Friday, April 23, 2010

Time to pull together

Flight delays are always frustrating, but tensions must have sky-rocketed in airports around Europe over the last week, thanks to Iceland’s drifting ash-cloud.

Imagine you’ve been away on business, or even a leisure trip. You’re all ready to head home and they cancel your flight. Indefinitely. You had budgeted your stay, and even the contingency cash you have left won’t cover the extra few days accommodation. Besides, all the hotels nearby are now fully booked (you lingered in the airport, hoping they’d open the air to traffic). Europeans airports offer precious little in the way of kosher food, so you start rationing chocolate bars and the two sandwiches you packed for the flight (because they never have the kosher meals that you order). Now, Shabbos is coming and you grimace at the thought of spending it in the airport...

I chatted to a friend in London yesterday. His Chabad House hosted 120 stranded Israelis last Shabbos. A colleague in Denmark could hardly fit all his guests into his home last week. In Marseilles, a Chabad rabbi rounded up the Israelis at the check-in counters to help him distribute biscuits and sandwiches. Dalia Itzik, previous speaker of the Knesset, was one of the grateful recipients of the kosher refreshments.

We Jews are one big family. We complain about each other, criticise each other and sometimes overreact in the way we censure bad behaviour. But, when it comes down to it, we’re all family and we care for each other.

Rabbi Akivah identified one line from this week’s Parsha that he felt encapsulates all of Judaism: “Love your fellow Jew as yourself”.

We shouldn’t need an eruption (volcanic or communal) to test how well we treat each other. The first Rebbe of Chabad taught that extra love to your fellow Jew can never be a mistake. Ideally, it will draw that person closer to you. If not, at least you’ve done the mitzvah of love.

This is the time of the year when we’re meant to think of each other and how we can treat each other better. The Omer period is dedicated to self-improvement and relationship-building. Now is an ideal time to fix a faribel, volunteer to visit a hospital or aged home, or to simply lend a hand to someone you know who’s going through a rough patch (here's something practical to do right now, visit 

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