August 11, 2017
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
This week we read the great Torah portion of Ekev, which tells us how to be morally good. It is a simple but high standard that is commanded here: listen and observe God’s rules in order to live life as we should.
But even beyond our own standards of conduct, there are a few individuals in the world who transcend ordinary measures of human quality, and cross all boundary lines of national, religious, and ideological approval. These are the exceedingly rare people who teach us profound things about our essential nature, and who, in their own lives, demonstrate true moral greatness. The list is short, and some of the most prominent members have died fairly recently: Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Elie Wiesel, for example. You may have your own candidates.
Prominent on anyone’s list of such luminaries is the 14th Dalai Lama. He has been the religious leader of his people, Tibetan Buddhists, for nearly 80 years, and has represented both their aspirations for freedom and the common humanity in each one of us throughout his long career. Many words of praise have been written about him—it is almost incidental that he is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate—but most telling is that with all the accolades he has received for his wisdom, sagacity, learning, and courage, he is warm, charming, funny, and self-deprecating. He embodies for Buddhists the supremely important value of compassion, which he demonstrates with grace and generosity to us all.