Be careful not to promise people you will do something, if you will not be able to do it right away.
While we have an obligation to do kindness for others, learn to say "no" to requests you do not really intend to carry out. While you might save yourself a small amount of uneasiness by not refusing right away, it is unfair both to the other person and eventually to yourself to mislead someone.
NAGOYA, Japan — "Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that flies to him for refuge." This Samurai maxim inspired one gifted and courageous man to save thousands of people in defiance of his government and at the cost of his career. On Friday I came to Nagoya at the invitation of the Japanese government to speak in honor of his memory.
The astonishing Chiune Sugihara raises again the questions: What shapes a moral hero? And how does someone choose to save people that others turn away?
Research on those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust shows that many exhibited a streak of independence from an early age. Sugihara was unconventional in a society known for prizing conformity. His father insisted that his son, a top student, become a doctor. But Sugihara wanted to study languages and travel and immerse himself in literature. Forced to sit for the medical exam, he left the entire answer sheet blank. The same willfulness was on display when he entered the diplomatic corps and, as vice minister of the Foreign Affairs Department for Japan in Manchuria in 1934, resigned in protest of the Japanese treatment of the Chinese.
A second characteristic of such heroes and heroines, as the psychologist Philip Zimbardo writes, is "that the very same situations that inflame the hostile imagination in some people, making them villains, can also instill the heroic imagination in other people, prompting them to perform heroic deeds." While the world around him disregarded the plight of the Jews, Sugihara was unable to ignore their desperation.
In 1939 Sugihara was sent to Lithuania, where he ran the consulate. There he was soon confronted with Jews fleeing from German-occupied Poland.
Three times Sugihara cabled his embassy asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees. The cable from K. Tanaka at the foreign ministry read: "Concerning transit visas requested previously stop advise absolutely not to be issued any traveler not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex japan stop no exceptions stop no further inquiries expected stop."
Sugihara talked about the refusal with his wife, Yukiko, and his children and decided that despite the inevitable damage to his career, he would defy his government.
Mr. Zimbardo calls the capacity to act differently the "heroic imagination," a focus on one's duty to help and protect others. This ability is exceptional, but the people who have it are often understated. Years after the war, Sugihara spoke about his actions as natural: "We had thousands of people hanging around the windows of our residence," he said in a 1977 interview. "There was no other way."
Japan at a tree planted in memory of Chiune Sugihara in the garden of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. On Friday I spoke at Sugihara's old high school in Nagoya, during a ceremony unveiling a bronze statue of him handing visas to a refugee family. After the ceremony, in front of some 1,200 students, I spoke with his one remaining child, his son Nobuki, who arrived from Belgium to honor his father's memory. He told me his father was "a very simple man. He was kind, loved reading, gardening and most of all children. He never thought what he did was notable or unusual."
Most of the world saw throngs of desperate foreigners. Sugihara saw human beings and he knew he could save them through prosaic but essential action: "A lot of it was handwriting work," he said.
Day and night he wrote visas. He issued as many visas in a day as would normally be issued in a month. His wife, Yukiko, massaged his hands at night, aching from the constant effort. When Japan finally closed down the embassy in September 1940, he took the stationery with him and continued to write visas that had no legal standing but worked because of the seal of the government and his name. At least 6,000 visas were issued for people to travel through Japan to other destinations, and in many cases entire families traveled on a single visa. It has been estimated that over 40,000 people are alive today because of this one man.
With the consulate closed, Sugihara had to leave. He gave the consulate stamp to a refugee to forge more visas, and he literally threw visas out of the train window to refugees on the platform.
After the war, Sugihara was dismissed from the foreign office. He and his wife lost a 7-year-old child and he worked at menial jobs. It was not until 1968 when a survivor, Yehoshua Nishri, found him that his contribution was recognized. Nishri had been a teenager in Poland saved by a Sugihara visa and was now at the Israeli embassy in Tokyo.
In the intervening years Sugihara never spoke about his wartime activities. Even many close to him had no idea that he was a hero.
Sugihara died in 1986. Nine years earlier he gave an interview and was asked why he did it: "I told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was a matter of humanity. I did not care if I lost my job. Anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in my place."
