Friday, August 28, 2009

Are we builders or destroyers?

Yom shishi, 8 Elul 5769.
It's Elul.

No big deal, right?  All we have to do is spend the next month cleaning up our act, getting ready for the big show:  Yom Kippur.  We have to forgive every Jew who wronged us, and make ourselves forgivable in the eyes of Hashem.  Oh, yeah -- and let's not forget that noodling in the backs of our minds is that famous Chofetz Chaim rewording of an already troubling famous concept.  Every day that the Temple is not rebuilt, we are tearing it apart with our own hands.

With our own words, actually.  And our petty (but not to us, of course!) little angers at other Jews.

And every day that we are Temple-free is another day we get to fear our enemies, bury our loved ones over stupid violence and disease, suffer small and great torments, physical, mental, emotional...

And all we have to do to end the suffering is to love our fellow Jew.  Not climb Mt. Everest.  Not walk over burning coals in our bare feet.  Not starve ourselves for forty days, nor even take a vow of abstinence.

Just love Jews.  Every Jew, even the least lovable.  Even the Jews that drive us crazy.  Easy, right?


Given our natures, given our weaknesses and easy rationalizations over our hurtful responses to our dented fragile egos, acid-soaked coals would be a cakewalk, compared to loving that %#@&* who did X to me five years ago...

Impossible.  Totally insurmountable.

Fortunately, as Rebbetzin Tzipporah Harris points out, its not our job.  It's Hashem's.  All we have to do is ask Him to solve the impossible.  But we have to ask sincerely.

Rebbetzin Harris listened to the words of great rabbis who are telling this generation that without Ahavat Yisrael -- love of the Jewish people -- Ahmadinawhackjob will get the bomb, and he will be empowered to wreak more destruction against the Jewish people than in the darkest days of World War II.  She listened, and she decided to do something to help.

Rebbetzin Harris started Ahavat Yisrael Chaburim, small groups of women who take upon themselves to eradicate senseless hatred from among their membership.  The hope -- the prayer -- is that all of these small groups (and today there are more than 80 of them around the world) will create ripple effects that will cause the entire Jewish world to "get over it."

She addressed "impossible" with a story, that goes something like this:

A family was notified by the hospital that their elderly mother had died.  They were, of course, distraught; but they followed Jewish ritual, and had her body picked up by the Chevra Kadisha, which as always prepared her lovingly for burial.  After the shiva period, the family got a phone call:  "Why haven't you been to visit me?" asked the old woman.  They were too shocked to respond; and they received a second call:  "Is everything all right?  Why hasn't anyone come to visit this week?"

They rushed to the hospital to make the astonishing discovery that their old mother and grandmother was still alive!

The hospital staff quickly discovered their embarrassing error:  they had confused the woman with her roommate.  The family had buried and sat shiva for a complete stranger!

The family was dumbfounded, but completely overjoyed to have more time with their dear relative.  But now the hospital staff had a terrible problem.  They had to call the other woman's family, and tell them that not only had their mother died a week ago -- but someone else had buried her!

When the young doctor in charge of the staff made the call, he introduced himself to the woman's son.  The man barely let him finish before he started to speak harshly:  "If this is about my mother, you can tell her the answer is still NO!  All day long, she sits with that prayerbook of hers, asking God to give her a 'kosher Jewish burial.' That's all she does, all day long -- and we're not going to do it.  You can just tell her to forget it!"  And he slammed down the receiver.

Even the impossible is not hard for Hashem.  We only have to ask Him for it, with all our hearts.

Join a group like Rebbetzin Harris' chabura.  Gain strength from other Jews who have the same holy goals.

Make that phone call.  Send the email that you know you need to send.  It starts something like this:  "Dear [Ploni], I love you, and I want to have a relationship with you."   Say you are sorry for your part in the difficulty between the two of you -- without dredging up the stupid fight that got you to the place of so much hatred.  (Contrary to certain schools of psychology, airing the problem rarely solves it.)  And then just focus on the things you like and admire about him...

Get over it.  Our lives depend on it.
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