Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Possibilities of Unity


It is human nature to make generalizations as we grow up and learn about the world. We view reality through the shades of our memories and experiences. Sometimes that protects us from repeating mistakes, but most of the time it just prevents us from seeing things clearly.

I spent Shabbat in a community that I have judged quietly for years. It is a community full of people who, in my mind, were just like the close-minded "yeshivish" people I had tried to get away from throughout high school. I went there for Shabbat, reluctantly, and was pleasantly surprised. The families I met were kind and genuine, opening their homes to us and offering us anything they could. They were down to earth, regular people and I found myself enjoying their company and realizing that maybe, possibly, the Jewish people are not split into normal and charedi, that maybe there's a middle ground, and maybe it's not a bad place to be.

It was during Friday night davening though, that I felt like Hashem figuratively hit me over the head.

We were davening Kabbalat Shabbat. All the men were singing and dancing, and a woman walked up from the front of the shul to come speak to me. I thought maybe she was about to tell me that the girls I was with were being too loud, or maybe that they were not dressed modestly enough. She put her hand on my shoulder and leaned over. "Darling", she said quietly in my ear, "your hair is astounding." I looked at her, a little confused. Then she said, "I hope you have the zchus (merit) to cover it very soon, and that you find an incredible husband who will admire it every day."

"Amen", I whispered, taken aback.

And then she smiled at me and walked out of the shul.

Whaat.

I didn't know how to react. But for some reason, I wanted to cry. I wasn't sad. I felt moved in a way that I haven't felt in a while. Who was this woman? Why did she take the time to walk over and give me a bracha?

So many thoughts raced through my head at the same time.

I'd been calling this place close-minded and judgmental, I'd been saying that it was a community full of people who would not accept anyone who wasn't just like them. And as I’m formulating my not-so-polite responses to her imaginary criticisms, this woman comes over just to give me a compliment and a beautiful bracha.

When was the last time I had done something like that?

When was the last time I'd even seen anyone doing something like that?

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a few friends about Jewish unity. We were talking about building the Beit Hamikdash, about how it's not possible until there is genuine achdut (unity) in our nation. Until we can learn to accept each other. A debate broke out over whether or not the idea was even realistic. If there was any iota of possibility that we could reconcile all of our differences within the next ten years. We each brought in examples from politics, from the army, from our own lives and experiences. I think the conclusion was that we'd all like it to happen, but the rift between the charedim and dati leumi is too big to bridge.

We have these built up notions in our heads about each other. And yes, some of them are true. But at the end of the day, we're all Jewish. We all have the same goals, the same values, the same frustrations. There are beautiful, kind hearted, genuine people on every inch of the Jewish spectrum. The secular, the traditional, the dati leumi, the charedim. If we could all find a way to put our shades of experiences aside and just see each other for who we really are, anything is possible. Unity is possible. The Beit Hamikdash is possible.

This lady just thought she was doing a nice thing when she came over to me in shul. She didn't realize that she was opening my mind up to the possibility that I could be wrong about these people. That after a few hours in the community I realized that I was, in fact, wrong about them. That maybe I need to readjust my view of the world. That when I start labeling others and judging them, I am the kind of person that I never thought I would be, the kind of person I've warned others not to become.

They say each mitzva we do is a brick in the future Beit Hamikdash. That one day, Hashem will lower the thousands of mitzvot onto our world and we'll be able to see the physical, tangible acts of kindness that we have done for each other. Let's do it. One person at a time, one conversation at a time, one smile at a time.

The possibilities are endless.

5 comments:

  1. Interesting that you took what she said as a blessing, I would have taken it as an insult. If I had beautiful hair I hope my husband would want me to be proud of it.

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    1. I think the woman that made the remark definitely intended it to be a blessing. It's a bit counter intuitive, but since religious women cover their hair(at least in the community of the woman making the remark) once married, it's just a creative way of wishing someone luck to "find a match"

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  2. Kol hakavod for looking for the good. "When we truly observe the good side of every individual, it leads to our deeply loving our fellow man without our having to exaggerate his good traits in our mind. This is because taking an interest in the good that we constantly encounter genuinely conceals our fellow man's negative aspects, even the most blatant blemish." (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Erpalei Tohar) Looking for the good, instead of trying to find the insult, will indeed bring Moshiach closer. May you and your bashert very soon bring Moshiach, side by side, dear Shev.

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  3. I read this a couple days ago and I thought of it again when you were standing next to me at the kotel this morning. You're right, there is so much good. But watching the early morning rosh chodesh drama, how do you face the ugliness of the fighting and hatred that still tear us apart? When you feel like your heart is being ripped to shreds by the conflicts you can't ignore, how do you teach our brothers and sisters to "put our shades of experiences aside and just see each other for who we really are," if some people can't seem to see past the end of their noses?

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  4. I am so proud to call you my best friend shev!!!You're writing is beautiful, and it should inspire and reach through the hearts of all of klall yisrael:)

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