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Are You an Influencer?

Friday, 8 November, 2019 - 6:07 am

Your best friend is about to commit to a terrible decision. You know it will be detrimental to her, but you are unsure what to do.

Should you scare her off from it by warning of the inevitable destructive outcome? Should you offer her better alternatives? Should you just be a good role model? Or should you just mind your own business?

Granted, there are situations when it’s not clear-cut. But, this one is black and white. You know what the outcome will be if she continues down this path. So, what do you do?

Each of us is entrusted with a divine mission to influence others. No human being is merely a recipient. So, how do I maximize my potential to inspire my family, friends and complete strangers?

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By virtually all accounts, the Lubavitcher Rebbe had the greatest influence on post-Holocaust Jewry. He wasn’t the only rabbi or activist determined to help The Jewish people. Yet, his impact is still felt today. What was the Rebbe’s secret to success?

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In last week’s parsha (Noach), G-d is disappointed with human behavior. Certainly, there is need for improvement. In fact, G-d warns that without change, the world will basically be destroyed.

So, Hashem sends Noach to the rescue. Noach is introduced as a great, holy man. He is known by all for his piety. The only problem is that Noach doesn’t actually rescue anyone besides himself and his family. The rest of the world dies in a dramatic flood.

Why didn’t Noach save anyone else from the devastation?

It wasn’t for lack of trying. Noach knew that ‘minding my own business’ was not an option. G-d clearly told him that people better shape up. He already knew that “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was the failed attitude of Cain. So, what did Noach do?

For 120 years Noach advertised the world’s longest warning. He let everyone know that he was building an ark because destruction was about to befall them. ‘If you don’t repent, you will perish,’ was Noach’s refrain.

For all his efforts, however, Noach was – in a sense – a colossal failure. Not one person made a U-turn. He had not a single follower. His influence was limited to the progeny of future generations.

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This week’s parsha, Lech Lecha, paints an entirely different picture. Avraham, a man persecuted for his beliefs, manages to create a huge following. He introduces the true belief in G-d, ethical values and an enduring spirit to a heretofore unwilling society.

In the words of Maimonides, “Ultimately, thousands and myriads gathered around him. These are the men of the house of Abraham.”

How did he do it?

As the Torah describes it, Avraham was the hallmark of hospitality and love. Avraham and Sarah invited people to their home and fed them. They created a beacon of warmth, kindness and inspiration.

Instead of dismissing people’s ways as wrong and deplorable, they celebrated the true way of Hashem by teaching – and living – lovingkindness. Instead of putting others down, they lifted them up. Rather than chastise, they proudly declared the beauty of Hashem. They really believed in every person.

Following the Holocaust, many great leaders stepped up to address the needs of the Jewish people. The Rebbe’s influence was so unique – and successful – because the Rebbe refused to focus on the negative. The Rebbe reached out with love to every person.

This, we learn, is the Torah way. It isn’t only the Chabad way. Since the times of Avraham and Sarah, it’s the Jewish way.

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The next time you are faced with the challenge of influencing someone else, remember there are two paths in front of you.

Will you choose to be a Noach or an Avraham?

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