The Proliferation of Jewish Ideas
Last week, we drove by a sign that asked to "Share the Road" on the steep roads to view the seasonal snow on Mount Lemmon.
A few days later, a friend told me about a new ad by Walmart announcing "all we see in you is a spark."
And the other day, branding expert Sally Hogshead sent an email to her clients titled "If not now, when?"
What do these 3 examples have in common? They are all influenced by Jewish ideas.
"Share the Road" can be traced to the 10th-century teaching of Midrash (Tanna Devei Eliyahu 11) about the need for us to take care of each other. "We are like a ship where a hole has been ruptured in one room. It cannot be said that one room has been ruptured; the entire ship is ruptured," it teaches.
"The spark within you" is based on the biblical notion (Genesis 1:26) that humans were created in "G d's image." The mystic Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad, explained that within us is a divine soul that is a spark of G-d's illumination.
"If not now, when?" is the motivating saying by the Jewish sage Hillel the Elder (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14). Its meaning, according to Rabbi Ovadiah Bartenura, is that if we don't accomplish what we need in this lifetime, we aren't able to do so after death.
Jewish thought is everywhere - although sometimes it may not be entirely obvious. Indeed, Judaism helped shape Western civilization. To quote President John Adams, "fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations."
The Torah introduced to the world concepts of purpose, trust, social responsibility, the sanctity of life, and absolute morality. By studying the sources of those values, you can discover their timeless core of purpose, integrity, and clarity—a powerful gift of guidance as we navigate our own daily choices.
I will be exploring these and other universal values in the new adult education course "Judaism's Gifts to the World," starting Wednesday, January 29, 7:00 pm at the Tucson JCC. For more info, visit ChabadTucson.com