Madoff created at least a couple hundred thousand more anti-Semites. We, who are charged with beaming that light out of Zion — we, the so-called conscience of the world will bear the scar of this treacherous man for many years. The world has a great memory. I mean they still remember Pontious Pilot and Herod (who, by the way, was Idumenean, not Jewish) of two millennia ago.

And that name “Ma-doff” sounds so much like…made off.” I wish he’d changed it to “Smith.” But there’s nothing here to laugh at. The man robbed every Jew on the planet of his “good name.” And our mission is to morally light up the world.

The ugly episode reminds me of a simple tutorial proving our adherence to a higher standard I use with my bar/ bat mitzvah students. You gotta be — I tell the frisky colts — “a light unto the
nations.” We are special. We are bound by a covenant signed three millennia ago. A covenant literally sealed in blood by a wandering band of Israelites who had no clue — aimless in a brutal world. The yoke and blessings of Torah are ours. We are members of the Covenant Country Club, bound by all its bylaws, without application or interview. And the binoculars of the world constantly focus on us.

To make this point about exclusivity to a shocked 12 year old, I use a parable that springs from a periodic discussion between me and my intellectually sprightly wife.

It’s about Jewish ethics and responsibility. “Sweet wife,” I say, “may it never happen — G-d forbid — but what if our rabbi stole a watch from the local jeweler?” My wife gasps in disbelief.
“Now, equally incredible, pretend that I do the same. I continue, “who is guiltier?”

My side of the argument maintains that there’s an imbalance of guilt here. The rabbi has weightier responsibilities than me
(as Jews in this non Jewish world). When he stands at the pulpit — when he speaks publicly for the congregation, he waves our flag. He has not only betrayed his private covenant, but has weakened the faith of his followers and embarrassed Judaism because he’s a public figure. I, too, have disgraced my faith, but not as widely.
The wife disagrees. . “You’re both fallibly human,” she says.
This debate bubbles in my head as I try to explain this politically incorrect phrase, “Chosen People,” to my students. The point is our obligation to a higher ethical standard.

“Let’s pretend,” I say to the student, “that the rabbi bought a new shirt and the clerk at Wal-Mart (this always gets a laugh be-
cause our rabbi dresses like Elijah in his wilderness period) makes a mistake with the change. He gives him $10 too much. And our rabbi walks out of the store with an extra ten in his pocket.” The child, like my wife, is shocked. “Just pretend,” I say.

“Now, let’s assume your father does exactly the same thing.” Again, wide eyes in disbelief. “Just pretend, OK. Got it? Well, now you do the same thing. (Of course you wouldn’t shop at Wal-Mart, but just pretend once more.)” I pause and let the child’s mind linger awhile on the parallelism of the two criminal situations. “OK, are both equally guilty?” I ask.

Usually, the kid gets it

Excerpt from an article wiritten by Ted Roberts for the Jewish Journal – Dade County

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