Monday, August 27, 2012

Prince Harry's Wild Vegas Adventures

HERE'S A PIECE OF SHOCKING NEWS: Prince Harry likes to party and so do most 20 and 30 year olds. But his late night revelries are scrutinized more closely than everyone because he is a member of the royal family.

So it was not surprising to hear the outrage and anger emanating from England, when Prince Harry was caught on video challenging USA gold medal winner, Ryan Lochte, to a swimming race in the middle of a giant pool party, and subsequently photographed in the nude hanging out with women in his hotel room. I guess the old dictum that "whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" doesn’t apply in the Facebook and Twitter age.

While his behavior isn’t abnormal for someone his age, and his family should take comfort in knowing this, he is deserving of the criticism leveled at him. First, part of the English taxpayer money is used to provide for his security detail. I can't imagine that the British are eager to subsidize Prince Harry's wild forays into the Las Vegas nightlife. More importantly, though, Harry's behavior reflects poorly on his family. Being part of the royal family comes with certain expectations and responsibilities. Because of the family he was born into, Prince Harry can't simply act like ‘one of the boys’ if he isn’t treated like one of them.

I can imagine he wishes for the time that he could live a life free of the paparazzi following his every move and waiting to pounce on his next lapse of judgment. “Ah, if I could just have been born to a regular family, I would be free to act as I wish,” he must be saying to himself. (I feel like we've seen these movies before: Shrek 3, Brave, et al. Don’t they always realize that they have it much better than everyone else, right? Take note, Prince Harry.). Unfortunately, what he wishes for cannot be changed, and his desires to be a ‘normal’ kid will not and cannot ever happen.

Ten years ago Prince Harry may have been able to get away with a little more mischievous behavior, but these days everyone has a camera in their pocket. It’s hard enough for regular people to enjoy their privacy, let alone someone famous who belongs to a royal family. As such, Harry must be doubly vigilant and careful in the manner that he carries himself.

In many ways, I believe the scrutiny that Prince Harry endures due to his royal status, is something that we, Jews, undergo. Maybe it’s only me who feels this way, but doesn’t it appear that whatever a Jew does is overly scrutinized by the outside world? When a Jew commits a crime, isn’t it magnified ten times over because it was done by a Jew? Let an ultra-orthodox Jew commit a crime and then the whole world covers it. Do I even need to mention the way that our beloved State of Israel is treated on a daily basis? Our nation, our people, our heritage, and our tradition bear a whole lot of criticism as if we were members of the royal family.

It’s not a stretch to say that the Jewish people are unique; dare I say, royal. God called us to be a “Mamlechet Kohanim V'Goy Kadosh,” a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. During my numerous conversations with non-Jewish patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers as their chaplain, I offer to provide them with a priest or pastor. Generally, they decline and choose to speak with me because “your people are the chosen people.” (I find it very difficult to meet with Jewish patients. Usually, they don’t want to speak with me, the priest, or the pastor. Only the doctors and nurses will do.)

Does Prince Harry or the Jewish people have anything inherent that makes them special? No. As a member of the Royal Family, Prince Harry is charged to be a model of excellence and distinction for his people and act as their ambassador to the rest of the world. Similarly, the notion that the Jewish people are the “Am Hanivchar” means that God chose us to carry out a unique mission. What is that mission? Well, that answer varies based on the different streams of Judaism. To some it means to fully observe the 613 commandments along with all the rabbinical commandments. Others may interpret this mission as repairing the world through social justice, while others may have their own view of what role a Jew should play in creating a harmonious society and world.

Irrespective of the manner in which a Jew views his or her role in this world, we all agree that our mission in life is to be an “Ohr LaGoyim,” a light unto the nations. Therefore, it is important for all of us who have been tasked for this special purpose to embrace our role and not shy away from it. We also must understand that as a result, our errors will be magnified tenfold in the eyes of the public. But most importantly, don’t get drunk around people you don’t know and let them take pictures of you in the nude.

Rabbi Joshua Hess is the co-founder of the blog and an Orthodox rabbi in Linden, New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiHess.