Binary Jew

Sunday, 20 April, 2014 - 3:22 pm

Are you a '1' or a '0'?

In 9th Grade, Rabbi Dovid Yerushalmi, a substitute, delivered a powerful lesson. He put me in my place -- with a challenge and some humble pie. He had been telling about the early history of Chabad in the US, a significant portion of which was impacted by my namesake and Great-Grandfather, Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson z"l.

Quite proud of my 'Yichus', I proudly raised my hand and announced, "Rabbi Jacobson was my Great-Grandfather!". 

Rabbi Yerushalmi's response?

"Yichus (Jewish Pedigree) is like a row of zero's -- the greater the Yichus, the more zeros. Put a '1' in front of it and now you've got something. Otherwise, you remain a ... string of zeros."

I was sure that the entire class heard my audible gulp.

This Tuesday, Jews the world over will recite Yizkor, the Memorial Prayer. We will remember generations past -- whose self-sacrifice and perseverance have created the deep sense of Jewish identity and belonging within us. They are the "Zeros" -- the deep innate love of Judaism that we each have welling up within us. They are the "religious grandparents" whose picture rests atop the fireplace mantle, they are Bubbies and Zaidies whose memory we will recall.

But in addition to the charity that we will commit to give in their honor at the Yizkor Service -- let us honor them by committing to become a "1". Our parents and grandparent will certainly back us up with their beautiful legacy of love, warmth, and Jewish Identity and Practice; an endless string of 'Zeros'. 

Let us Zero in on what truly matters. At this auspicious time,  let us be #1.  

Chag Sameach! 

Rabbi Yisroel Hecht
Chabad of Sunnyvale

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