Greatness is not defined by what the eyes of strangers see. We see this
consistently in Biblical figures.
Miriam was great because she secretly watched her baby brother Moshe sail
down the Nile in a basket because she was concerned for his welfare. Aaron
was great because he ran into the desert with joy - not with jealousy - to
greet his younger brother Moshe, who was just assigned by G-d to lead the
Jewish people. Yosef was great because he ran away from the private seduction
attempt by his Egyptian employer's wife. Avraham and Yitzchok were great
because they went away alone into the wilderness, willing to perform the
sacrifice of Yitzchok, which G-d said He wanted (in order to test Avraham).
Daniel was great because he prayed to G-d three times a day for people in
need or trouble. Kalev was great because he prayed in a cave to be saved from
the sinful influence of the ten spies. David was great because he humbly and
unhesitatingly repented as soon as Noson the Prophet told him he erred - even
though David was king, was told in private and could have had Noson killed.
Esther was great because she fasted for three days and then went to King
Achashverosh (to plead for salvation from Haman's decree to annihilate the
Ruth was great for loyally and unselfishly joining her impoverished
elderly mother-in-law, when she could have selfishly lived a life of luxury
as a princess. Midrash Ruth Raba teaches us that the purpose for which the
book of Ruth was written was specifically to teach, "how great the reward is
for those who do acts of kindness." The entire Biblical book of "Ruth"
teaches us about kindness, which Ruth did in private.
Jewish greatness is commensurate with truth: G-d's approval, not
people's. Yehuda was great because he publicly admitted that Tamar, against
whom he was bringing charges for a capital offense, was right and he was
wrong. Yehuda was on the verge of having her killed. The death verdict had
been announced and she was about to be executed. He could have conveniently
eliminated her - and his mistake. When she brought last minute evidence that
would show the court that she was exonerated - if he alone would recognize
the evidence that proved that she were guiltless - Yehuda immediately
publicly admitted that she was right and that his case against her had been
misinformed. What the public would think of him meant nothing. G-d's truth
meant everything. Because he assumed responsibility for truth, G-d decreed
that the kings of Israel would come from the tribe of Yehuda, his
descendants, so that the kings could inherit and exercise his trait of
responsibility on behalf of the welfare of the Jewish people. In fact, the
very name "Jew" (which applies to all tribes) comes from "Yehuda (Judah)," in
the same merit.
In private, a person shows who he really IS. In front of people, one's
"act" shows what he really WANTS TO TAKE: money, honor, approval, fun, power,
gratification. Taking is smallness. Giving to those who depend upon you,
standing for principle with character and integrity - when there is no public
there to applaud you, or even when the public could disapprove of you - shows
that you are great, and shows who you truly are. [to be continued]