Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Our Person Of The Year

THE PROTESTER? Yes, in case you have not heard, Time Magazine, one of the oldest, most prestigious news magazines in the world, has announced the winner of its coveted “Person of the Year” Award for 2011. The winner is “The Protester.” I have a sneaking suspicion that, in this case, the award is being given for what the magazine deems to be a positive contribution, not a negative one. It hails the Occupy Wall Street protesters for what they have done, although, as far as this writer is concerned, they have done nothing positive and much that is negative in their quest to bring anarchy to this country. Time delineates the important role that protesters in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen have played in changing the dynamics in their countries. Again, it seems that all that those protesters have accomplished is to bring to positions of leadership and influence Islamist governments that threaten the United States and the entire world in a way that is frankly very, very, scary.

Don’t mind Time Magazine. This is not the first time that it seems to have an amazing capacity to feel a sense of affinity for and to be dan lekaf zechus those seeking to bring down the United States.


That being said, Time’s interesting choice got me thinking. Who should we, frum Jews, choose as “Person of the Year”? Who is the ideal person of the year in our book? Whose conduct changes the world for the good, day in and day out? Who has really made a difference this year?




The answer is the unsung heroes of Klal Yisroel. The unsung heroes who live in today’s world, which is full of nisyonos.


A world that, in one day, presents as many difficult nisyonos as our forefathers faced in a lifetime. Nisyonos that threaten to destroy the Jewish nation. Still, despite all of this, these unsung heroes are striving and fighting to do the right thing, day in and day out.


Who are these unsung heroes? They are you, and you, and you, who are reading this.


The unsung heroes, the real “People of the Year,” are those who dig deep into their pockets and give tzedakah from the money that they need for themselves to those who have even less than they. The people who support yeshivos, valiantly biting into necessities, not luxuries, because Hashem, His needs and the needs of His needy nation are higher on their priority list than their own needs.


The Person of the Year is the kollel yungerman who runs to seder with a sense of urgency, not even wanting to be one minute late. It is the kollel yungerman who will never make an appointment during seder and the kollel yungerman who tells the doctor’s office, “I have a very demanding job and the only time I have available is bein hasedorim or at night!”


The Person of the Year is the amazing baal habayis who wakes up in the pre-dawn hours of the morning to start his day with a learning seder before heading off to work. It is the Yid who learns on the bus on the way to the city, swaying along with the bumps with a furrowed brow, trying to concentrate on a blatt Gemara. It is the Yid who is nosei venosein be’emunah, conducting business faithfully and making a kiddush Hashem through his exemplary, ethical conduct in the workplace. It is the Yid who comes home after a grueling day and a difficult commute, greets his wife, does some homework with his children, and then runs to catch a learning seder with his chavrusah. We sometimes see these valiant heroes in shul after 11 p.m., with eyes red and bloodshot from fatigue, as they learn one more Rashi and one more Tosafos.


The Person of the Year is the Jewish mother, the remarkable Yiddishe mammas who manage to juggle their myriad roles, raising and lovingly nurturing a large family while simultaneously juggling countless other duties, whether it is helping to earn parnassah, sometimes solely earning parnassah, doing homework with multiple children, being involved in life-altering chessed projects…and the list goes on.


The real hero is the Jewish mother who rises in the morning frost and overcomes exhaustion because she needs to bring her son to yeshiva – not just because she needs to, but because she deeply wants to. She deeply wants that mitzvah, that merit, earned by women when they bring their sons to the bais medrash to learn.


The People of the Year are the rabbeim and teachers of our children who transmit Torah and Yiddishkeit to our children with such enthusiasm, such love and such devotion. The mechanchim who live on shoestring budgets and often do multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Yes, there are thousands of rabbeim and teachers out there, and each one is our Person of the Year.


What about the wives of the kollel yungeleit, who willingly undertake the kloloh of bezeiyas apecha tochal lechem, in the most altruistic way, so that their husbands can totally immerse themselves in Hashem’s holy Torah? Are these amazing women not heroes as they willingly, for Hashem’s sake, undertake two klolos, not one?


What about the wives of the exemplary baalei batim, true bnei Torah who so selflessly bring parnassah to their families? They sacrifice so much. Their husbands are up very early, encouraged by their wives to go out and learn before work as they undertake the difficult morning rush, getting the kids off to school. The husbands are away all day, and when they return from a long day at work exhausted, their wives forgo precious time together because, before long, the husband is running out to learn, to Minchah, or to Maariv.


Are these valiant housewives, who, day in and day out, put matters of spirit before matters of comfort, not the People of the Year?


What about the rosh yeshiva, the menahel or the school owner who is being badgered and pestered from all sides to take in students and he accepts a student leSheim Shomayim, even though he doesn’t have to and he will have no kovod from it? He overcomes the instinct to say no, as many of his colleagues have done, because he remembers that he is dealing with neshomos, not numbers, and he accepts the boy or the girl even though he can justifiably say no. Is he not the Person of the Year?


Are these truly not the People of the Year?




One doesn’t have to search with a microscope to find our amazing People of the Year. All one has to do is walk through one of our communities and open one’s eyes. The sight is simply amazing.


The reason that we are not absolutely floored and bowled over is because we have come to take these scenes for granted.


Chazal say that without Torah learning, the world would cease to exist: “Im lo brisi yomam volaylah, chukas hashomayim lo samti – If not for the Covenant [learning Torah] day and night, the heavens and earth would not exist.” Similarly, Chazal teach us that the world is built through chessed – “Olam chessed yibaneh.”


Just open your eyes and look around. There is so much Torah being learned, even when it is tough to learn. Look at the dikduk and the care taken in the performance of mitzvos. Look at the chessed being performed. Look at the scope of the chessed in which Am Yisroel is engaged daily. Look at how we, the children of Hashem, help each other, our brothers and sisters.


Do not all of our community’s individuals qualify as the true People of the Year? We are building worlds and preserving worlds, while, lehavdil, the protesters and their enablers just destroy.


Yes, there is much room for improvement. Not everything is rosy in our world, but when we look at the klal rather than the prat, what do we see? The klal – the general community, the regular men and women, the yeshiva bochurim and the Bais Yaakov girls – is amazing.


In a world that has become the embodiment of the tumah of Yavan, our unsung heroes have shown themselves to be true Maccabim. They stand against temptation and do the right thing, day in and day out. They build worlds.


Yes, you are the present-day Maccabim, the true People of the Year.


A lichtigen Chanukah.



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