June 17, 2009 What I love most about being Jewish: #7 (counting down)
OK, I got a #7 in my countdown of things I love about being Jewish.
I love that in Judaism, actions are way more important than thoughts and feelings. Intent is more of a perk than a requirement. Doing things with the correct and pure intention is a goal to strive for but if you’re doing things for the “wrong” reasons, it doesn’t necessarily take away from the action.
This is of course a complex idea. Is it always true? I suppose it’s not. If the unhealthy intent has negative repercussions then it’s not good. Definitely there are times when it’s better not to do the “good” thing.
Anyway, I had an example of this today. I ate sushi at a sushi place and didn’t leave a tip. Afterwards I realized that since I’m used to taking the sushi out, I’d automatically skipped the tip so I decided to go back this afternoon and leave a tip.
On the way I was wondering why I’m doing it. I think I just felt bad for having not given it but I also thought of other possible reasons that I decided to walk back there. One was that I wear a star of David necklace and it might give a bad impression of the MOT (members of the tribe). What I like is that that actually has basis in Judaism. People often talk about acting as a chillul Hashem versus a kiddush Hashem. A chillul Hashem is when you do something that somehow desecrates the name of God. Often I’ve seen this used when an outwardly Jewish person is acting inappropriately. Madoff is a chillul Hashem. : ) A kiddush Hashem is when you sanctify God’s name and it is the opposite. Walking back to the sushi place, star of David and all, was potentially a kiddush Hashem. So the idea with chillul or kiddush Hashem is that you don’t only have the intent of doing a good deed but also the intent of what impression you’re making on those around you.
I do think that the ultimate goal is to do good things because you want to do good things, but our egos are big and so meanwhile, while working towards having pure intentions, it is still considered very good to do things not always for the purest of reasons.
P.S. By the way, I’m using the chillul/kiddush Hashem idea even though I do have issues with it. I hate when we are too eager to gain the acceptance of those around us. We need to care what people think but definitely, 100%, only to a certain extent. Beyond that, it’s just destructive to ourselves. And as my grandmother says, “What’s good for Jews, is good for everyone.” And visa versa.