Continued as overheard in the Shabbos Shuva Drasha:
I received a kunteres in the mail recently about Rav Kanarek z"l the Rosh Yeshiva of Peakskill Yeshiva. He was a Kaminetzer talmid and the kunteres relates many amazing anecdotes about Rav Boruch Ber Lebowitz. Each one is interesting in it's own right but they are even more fascinating and enlightening when considered together because they illustrate how acute Rav Boruch Ber's sense of אתה בחרתנו מכל העמים was.
Story #1: As is the case in many communities Kaminetz had it's share of mentally unstable Jews who roamed the streets and were not institutionalized. One such Jew, the type who never has a problem finding a seat in a crowded Shul because, owing to his infrequent bathing, people always give him a very wide berth, lived in Kaminetz. Besides being malodorous he was repulsively unkempt and invariably dressed in filthy off-putting rags. Still, whenever this Jew would come to Bais Medrash, Rav Boruch Ber made a bee-line over to him, put his arm around him, conversed with him and led him to a comfortable spot near the wood burning oven that was the sole source of heat.
Story#2. Rav Kanarek was privileged to be among the 2 bokhurim who would escort Rav Boruch Ber from his home to his Yeshiva daily. They would loop their arms into his and lead him through the streets of Kaminetz. Not because he was too old and infirm to get there under his own power but because he kept his eyes tightly shut whenever out on the street lest he behold a non-Jew. He said that seeing a non-Jew affected his Qedusha in a way that made Torah study difficult for him the entire balance of the day. One day as he was leaving his home he was accosted by his new non-Jewish letter carrier who extended his hand in greeting to the Rosh Yeshiva. Nu, דרך ארץ trumps all so Rav Boruch Ber clasped his hand. But for the rest of that day Rav Boruch Ber interrupted his study every few minutes to go lave his hands.
Story #3: Rav Boruch Ber was not known for his worldliness and lived in the era when the great World War II leaders were coming into their own. In particular FDR enjoyed almost Messianic status among much of the US electorate. As American Jews of the time put it: " א איד לייבט אין דריי וועלטען: דער וועלט, יענע ועלט און
רוזע-וועלט "= A Jew must live in three worlds, this world, the world -to-come and Roose-VELT! Yet one November in twenties (thirties???) he asked some bokhurim "Who won the US election, Hoover or Roosevelt?" The bokhurim were perplexed as to why, all of a sudden, their Rebbe had taken so keen an interest in current events. He answered: "I make a brakha every morning thanking HaShem שלא עשני גוי = 'for not having created me a gentile'. Do you think that when I pronounce that brakha I'm thinking about a drunken Ivan wallowing in the gutter? No! I want to have a mental picture of the most esteemed non-Jew in the world. The supreme powerful leader of the Western world...the president of the USA! And about HIM I want to thank the Aibershter שלא עשני גוי !"
The same hand that was not repulsed by the most repulsive Jew was "shaken" for having shaken the hand of a benign non-Jew. The same heart that somehow saw through the schizophrenia and grime of the local Meshugerner to be smitten by the Jewishness lurking beneath was not beguiled by the wealth , popularity and power of the Roose-VELT!
Our sense of Qedusha-Havdala ought not to lead us to revile non-Jews. We must first learn to appreciate humanity in all its beauty, pathos and genius and only then take the quantum leap of appreciating the ineffable greatness of the ben u'bas yisrael. as Rebee Aqiva put it:
חביב אדם שנברא בצלם; חיבה יתרה נודעת לו שנברא בצלם, שנאמר "כי בצלם אלוהים, עשה את האדם" (בראשית ט,ו). חביבין ישראל שנקראו בנים למקום; חיבה יתרה נודעת להם שנקראו בנים למקום, שנאמר "בנים אתם, לה' אלוהיכם" (דברים יד,א). חביבין ישראל, שניתן להם כלי שבו נברא העולם; חיבה יתרה נודעת להם שניתן להם כדי שבו נברא העולם, שנאמר "כי לקח טוב, נתתי לכם; תורתי, אל תעזובו" (משלי ד,ב).
After the drasha, while klopping ahl khets on Yom haQodosh something occurred to me. Maybe this corruption of Havdala consciousness is yet another iteration of the serious sin of Khlul haShem. After all, the passage of our liturgy that begins with אתה בחרתנו מכל העמים culminates with ושמך הגדול והקדוש עלינו קראת in other words identifying HaShem's Name with Bnei Yisrael is the logical conclusion of Jewish chosenness and uniqueness. All who would void Jews of any innate difference or holiness vis a vis the nations of the earth altogether or even partially void them of same by underestimating the great and exalted worth of the balance of humanity has, in essence, not just failed a Havdala Concsiousness litmus test but has desecrated THE Name.
Qedusha-Havdala have you recalibrated YOURS today...hmmm???