Op-Ed: Role Models in today’s society
In recent weeks the Media has been obsessing with pop star Michael Jackson’s death. I say obsessing because that is exactly what everyone is doing. The world is fixating on this person’s death as well as his life to the point of ridicule. People idolized him, looked up to him, and considered him to be their role model. He was famous, yes, but was he a role model? We need to look a little deeper at what type of person he was and what type of values he represented. Is this someone we want our children to emulate and admire? Before we idolize someone we must look at what that person idolizes. When we respect and esteem someone, we indirectly respect and esteem their values and beliefs as well. Ask yourselves, is Michael Jackson or whomever your role model is, worthy of your respect and deference? Do you deem them appropriate for your children and the American youth in general to look up to and mimic? Think about it.
How do you choose a role model?
When I think of someone being a role model I think of a kind, humble and generous person with a loving family whom they adore. I think of an individual with a thriving profession. My role model would have the right priorities in life. Materialistic things would not play a key factor in his/her existence. Stability and constancy are a given. These are all qualities that my role model would possess. These are all qualities that I strive for and that I’d want my children to acquire as well.
What kind of impact does a role model have on our lives?
Depending on the intensity and quantity of one’s admiration, a role model could change a person’s life. Sometimes the change is for the better, and sadly sometimes the change is for the worst. People don’t seem to realize the extent of the effect that admiration truly has. I’ve seen too many teenagers get piercings and tattoos in order to look like their idol. I’ve seen too many teens headed in the wrong direction due to their admiration for their idol. However, I’ve also seen teens get involved in charity because their role model encourages it. I’ve seen teens shape up and improve their lives thanks to their role models positive influence. So you see before we look up to someone, we must think and ponder about his/her values. Only then can we properly and correctly choose our role model.
May G’D bless you with the wisdom to make the right choice.
– by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht
OpEd: Recent events have compelled me to write about them.
The “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, which means “Work Sets You Free” in German and is synonymous with the Nazi concentration camp of World War II, was stolen from Auschwitz in Poland. More than 1.1 million people saw that very sign before they entered the concentration camp where they were brutally murdered.
German officials say the theft was carried out by 5 middle-aged men, not belonging to any Neo-Nazi groups. Other reports claim that these men were hired by a wealthy British Nazi sympathizer who wanted the sign for his collection. Had the sale been carried out, that money would have been used by a Nazi group to fund terror attacks on the Swedish Prime minister and Parliament. Whatever the real reason for the theft, it remains a despicable act of utter disrespect.
I ask of you, to look within yourselves and see what this means to you? Does this prompt any kind of reaction or are you already de-sensitized when it comes to the holocaust?
What does this mean to the people that survived in the holocaust? And to the relatives of the people that perished in it? These people went through hell, and now see this sign stolen like it is a mere piece of iron that can be sold for money. This is a sign that reminds everyone about the horrors that have taken place, it is a symbolic artifact that shows the world just what hatred can do. The world needs this as a reminder in order to keep from self-destruction.
We try to teach our children about morality, ethics and history. What does this occurrence teach the future generations that will inhabit and lead the world? How can anyone growing up thinking this is acceptable turn out to be a decent human being? I shudder at the possibilities…
What were these thieves thinking when they stole the sign, what did this mean to them? Was it just for the money? Or did they harbor deeper feelings toward this sign? Did they feel satisfaction upon stealing it? Or were they numb, like a big portion of today’s younger generation is toward the holocaust?
What happened shook me to the core, but I can see that it did not have the same effect on many other people, Jews and non-Jews alike. This in itself is quite disturbing. We must never forget what happened during WWII & the holocaust. Doing so will put the entire world in jeopardy.
– by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht
Op-Ed: Negligence and Disrespect in Healthcare and Everyday Life
A recent article about negligence in a state institution that resulted in an unnecessary death was heartbreaking and appalling to say the least. The death was a result of facility staff mistreating a patient and not tending to his needs. The sad part about this story is that it’s happening everywhere on a continuous basis, and in most cases can easily be prevented with a little more care. These patients rely on fellow human beings in the healthcare industry and they are being maltreated on every level. Besides for the health officials who are supposed to do thorough background checks and continuous inspections regarding the personnel they hire, it is also the job of every single staff member to keep an eye out for mistreatment of patients. This is one instant where the phrase “mind your own business” doesn’t quite apply.
The Torah teaches us the concept of “Koved HaBrios”, which literally means “Respect for G’ds Creations”. I think this concept is highly relevant regarding the healthcare industry.
It is our duty as mankind to respect fellow living creatures; this applies to human beings as well as animals, insects and organisms of any kind. With what right do we harm G’ds living things?
Having human dignity is one of the most important traits a person must have. Without human dignity, the world would cease to exist. A Jewish proverb says as follows:”He who is a dignified person, has human dignity toward others.” When one shows reverence toward another human being, only then does he deserve it from others. We must treat our fellow human beings the way we wish to be treated.
G’d created all life equal, and it is imperative that we remember that. We are all equal, and deserve to be treated as such.
