Sunday, March 29, 2009

Message from a guy in a dogbox

If you have ever visited Covent Gardens in central London, you'll know just how diverse and entertaining a place it is. If you've never been, put it on your itinerary for your next visit.

We stepped off the Underground and into the human sea there last Sunday morning. As we turned into the pedestrian mall, I noticed a guy with his purple hair tied back in a ponytail. Figuring my kids would find that intriguing, I planned to surreptitiously snap a shot without attracting his attention.

My brother-in-law, who is far more audacious than I, decided to create the photo-op for me. He strode over to Purple-Hair, offered a loud American "hello" and asked if they could pose together for a photo. Politely, our model agreed, but I couldn't help thinking that he probably looked at our beards, tzitzis and yarmulkes and figured: "Boy, these guys look strange."

We continued on past jugglers, mimes and buskers, while the "how do they look at us" complex bounced around in my head as we walked.

A creative busker caught our eye. He sat under a table, with his head protruding into a dog travel-box (you know, the type they use to take dogs on planes) and his face painted Fido-like. Two paw-gloves and a fluffy tail sticking out of the box topped off the costume.

The guy in the dog-box teased passersby, sang and made everyone smile. Seeing us, he asked: "Are you Loob'evitch?"

I'll admit, I was surprised.

"I like the Loob'evitch," he continued, "they're cool!"

Now, I was truly gobsmacked.

Purple-Hair had given me a frum-appearance complex, but Guy Dogbox restored my perspective.

Yesterday, we started reading the third book of the Torah, Vayikra. The first word, Vayikra, is spelled with a shrunken letter Alef. It is unusual for a letter in the Torah to be enlarged or minimised, so when it happens, you need to pay attention and learn something.

Elsewhere, the first word of the book of Chronicles starts with an enlarged letter Alef at the head of the name "Adam".

Vayikra describes how G-d calls Moses, while Chronicles talks about Adam, the first human tasked with making the world a better place. Between the two Alefs we learn a powerful lesson: When dealing with G-d, shrink your Alef* and stand humble and ready to hear His instruction. When facing the world, let your Alef stand tall and proud so that the world respects who you are and is ready to learn from you.

Unfortunately, we often get our Alefs mixed up. We express our opinion when it's time to listen to G-d and sit back daunted when we look the world in the eye.

Luckily, Hashem sometimes sends us reminders- in the most unexpected ways- to reset our Alef perspective.

We continued down the cobblestone, while the Dogbox struck up a lively "Hava Nagilla".

* Alef is the first letter of "Ani", the Hebrew for "I".

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