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The cop who pulled me over!

Friday, 2 September, 2022 - 8:42 am

Yesterday, I enjoyed lecturing at UM Western in Dillon for a class of future teachers, eager to get a crash course on Jews and Jewish life. As I headed up Highway 41 from Dillon to Twin Bridges, while on the phone with Chavie, I lost track of my speed and saw a Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Deputy put on his lights and make a U-turn. I knew it was me, so I immediately pulled over. He told me that I was doing 80 in a 70 zone; he knew the professor for whom I lecture, he loved the Vikings sticker on my car, and he was grateful for my “ministering”. He checked me out, let me off with a gracious warning, and I cruised on 70 all the way until I hit the I-90.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, we read about the laws of war. We are commanded that “When you approach a city to wage war against it, you shall make a peaceful proposal to it”. Reading this got me thinking about the message that Hashem is sending: Our initial response mustn’t be an attack. War can always be done later if needed, so why not start off on a good note, giving those we encounter the benefit of the doubt and not assume the worst in humanity. It’s so easy to judge people based on preconceptions or even based on something you’re seeing them do in the moment, like speeding, but without knowing the bigger picture. Yet, if we pause and say “is this really the whole story? Is there more? Is this a person who is doing good for society and is rushing to pick up his kids from school? Perhaps he doesn’t need a ticket in his life or points on his record right now?”.

People are genuinely good. It’s universal. Russians aren’t drunks, Frenches aren’t immodest, Jews aren’t cheap, Israelis aren’t rude, rural Americans aren’t ignorant, Muslims aren’t murderers, cops aren’t racists, and New Yorkers aren’t all loud. We need to stop labeling, we must stop seeing people as “guilty until proven innocent”, but rather we should see individuals for who they are, seeing the good in them, giving them the benefit of the doubt and always trying to resolve situations peacefully instead of forcefully. As someone wise once said “Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace”.

Cowards attack; people with strength seek peace!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Mashiach speedily. May G-d protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

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