How should we react to events at the US Capitol?
Watching violent mobs attack the U.S. Capitol Building in attempt to tear away at the fabric of our democracy is not something we should have to experience ever again, and yesterday’s events in our nation’s capital should have caused any sane person to shudder in horror. Whatever your personal politics, there is simply no way to justify this incursion; and indeed elected officials across party lines swiftly and unequivocally condemned it, rightfully distancing themselves from even the slightest form of association with the unhinged.
With things calm and somewhat back to normal in Washington today, finger pointing is now inevitable. So is the temptation to “whattabout” these events, comparing and contrasting yesterday’s violence with other similar recent events. Blaming someone else is always the easy way out, especially following such a horrendous expression of human frailty. But is that the solution? Will singling out a certain individual or group or political party really fix things?
Of course, short term remedies are necessary, including for those in positions of influence to condemn the evil and law enforcement’s obligation to hold the perpetrators to account. But for you and me at home, what do angry posts on social media accomplish other than exacerbate an already tense situation, not to mention harming your own health and well-being? At the same time, just sitting back and ignoring current events, pretending everything is just fine, is also not an acceptable option.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe always encouraged us to look to Torah for solutions to any problem that may arise in our lives. Be it personal or communal, local or even international, Torah contains the answers to everything, and it is up to us to uncover and promote the remedies hidden in the words of Torah.
In this week’s Torah portion we read about the rise of Moses, the first leader of the Jewish people. He was a reluctant leader, preferring that G-d send someone else to lead the Jews out of their Egyptian exile. But G-d insisted that Moses be the one. Moses was humble, in fact the Torah refers to him as the most humble human being ever to live.
Humility does not mean allowing yourself to be trampled and stepped on; humility does not mean ignoring your capabilities and pretending you don’t have them; and humility is certainly not an excuse to escape responsibility.
In fact, genuine humility is the exact opposite of all that. A humble person must be firm in his or her convictions, and promote them in the most sensitive manner possible. Humble people recognize their G-d given capabilities and employ them to benefit others, sharing and teaching everything they possess with the world around them. The most effective leaders are by far always the most humble. They are not in it for themselves but for the greater good.
Being humble necessitates a balance, the ability to rise above while simultaneously not letting your position get to your head. Yes, you are great and yes, you have the right ideas; but it cannot be about you. Our focus should always be on the goal—making the world a better place. That is achieved not by anger and malice, but by humility. We can be angry and at the same time be able to set our feelings aside to accomplish great things.
Moses did not want to be the leader but in the end he accepted the position. And that’s why he was successful as a leader where an arrogant person would have failed. He knew that it was not about him but about the mission. As G-d’s emissary to lead the Jews out of Egypt, he stopped at nothing—not even his own feelings of inadequacy—to fulfill that objective.
We too can and must be like Moses. We might not be as wise or as holy as he was, but we all have a spark of Moses within us. This spark enables to live with this balance on a regular basis just like Moses. We can be humble and great, we can be sensitive and caring and also firm.
This week’s events can elicit conflicting reactions within ourselves, and that’s fine. But like Moses, we must recognize that everything we have in life—for better or for worse—is G-d given. The challenges we face are from G-d, as are the solutions we come up with to overcome them. We aren’t going to change the world with our being angry, but we will by being kind, complimentary, and going out of our way to help someone we don’t know or even don’t always see eye to eye with.
Be like Moses and recognize that the world is G-d’s beautiful tapestry, waiting for us to play our part in revealing its beauty and share it with the world. Do a mitzvah, smile, and believe in yourself and also the world around you.
That is how we will make a real difference even in the darkest times—may they become bright and shine once again with the coming of Moshiach!
This column also appeared in The Times of Israel