Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Double Standard or Higher Standard?

There has been a lot of fanfare over the recent acquisition by the New York Jets football team of former Denver Bronco Quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tim Tebow one might remember has become famous more for his religious fervor than he has for his athletic abilities on the field, which are considerable. So famous in fact that his behavior on the field has become the butt of many jokes and the subject of criticism by many pundits, including yours truly.

He seemed to overdo it a bit in that department by getting down on one knee in that now famous pose and praying after just about every single successful play. I and many others thought it was to excess. Indeed, I still think he over did it, if for no other reason than he was being ridiculed for it. It does one’s religion no favors when one’s unnecessary but eccentric religious behavior becomes the source of caricature and ridicule. Because it then ends up reflecting poorly on the religion itself – even if undeservedly so.

That said, it is nonetheless refreshing to see someone as true to his beliefs as Tim Tebow is. As an article in the New York Times points out, Tim Tebow is the real thing. He is not a phony who genuflects one moment and then misbehaves after he thinks the cameras are turned off. He does not preach morality one moment and cheat on his wife the next. From that article:

Why is Tim Tebow such a fascinating and polarizing figure? Not just because he claims to be religious; that claim is commonplace among football stars and ordinary Americans alike. Rather, it’s because his conduct — kind, charitable, chaste, guileless — seems to actually vindicate his claim to be in possession of a life-altering truth.

In other words, with Tebow (to quote Flip Wilson - a famous comedian of the seventies) what you see is what you get!

There is a lesson to be learned here. How we behave in public is an integral part of Judaism. How people view us reflects on our status as Jews. We have an obligation to live up to the high standards God demands of us. We are an Am HaNivchar; a Mamleches Kohanim V’Goy Kadosh; and an Or LaGoyim - A chosen people; a kingdom of priests and a holy people; And we have a mandate to be a light unto the nations.

This is why I have so much trouble with those who constantly cry that the world judges us by a double standard. Whenever there is a perception that Israel is judged harshly for its actions with respect to Palestinians while there are far greater atrocities by orders of magnitude going on in Syria, I have to ask, shouldn’t we be judged more harshly? Shouldn’t a people that is a light unto the nations act in accordance with the higher standard of our religious mandate?

This is not so say that the critics of Israel are right. That is not my point. My point is that when people demand more of us we ought to see that as recognition by the world as having that higher standard and being judged accordingly. Syrians are not God’s Chosen people. We are. And we ought to wear that as a badge of honor.

The same is true for those who criticize the government for being harsher on Jewish criminals than they are on non Jewish criminals. The truth is that in the vast majority of cases, that isn’t true. But even if it were – it too is beside the point. We should be held to a higher standard, and not play the ‘anti Semite’ card every time an Orthodox Jew who violated the law gets “the book” thrown at him.

I would much rather see Jews acting like Tim Tebow than acting like some of our more famous (or should I say infamous) Orthodox Jewish criminals who have served or are still serving time in prison.

I would much rather see a Jew walking down the street proudly wearing a Kipa than see him cheat on his taxes. I would much rather see people taking pride in a high school basketball team standing up for Shabbos than I would seeing people complain about the double standard the government has for Jews and non Jews. A standard that in most cases exists mostly in the minds of those who see America as the latest in a long line of anti Semitic countries over Jewish history.

Rather than complain about the double standard, isn’t it time to accept it as a badge of honor? A badge which says that we do indeed have a higher standard and ought to be judged that way? A badge that proudly proclaims that we are an Am HaNivchar; a Mamleches Kohanim V’Goy Kadosh; and an Or LaGoyim? A badge that should make us all act in ways that are a Kiddush HaShem?

Hat tip: Baruch Gitlin