So just because someone is lying in a hospital bed, crippled and invalid, maybe even on their deathbed Gd forbid, does not give anyone the right to neglect them. Quite the opposite in fact; they deserve the utmost care and respect because they cannot care for themselves. Their life has the same value as anyone else’s. They are still entitled to dignified and ethical treatment.
I hope we can all walk away from this tragedy with an important lesson learnt: no matter who we are or whom we are dealing with, everyone deserves the common decency of being treated like a person with the utmost respect in every way.
– by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht
Op-Ed: Why the College System is Failing
This past week I read an article from the Associated Press titled :”Student Tracking Finds Limited Learning In College”. The article sheds light on a current yet not talked about problem in colleges all over the country; students are not gaining much knowledge while attending college.
Society tells us that in order to have a successful career we must attend college and acquire a degree, otherwise finding a career, let alone a job, will extremely difficult if not impossible. So the majority of American high school seniors try very hard to get into some sort of college, figure out a way to pay for it, and set their goals on graduating with a degree. Here is the issue: most of the students are not looking for an education, they are looking for a degree – and those are two very different things.
Independent studies have shown that the top three priorities for students when looking for a college are as follows:
1. Status of the college: Ivy League vs. private school vs. community college
2. Amount and quality of the party life on campus
The fact that education ranks the lowest is reason for concern. Students are lax when it comes to learning; they want the highest possible degree with the least amount of studying which will give them the maximum salary feasible. These students have no learn ethic, and no work ethic. Where I come from, we are taught that if you want something, you work hard for it. I’ve seen and heard countless college graduates applying for jobs, their only pitch being that they “are college graduates”. The fact that they have no real skills or knowledge doesn’t even cross their mind.
The average college student attends classes for fifteen hours per week. What does he do with the rest of his free time? Assignments and course work do not fill that time adequately. The average higher education Yeshiva student attends classes for 12 hours per day.
Colleges are designed to produce graduates with diplomas; Yeshivas are designed to produce scholars.
Very simply put, one cannot gain knowledge without learning. Students must get their act together and want to learn in order to succeed.
Therefore I am expressing my utmost respect to Yeshiva students who devote their time to learning properly and to becoming educated individuals. As a Rabbi, I urge students to stay in Yeshiva and reap all the benefits of learning-Gemara sharpens the mind and the knowledge acquired while learning in Yeshiva will serve as rock-steady foundation for success in one’s future.
– by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht
Op-ed: Orthodox going green
As an ultra orthodox Jew I was brought up with the concept of “bal tashchit”, this means not to waste. Destroying and wasting a useful entity that has the ability to be useful to man is considered to be a sin. For example, if a child is eating his dinner and he throws his unwanted portion on the floor, his mother might say: “do not throw your food away it is bal tashcit i.e. wasting food for no reason”. This notion is not limited to food; for example: giving a baby a full box of tissues for him/her to pull out and destroy, is also considered to be “bal tashchit” as it is wasting tissues that could be used for a purpose.
The concept actually comes from the torah (Deuteronomy 20:19), “when the Jewish people will lay siege on a city, it is forbidden to destroy a tree that bears fruit because you may eat from the fruit and benefit from it.” Our Rabbis extend this law to include any wasteful or destructive act that will harm things in creation with no specific purpose that are useful to man.
So a question comes to mind: How is it that the Ultra Orthodox communities are not activists and leaders in the eco friendly movements? They ultimately agree on this subject 100%. Whether they see eye to eye about the subject of climate change and global warming is irrelevant. What’s important here is that they concur when it comes to the issue of not being wasteful. I believe that recycling and renewable energy will be extremely beneficial to our environments and that these two concepts should be the focal point of bal tashchit, not wasting. After all, the fundamental law of not wasting applies to the world and all its riches.
Take metal for instance; it can be reused countless times! So every single piece of tin foil and not only metal cans, broken scissors etc should be recycled. This way we would not be wasting materials; we would be reusing them to their full capacity.
Moving on to renewable energy: In 1981 the lubavitcher Rebbe publicly said there is an open and clear way to energy independence, which is solar energy and how we can tap into the power from the healing sun. The Rebbe also said that we should not be scared of those who oppose this notion because they have personal interests in other energies (not renewable ones) that might be more profitable for their own wallets.
Therefore it is mind boggling to me that the ultra orthodox communities are not the leaders in the Green movements. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying they are not involved at all but I think it is fair to say they are far from the leaders, and this truly puzzles me. After all and said is done with, the torah teaches man must not destroy and not be wasteful, and there is no better way to observe this than recycling and renewable energy.
And with this I lay a challenge to every single Torah observing home to think twice before throwing out a tin tray.
– by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht
Op-Ed: Internet Protection
While having a friendly conversation with a colleague of mine, the subject of internet and internet security came up. Being that he has five children under the age of twelve, I thought “Surely this guy has internet security on his computers at home. “ He did not.
Here are some of the issues regarding the web:
A computer with internet access is a window into the world, exposing both the good and the bad. It is our job to protect ourselves and our families from the negative aspects of the World Wide Web.
There are countless dangers the internet brings; some more harmful than others, some more lethal than others, but they are all dangers we can protect ourselves from. Studies show that one in five children are solicited on the web.
