed to be rendered completely illegitimate. 

I look forward to recognizing my peers through their courageously expressed views and seeing the conversations that take place as a result of this courage. 

Are you ready?

Thank you for your courage!

Shui Haber

Sensitivity Amidst Turmoil

Day 16 – Berachos 17

אָמְרוּ עָלָיו עַל רַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי שֶׁלֹּא הִקְדִּימוֹ אָדָם שָׁלוֹם מֵעוֹלָם, וַאֲפִילּוּ גּוֹי בַּשּׁוּק.

Berachos 17

The Gemara mentions that they said about Rabban Yocḥanan ben Zakkai that no one ever preceded him in issuing a greeting, not even a non-Jew in the marketplace, as Rabban Yocḥanan would always greet him first.

This week we mark the 66th Yahrzeit of Rav Dessler. In his monumental sefer Michtav M’Eliyahu (Volume 4, page 246), he writes about the importance of Derech Eretz.

The root of the obligation to have Derech Eretz in embedded in the very nature of humanity. We must be respectful to other people because they are people. 

The Mishna in Avos (3;14) tells us that Man is endeared because he is created in the image of God. The Rambam (Avoda Zara, 10;5)  therefore rules that one must ask even a Non-Jew how they are doing, as they too are created in the image of God. 

Rav Dessler then gives us a powerful and vivid portrayal of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai. The Gemara (Sukka 28) tells us that Rabban Yochanan was an immense scholar. He was an expert in all areas of Torah, from Mikra to Mishna, from Agada to Astrology, from Halacha to Angelic conversations and more. In addition, he was the leader of the Jewish people during the turbulent period of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. He literally had the weight of Klal Yisrael on his shoulders, in their most stressful time. 

Yet, he always had the presence of mind to greet everyone he passed by with a “Shalom”. Such was the sensitivity of Rabban Yochanan towards his fellow man. 

Even when your head is in the clouds, your feet must be stuck on the ground. 

Rav Dessler comments that this was not simply a Middas Chassidus or some sort of extra thing that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai did. In fact, it is an obligation on every single Jew to greet one’s fellow man. One who does not do so, is called a Gazlan, a thief. Rashi (Brachos 6b) comments that this is akin to stealing from the poor, of whom there is nothing to steal from them except for their self-worth. 

We see from these powerful words how much one has to be sensitive towards another. Without getting political, in today’s day and age, we tend to cross the street when we see someone of a different race, gender or origin coming towards us.

Let us embrace the ways of Rabban Yochanan and increase peace in this world by being the people of peace and treating all mankind with respect and sensitivity.