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What Coca-Cola taught me about Judaism

Thursday, 19 December, 2013 - 12:01 pm

Last night Malkie and I went with a group of young Jewish professionals on a tour of the New Orleans Regional Coca Cola Bottling Company. The tour was one of the prizes raffled off at the Celebrity Chef Latke Cookoff. During the tour our guides Sherrie and Kathleen talked with much pride about the Coca Cola Company and its products. They mentioned how no self-respecting Coke employee would ever consider consuming the products of a competing company. They were effusive in their praise for the work environment, which obviously generates employee loyalty.

In the spirit of the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching, that we must derive a lesson in our service of Hashem from every encounter in life, I reflected on how this can teach us something about the value of Jewish pride. Jewish pride means that I am never ashamed of my Jewishness or my association with Judaism, but rather I am proud of who I am and what that represents. Jewish pride enables me to stand up for Jewish values wherever they are being challenged. It does not mean that I view others as inferior but rather that I never view myself as inferior for being Jewish. Jewish pride encourages me to be visible about my Jewishness.

This lesson ties in well with a teaching on this week’s Torah portion. The Torah opens the book of Exodus by relating, “These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt… Reuven, Shimon etc.” The Midrash comments, “It was Reuven and Shimon who came to Egypt and it was Reuven and Shimon who left Egypt.” Now we know that over 200 years passed between the arrival and the departure, so certainly it was not the same people. The Midrash is teaching us that the Jews retained their Jewish names throughout their sojourn in Egypt as a way of maintaining pride in their heritage. The Midrash adds that they kept their language and manner of dress as well.

The Rebbe once cited Jewish pride as one of the issues about which he is particularly passionate. Why is Jewish pride so important? Because with it, Judaism is kept at the forefront of a person’s reality. It becomes a defining element of a person’s life. Without it, a person’s commitment to Judaism can quickly disappear as it does not occupy an important place in life.

A young college graduate from a traditional home applied to Hofstra Law School. As first impressions are so important, he was very torn about wearing his kippa to the interview. On the train to the interview the debate raged in his mind. Finally he decided to be cautious and he pulled his kippa off of his head and put it into his pocket. When he entered the room for the interview, he was shocked by the sight of the then dean of Hofstra Law School, Professor Aaron Twerski, sitting in full Chassidic regalia. He awkwardly pulled the kippa out of his pocket and placed it on his head, where it would remain as a permanent fixture.

This coming Tuesday night, December 24 at 7:30 PM, we will be showing the recently released film, A Glimpse Through The Veil II, at Chabad House-Uptown. Light refreshments will be served. All are invited.

Mazel Tov to Keren Gesund and Alan Newman upon their upcoming marriage. We look forward to celebrating with you.

Mazel Tov to Rabbi Shaya and Shayna Gopin upon the birth of their daughter. Mazel Tov to the grandparents, Rabbi Zelig and Bluma Rivkin.

Have a good Shabbos
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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