Another danger is addiction; school, work, parenting and other responsibilities suffer because people can’t pull themselves away from the computer. In Japan they have recently built a new hospital solely dedicated to curing people who are addicted to the Web.
Independence poses another threat: in this day and age many kids and teens have their own laptops and IPods with internet access. Give it a few minutes of thought and research, and you will find thousands of things on the internet that you do not approve of, but that can easily be obtained by you or your family members.
I’m sure everyone reading this has at one point or another used to the internet to procrastinate, to escape reality instead of getting their work done and facing life head-on.
The web has many positive and educative features. However, we cannot rely solely on education, trust and willpower. While I encourage every parent to educate their child on the dangers of the internet, I can’t help but feel that is just not enough anymore. We must protect ourselves, our families and the future of our communities.
Many people don’t even know such a thing as internet security exists, let alone the fact that it is literally at our fingertips; Internet security can be downloaded for FREE and many of them have customizable options to suit every person’s needs. Personally I have a program called “K9” on all my computers. It is a free program that can be installed in mere minutes. You can personalize the settings for time spent online, blockage and limitations of certain sites etc. It is simple to use, and can make a vast difference in your home.
I recommend and encourage that every home take this important step toward protecting our families and our future leaders.
May G’D bless us with strength to make the right decisions.
– by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht
Op-Ed: Volcanic Ash
There is a famous Yiddish saying, “mentsh tract un Gut lacht” Loosely translated as, “Man plans and G-d laughs”. A recent event illustrates this all too well. This past week we saw something astonishing unfold in front of our eyes; a volcano in Iceland erupted and the wind carried and spread the volcanic ash all over Europe. As a result of this, thousands of flights were cancelled, air travel shut down, people got stranded-the world came to some sort of standstill as far as air travel was concerned. Affecting airlines in the worst possible way, this volcano has cost them millions of dollars in losses. The masses started to panic: how will they get from point A to point B? Not being able to fly from one continent to another had suddenly become a catastrophe.
Living in the 21st century has its advantages of course. We can build a house in a matter of days; we can fly across the globe in a matter of hours; we can research something online and get all the information we need in a matter of minutes without even leaving the confines of our home. Because of all these possibilities, we live our lives as if all the power is in our hands, as if we are in total control of the situation.
Most people I know plan their lives ahead for the upcoming months, if not years. They know what their schedules are, where their children will be going to camp and where they are going for their next vacation well ahead of time. If you ask them to picture their lives in a year from now, most of them will answer swiftly and to the point. They have it all figured it out. Or at the very least, if they don’t already, they are trying to, thinking they can.
I find myself asking whether this is a sign of lack of faith. Does all this planning and preparing mean we think we are in control of everything in our routines down to the minute detail? We expect everything will go according to our plan, the way we want it to.
What if this volcano (and other natural occurrences) was a message from GD? To remind us that we are not the all-controlling, that there is a higher power? A reminder that He is in control and we are not? I think it was.
It is easy to get lost in our daily lives and to forget just how lucky we are with our mundane routines. GD can change all of that in the blink of an eye. We need to appreciate what we have on a daily basis, and remember that everything we have comes from The Almighty above.
I have no doubt that the volcanic ash has dozens of messages, a different one for each of us. But for me, one of the major ones is this: In all our planning, we must always remember that there is a GD and including Him in our plans should be a given.
– by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht
Op Ed: Anti-Semitism in 2010
Last week I was walking in Manhattan getting from one meeting to the next, when I hear a voice slanting the words “dirty Jew” at me. As I turn around to see who had said them, I was slightly surprised to see a young boy, Caucasian of about 11 or 12 years of age. What’s even more astonishing is that his mother was standing right behind him, apparently not caring about what her son was saying, nor rebuking him in any way or even apologizing to me on his behalf.
Living in the 21st century, where it is all about equality and tolerance, about acceptance and love for a fellow human being, no matter what their age, race, religion, background or anything else that might make them different from you, has me mistakenly thinking that the world is improving.
The fact that this mother let her son say what he said, and did not reprimand him, makes me wonder what this new generation is being taught. When an 11-year old boy has no clue about tolerance and respect for one another, and thinks that calling someone “dirty Jew” is acceptable or even cool, then I think it is safe to say that we are in big trouble.
Anti-Semitism alone isn’t the only problem, albeit being quite a significant one. In truth, and simply put, it is the lack of acceptance of another human being for whatever reason. These reasons are unjustified and irrelevant. No matter what our differences may or may not be, and at the risk of sounding too idealistic, we can and must overlook them for the sake of living in peace.
Being a sixth-generation American, my family has had the pleasure and honor of living in this blessed country for the past 130 years. I sincerely look forward to continue to reside in this great nation, happily and peacefully.
Therefore it is the job of parents everywhere to educate their children to become accepting and respecting individuals. We must teach our youth how to love and care for a fellow human being, for the country they live in and the planet they live on. We must instruct our future leaders and world inhabitants how to live in harmony among themselves. It is the only way to survive.
– by Rabbi Hanoch Hecht