Rabbi Elazar says in Pirkei Avot that a person must cling to a good heart. It’s terrifying what’s happening, but we need to cling to care and love for people, especially people who are in distress, powerless, and need help. It’s tempting to cling to other stuff — being an American or a Christian or a Jew, having an education, or being smart or being “nice”, or having a family — but Rabbi Elazar is right. None of that is worth anything if we don’t cling to a good heart. We can be smart, educated, and have a beautiful family but if we don’t have that we get swept away by the rising river of evil.
How? How does that happen? Let’s take a look.
I am a smart boy and my mother loves me and my father is proud of me for being smart. I go to school where I work hard to make my parents proud and I learn to argue very well. I get a job based upon my academic accomplishments and I have a beautiful family.
I read that the US government is taking babies and putting them in concentration camps and I think “all the people who say this is wrong and horrible — they are a bit self-righteous. They think it is easy, but actually they are taking the easy way out. I will use my intelligence to show that they’re wrong.”
And behind that thought is another thought — “If those children sobbing in the desert are really an emergency — as much of an emergency as if my children were sobbing in the desert — then there is a big problem. I’m not safe. My family is not safe. So that can’t be right.”
And I write an article and share it with my friends saying that it’s not such a big deal that kids are sobbing in the desert — these things happen. And after all, the parents broke the law — what do they expect? I make it clear that there is a difference between criminals who get their kids torn away from them to scream, and good people like myself and my family, who things like that don’t happen to.
But what have I done? I now have an education that I have used to justify state terror against crying children, I have parents who sacrificed so their child can use his intelligence to make light of the pain of others, and my children have a parent who in order to protect them, said that caring about the suffering of children is an intellectual error.
What have I done?
I let go of my good heart and lost it all — kids, education, parents. All gone and turned to shit because I didn’t cling to a good heart.