Of course many were in his place — and very few acted like Sugihara. Moral courage is rare and moral greatness even rarer. It requires a mysterious and potent combination of empathy, will and deep conviction that social norms cannot shake.
How would Sugihara have responded to the refugee crisis we face today, and the response of so many leaders to bolt the gates of entry? There is no simple response adequate to the enormity of the situation. But we have to keep before us the image of a single man, overtaxed, isolated and inundated, who refused to close his eyes to the chaos outside his window. He understood the obligations common to us all and heard in the pleadings of an alien tongue the universal message of pain.
On Friday, I told the students that one day in each of their lives there would be a moment when they would have to decide whether to close the door or open their hearts. When that moment arrives, I implored them, remember that they came from the same school as a great man who when the birds flew to him for refuge, did not turn them away.
David Wolpe ( @RabbiWolpe) is the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and the author of "David: The Divided Heart."
This fascinting and dramatic documentary played at the OU in Jerusalem on 10/21/18
PREMIERE OF NEW DOCUMENTARY - HIDDEN
The gripping saga of Jewish children concealed during the Holocaust.
This film takes the audience on a fascinating, harrowing, and emotional journey through the fateful years of the war when tens of thousands of children took on new, unfamiliar identities in hope of surviving the German onslaught. It brings survivors back to their childhood homes in Poland for first-hand interviews and dramatic reunions with their "adopted" families. This a must-see for anyone who cares about our rich heritage.
More Than Half the Forests Burned Down in Western Negev by Terror Balloons I have written about this catastrophein various articles. That the Israeli government even allowed this crime against nature within the Jewish state to continue for even one day, let alone months and months of Arab despoliation of forests, grasslands, nature reserves and farmland, is unacceptable and a monumental disgrace.
Both the Defense Minister and Prime Minister failed miserably in not immediately stamping out this calculated Palestinian Arab campaign to destroy all that Jewish pioneers labored mightily for decades to return the desert into a green and pleasant land. To allow 1,100 fires to erupt in KKL-JNF forests alone without eliminating the kite terrorists has been a shameful betrayal of their office.
Notice, too, the deafening silence by most of the world's greenies and environmental organizations towards the Arab campaign of deliberate destruction of wildlife, forests and agricultural land in the embattled Jewish state.
Now the fraudulent Arabs who call themselves Palestinians are eager to ravage and burn down the rest of Israel's green and pleasant land. Their Muslim Arab hate knows no bounds and Aryeh King is right to urge the government to " wake up before it is too late."
Please join in protesting against the government's impotence in dealing with this calamity.
More than half of the forests in the western Negev are now gone, burned down over the past six months by the Hamas terrorist organization in its arson terror campaign, according to a report prepared by the Jewish National Fund.
The report summarizes the impact of the past six months of terror by the Arabs of Gaza. According to KKL-JNF (Keren Kayemet Le'Israel-Jewish National Fund), since the beginning of the kite and balloon terror campaign (25 Nissan), more than 1,100 fires were recorded in KKL-JNF forests alone. The affected forests contained approximately 12,000 dunams of natural woodlands and planted forests.
The total area of KKL-JNF forests in the Gaza Belt region, according to the report, is 21,000 dunams – which means that up to the point at which the report figures were calculated, more than half of the forests were already burned down.
As incendiary balloons began to land in and around the capital, Jerusalem city council member Arieh King was quoted by the HaKol HaYehudi website as saying " The solution to balloon terrorism in Jerusalem will only come if the state treats it as any other form of terror.
"We are fighting a war of attrition that has been copied from the Gaza Strip to the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and we must fight the terrorism of the balloons as the State of Israel fights any other kind of terrorism," he said.
" I call on the government of Israel and in particular the police of Jerusalem to wake up before it's too late."
Headlines- Israeli Inventions that Have Changed the World
These 25 technologies have all changed the way we live, yet most people don't know that they were all invented and developed in Israel! Browse through them to learn, so next time you're in a conversation about Israel, you have plenty of examples. Oh, and share on, so the World will learn to appreciate Israel. […]