A Branded Seal

If you recognize the title of this column as the name of a certain alcoholic product, you might find it quite appropriate for Purim time. However, I feel this message should be enjoyed, and savored responsibly, all year round.

There is a brand of bourbon by this name, and one of its signature details is a red, wax seal dripped over the tops of its bottles. This seal gives it an old-world feel and evokes images of royalty and barons of industry who would seal important documents this way. Just by looking at this bottle, you can tell what it is, even without reading the label. Its telltale distinctiveness makes it instantly recognizable.

Other manufacturer’s do the same with their products. Logos and badges emblazoned on everything from soda bottles to cars, and more, assure consumers they’re getting the brand they know and the product they’ve come to expect. The consistency of the outcome is important, so that every taste or experience of the product is the same.

A Permanently Engraved Mark

I was inspired to write this piece when I took note of a shtender (lectern) which had a metal bracket supporting each side, with the name of the maker (presumably) noticeably punched in the steel. I have seen shtenders with the user’s name on them many times, and occasionally the manufacturer’s, but the way this was so prominently made, got me thinking about it.

Sometimes the manufacturer’s mark is something small and fragile like a paper label. Maybe it’s a bit stronger, like a tag sewn into a piece of clothing, or a metal tab affixed to the top of an item. What struck me about the engraved bracket was the permanence of the mark.

Cars come with badges denoting their brand, but you can take them off. I know someone who bought an expensive car and didn’t want people to talk about it. He had the badges taken off and replaced with those of a more inexpensive vehicle. The tag can be cut out of clothing, and nameplates removed. You could even peel all the wax of that bottle of Maker’s Mark (though it will likely leave some residue.)

But this shtender would forever be emblazoned with the name of its maker, at least so long as it was a shtender; still in one piece and functional. And that’s how we, as Jews, ought to be.

What Does Hashem’s Label Look Like?

Hashem (God)’s name is emblazoned upon us, because we are His chosen people. Not chosen for preferential treatment or “Jewish privilege,” but for responsibilities in this world, and the goal of getting to the next one. We represent a certain quality, a certain elevated stature, because when people look at us, they see Hashem’s name on us, even if sometimes we forget it.

The question, it seems to me, is what that label looks like. Is it flimsy and worn? Do people looking at us as Jews, see a jalopy of a person, with a namebadge half-dangling and about to fall off? Do they see a smudged and illegible logo, as if the person tried to remove the tag, regardless of penalty of law?

If that’s what people see, then we’re doing a disservice to our Maker. Imagine placing a Rolls Royce badge on a rusty old Chevy. Everyone who sees it should be able to realize there’s something illicit afoot, but there will undoubtedly be some who look at the car and begin to think negatively about Rolls Royce.

“I knew all those things they say about the quality of those handmade cars was an exaggeration,” they might say. “Clearly these cars are no better or reliable than any others.” But that’s not how we are supposed to live. We must be driven to excellence, and not only wear the name of our Manufacturer with pride, but be an example of His quality craftsmanship.

A Superlative Seal of Strength and Stability

The name of Hashem which is emblazoned upon us must be strong and unmistakable. Like that steel bracket holding up the top of the shtender, it should be readily apparent that the name isn’t just there for looks, but provides strength and stability.

Sadly, some Jews don’t realize that Hashem’s name is upon them. If they do, they don’t grasp the responsibilities and benefits that come with it. They downplay their Judaism and bring disdain not only to themselves, but sadly, to HaKadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed be He).

Don’t let that happen to you. Remember that Hashem’s name is written on our souls in big, bold letters. Think about the fact that we are created by Him to be superlative, extra-special, and not just as a marketing ploy. Indeed, just as the man who created the bourbon we’ve been speaking about, wanted to create something he would enjoy himself, and enjoy sharing with his friends, Hashem created us to be a nation He would enjoy, and to be people He would be happy to share with the world. I hope my words aren’t hard to swallow, but trust me, it’s so important to make sure that when the world gets a taste of who and what the Jews are, it should smooth, pleasant, and with no bitter aftertaste.

By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz

Rabbi Gewirtz (Operation Inspiration) welcomes comments and feedback. Write to him at info@JewishSpeechWriter.com to share your thoughts. You never know when you may be the lamp that enlightens someone else.

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