Friday, October 26, 2007

Hang on G-d, I'll be with you in a minute

Picture the scene: You’re sitting at home on a hot summer’s day and Hashem Himself drops in to say “hi”. Every second you share with the Ultimate Guest is obviously precious, and you’d savour the experience (after you recover from the initial shock, of course).

As you sit there, basking in The Light and being inspired, you notice some scruffy passers-by. They might be looking for a handout or simply passing through the neighbourhood, it’s difficult to tell. What do you do?

Me? I’d quickly conclude that if they needed my help, they’d knock on my door. Meanwhile, I’d pay attention to what G-d has to say. After all, if He made the effort to come see me, it must be rather important.

It’s strange, then, to note the story of history’s first Jew, our Patriarch Abraham, in exactly that situation. Only, he didn’t react quite the way we would. He stopped G-d “mid-sentence” and ran off to invite three sandy desert-farers in for a meal.

Imagine that? “Just a second G-d, I have business to attend to…”

Apparently, G-d wasn’t put out by this show of chutzpah. In fact, He was quite pleased. According to the Talmud, He wanted Abraham to illustrate an essential Jewish teaching- that taking in guests is more valuable than a face-to-face with G-d.

You may recall how the sage, Hillel summarised the entire Torah for a would-be convert. To paraphrase, he said: “How you treat your fellow Jew is the litmus test of your spiritual progress”.

People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that you’re really “frum” when you hang out with G-d- at Shul, while studying or by being scrupulous about Mitzvah observance. That may be true, but when looking G-d in the eye makes you miss seeing people in distress, you’re missing the point.

Judaism, by definition, must translate into treating the next person with care, sensitivity and empathy.

And you know you’re doing it right, if you’d rather be shmoozing with Hashem.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Green & Gold

On my way to drop kids at school this morning, I noticed people driving to work wearing “Bokke” shirts. I saw Joburg’s notorious intersection-entrepreneurs peddling SA flags in place of their usual wire ornaments, cell-phone chargers and garbage bags. Flags flapped from office windows, passing cars and people’s homes. Every newspaper headline carried a “Go Bokke” message and you couldn’t hear anything but rugby on the radio.

Excitement is building all over, reminiscent of the euphoria of South Africa’s win in 1995. (At least this year, they’ve been considerate enough to host the final after Shabbos…)

To be sure, rugby is not soccer. It does not hold the same fan-base in South Africa as that sport does. A good portion of our population wouldn’t watch rugby under ordinary circumstances.

These are not ordinary circumstances. Over this weekend tennis-fans, soccer-fans, nerds and sophisticates will all eagerly await the outcome of Saturday nights’ game.


Because it’s our team playing.

It doesn’t matter if we don’t enjoy rugby, understand it or support the team, the fact is that our team is going out onto that field and we’re rooting for them.

It’s quite like being Jewish. Sure there are things about Shul and Jewish observance that don’t excite us, or that we don’t understand. Sometimes, we don’t even like the team that we belong to. But, it’s our team, and we need to support it.

Not just one Saturday every four years, but regularly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Getting back to work.

I'm trying to self-motivate, to break out of the "day-after-the-month-before" syndrome and get back into "real" life. I'm stuck.

The last month has just been so special and uplifting. It always is.

We look forward to and plan it for weeks, He and I. We cherish every moment of those four weeks we get to spend together each year.

It's not that we're not in touch during the rest of the year, it's just that our live's are hectic and we don't spend as much quality time as we would like to. That's why we love this month.

We get to talk. Well, at least I get to talk. He's a great listener. As a child I always knew I could tell Him anything and He would listen. He would never judge me; and I believed absolutely that He could solve every problem.

When I grew a little older, I became more demanding- and critical. When He didn't agree with my opinions, or deliver on my demands, I got angry. There were times when I wouldn't talk to Him for days.

Fortunately, He was infinitely patient, and I grew up a little. Now I am happy just to have time with Him. Looking for my inner-child, I still try to trust that He knows better. For me, to have our conversations is more valuable than what I get from them.

I get to tell Him all about my family, what they've achieved, how they're doing, my fears, my dreams. Their fears, their dreams. He always makes me feel that my nachas is His; my worries His concern.

We also get to clear the air during this special month. I let Him know where I feel He's let me down over the past year. I apologise for letting Him down (usually it's been more often than I'd like to admit)- and promise to try harder between now and next year.

From day to day, we cherish our time together more. We laugh, we cry, we eat out under the stars and dance with unfettered joy. I feel close. Connected. Safe.

All too soon, it's over. It's time to go home and return to "normal" life.

I really don't want to go; it's just so special there.

But "normal" is where He wants me to be.

When I'm there, doing my best at making the "normal" special, it gives Him nachas. Then I know I'm really close to Him.