“Our epidermis has become too sensitive. I wish that we Jews had a consciousness of our own value which would make us quiet and half-indifferent to the judgment of others rather than this unwavering, easily insulted, hypersensitive point d’honneur which is a product of assimilation.” – Joseph Breuer
“If I am I because you are you, then I am not I and you are not you. But if I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you.” – The Kotzker Rebbe
Many people get caught into a trap of looking over their shoulders, searching for approval from those around them. Butterfly clips came in, and you were out if you didn’t have one fluttering in your hair. Then came headbands, and poufs and beach waves. Baggy jeans were declared cool, and out were those who kept on their regular pants. Then came skinny jeans, cutoffs and khakis. It happens on a national level, of Jews trying to be as in with the non-Jews as possible. And it happens on a personal level, with each of us trying to fit into whatever trend is going on. Trying to fit in with everyone else is what ruins our chance of finding ourselves.
My mother laughs at the American problem, as she sees it. She says, “People wear skirts proclaiming Tommy Hilfiger. Another name, Gap, is spelled out across their shirts. Their bag has to have a metal plate signed Coach. They sleep in Ralph Lauren signature sheets. Then they ask, “Who am I? They’re nothing but a free billboard for a lot of different designers.”
Rav Amnon Yitzchok, Shlita says we have a choice, “Shcheina – our neighbor or Schina – G-d’s presence.” Is your neighbor or classmate really great enough to dictate how you live your life? Are you marching in life to someone else’s drumbeat?
Peer pressure is not always subtle. It’s not always you trying to fit in. It sometimes is behavior and dress codes being rammed down your throat by the “in”crowd through taunts and name calling. Or, even in some community, by violence and coercion.
If someone walks up to you and says, “I think the scar across your face is ugly” and you have no scar, you would think the person is crazy and you wouldn’t get insulted. Don’t allow people to convince you of any faults that are not there or to tell you are less than cool and hip for the choices you do or don’t make.
If you do change based on such comments, who’s in control– you? Or your friend’s opinions?
In Bava Metzia, the example of coins in a bottle is used to illustrate human nature. A lone coin in a bottle rattles. The bottle filled with coins, however, makes no sound. Usually those who taunt you and claim to be so great and in, are not filled with much inside of them. That is why they have to rattle and make such a big sound. Were they filled with depth and meaning inside, they would not have an overpowering urge to be noticed.
Rav Gedaliah Schorr, ZT”L urged his students to have the will, as stated in Shir HaShirim, like a brick wall. “Ani Choma” “You can’t budge me. I am a brick wall. Bash your wills against me, I don’t budge!” Don’t budge when you know you’re right.
Struggle against trends — it shows you’re alive. A lecturer once described the journey of fish upstream. You know a fish is dead when it flows along with every single current — when it no longer fights AGAINST the current. If you are bucking the in thing, you have a struggle on your hands. But you have to love your struggle, because it means your spirit is way alive!
Joseph Breuer was an Austrian physician whom Freud credited as being the “originator of psychoanalysis.”
For more information about the Kotzker Rebbe, you can read here: http://www.shalheveskodesh.org/KOTSKER%20Dvar%20Torah.htm
For more information about Rav Gedalya Schorr you can read this: http://www.tzemachdovid.org/gedolim/jo/tworld/rschorr.html
And, my friend, definitely check out this site http://www.shofar.net/site/index.asp and go to English videos to hear for youself Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak speaking.