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ב"ה

It's OK to fake it!

Friday, 12 June, 2015 - 1:29 pm

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You may have seen this story today about a woman who heads the NAACP chapter in Spokane, WA and claims to be African American, while in truth she was born in Montana to Caucasian parents of German and Czech descent.

True or not, it’s a strange story but I think there’s an important lesson that can be learnt from it.

While it’s not a good idea to misrepresent yourself in areas like your lineage (or for that matter experience, training or education), sometimes it is good to act different than you feel: Smile and act happy (even when you don’t feel it); project confidence (even if you don’t feel as confident as you would like) and act kind to others (even when you don’t feel like it). An amazing thing will happen, you will suddenly realize that you are actually happier or more confident or more kind. Our behavior doesn’t only influence others, it influences us too.

This works the other way too - act unhappy, project unconfidence and be judgemental towards others and suddenly you will find yourself actually feeling unhappy or unconfident or judgemental.

This discussion is also reflected in this week’s Torah portion, the bulk of which discusses the layered and profound narrative of the spies that Moshe sent to report about the land of Israel and the subsequent rebellion of ten of them. One important detail is how the rebellious spies described the way they were viewed by the inhabitants of the land, as grasshoppers. They said, “We perceived ourselves as grasshoppers and so we appeared in their eyes”.

This is important - what caused them to appear as grasshoppers to the inhabitants of the land? Their perception of themselves as such. They felt self conscious and weak compared to the mighty nations they encountered, therefore they were viewed this way too.

Many people tell me that if they lived in LA or New York they would be so much more observant; they would keep kosher and Shabbat and celebrate the way Jews do all over the world. But here…? All my kids' friends have birthday parties on Shabbat; how will I meet business associates for lunch?

If we take pride and have confidence in our rich and illustrious heritage, those with whom we come in contact will respect our commitment. If we treat our Jewishness with disregard, how can we expect others (and for that matter our children) to treat it any better?

The fact is that we live in a blessed country that values personal commitments to faith and respects those who are committed to their heritage. Let’s commit to further strengthening our Jewish involvement with pride!

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