There is this wonderful chassidic tale about a rabbi and a soap-maker who were discussing the value of religion. It goes:
A rabbi and a soap-maker once went for a walk together. The soap-maker said to the rabbi: “What good is Judaism? After thousands of years of teaching about goodness, truth, justice, and peace, after all the study of Torah, and all the fine ideals of the Prophets, look at all the trouble and misery in the world! If Judaism is so wonderful and true, why should all this be so?”
The rabbi said nothing. They continued walking, in silence, until he noticed a child playing in the gutter. The child was filthy with soot and grime. “Look at that child,” said the rabbi. “You say that soap makes people clean, but see the dirt on that youngster. What good is soap? With all the soap in the world, that child is still filthy. I wonder if soap is of any use at all.”
The soap-maker protested and said, “But, Rabbi, soap can’t do any good unless it is used!”
“Exactly!” cried the rabbi. “So it is with Judaism. It isn’t effective unless it is applied in daily life and used!”
This summer, as you all head off in your own directions, remember that the world can be a dirty place – both literally and metaphorically. While we know that soap, when used, can keep us physically clean we shouldn’t forget that Judaism can keep us clean as well. Furthermore, if Judaism is spread liberally, it can even clean the world.
May this be God’s will.
Have a great summer.