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BACK TO THE BASICS

I learned a long time ago that life can seem overwhelming, confusing and downright scary.  It is precisely at such moments that we need to get back to basics.  Calmly ask yourself – is what I find overwhelming, confusing and scary really that important?  

Irwin Horowitz is a professor of strategic management at Texas A & M.  One day the professor had a moment of clarity.  After one particular class he reached what he referred to as his “breaking point.”  In a scathing email sent to his entire class, Horowitz called his students  “disgraceful,” citing the cold hard fact that they had no grasp on the basics.  He went on to cite that the semester had been filled with backstabbing, lying, cheating and disrespect.  “I was dealing with cheating and individuals swearing at me.  It got to a point that the school had to put security guards into the classroom.”  According to Horowitz his students lacked a grasp of the basics of maturity and competence.  As a result Horowitz failed the whole class.  He gave everyone an F.  By the way, the school has since announced that the whole class will not receive an F and that Horowitz will be replaced.  

It is a fascinating scenario.  Is it possible that every single student was out of control, disrespectful and incompetent?  Or was this an act of unjust collective punishment?  On the other hand when students verbally abuse and physically threaten their teacher, there is something terribly wrong.

As I write this I am watching Baltimore burn.  I am watching people burn down their own city.  When citizens verbally abuse and physically threaten their own police department, then there is something terribly wrong.  Of course the case can be made that many people do not trust the police.  Of course the case can be made that this teacher was not the teacher he should have been.

But in the end there is only one idea worth focusing upon.  If we want to live in a world worth passing on to our children, then looting and burning your own city is not acceptable.  Verbally abusing and physically threatening a teacher is not acceptable.   Once such occurrences become common enough, the world begins to fray at the edges. Perhaps it’s time to get back to basics.  

Leviticus Chapter 19 – “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God holy.”

If we are to be holy and live a life of excellence, then the Torah gives us the following examples of ways we can lead a life of holiness and excellence.

Revere your mother and father – learn respect.

Keep the Sabbath – learn to slow down and take a rest.

Stop worshiping the wrong things – learn how to prioritize.

Be generous to those who are in need.

Have compassion for those who are in pain.

Be just.

Do not hold grudges.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  

As I read about students who abuse their teachers and as I watch Baltimore burn I ask myself – is it not a time to get back to the basics?  

I can only conclude that these young people have never learned the basic rules of decency.  No society can survive very long when the next generation has little grasp of any code of ethics.  Want to know where to even start?  Leviticus Chapter 19 is as good a place as any. 

Shalom,

Rabbi Ira Rothstein