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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rosh Hashana in Tzfat

Rosh Hashana is tomorrow night, and the amount of shopping, cooking and cleaning that still needs to be done is staggering. One daughter is bringing her roommate (and the roommate's father) and another daughter may be bringing a friend as well. And, of course, my son is coming with his wife! I also invited some neighbors and friends for a few of the meals, so between everything, there's quite a bit to do. But it's such a happy time, and there's always such a feeling of renewal in the air at this time of the year (and satisfaction that I did manage to reach some of my goals from last Rosh Hashana -- my kids might not think so, but I do believe that I've yelled less) that I'm in a great mood.

While I work, there's a guy walking up and down the street outside, saying Tehillim (Psalms). And many of the beggers that I try to give a couple of shekels to every time I walk down the main street have given me new years blessings -- one guy goes on and on, and insists that I say "amen" after each part of the blessing. Passing these people in the street and engaging in conversation with them humbles you in a way that a check to your local charity doesn't -- you're forced to come face-to-face with the people who, for whatever reason, haven't "made it", even minimally, in today's society.

There's been a debate going on our local discussion board . It was set off by a letter from a local mother whose son was told by a neighbor that her (the neighbor's) children would no longer be able to play with this child because he was not religious.

Aside from the ethical question of the neighbor confronting an 8-year-old to tell him to stay away from her precious children, the question has unleashed a storm of controversy. Those who support the mother say that a parent must do whatever possible to bring up their child to keep Torah and mitzvot, including keeping the child away from improper influences.

The opposing view, of which I count myself a member, says that if a family feels that their education is strong enough, they shouldn't have to ban their kids from play from anyone who is different. Secondly, it's important for all of us, children included, to realize that there are different ways of looking at the world, and to respect and honor people who see things differently.

The dialogue between the two sides has brought on its share of secular-bashing and haredi-bashing, which is unfortunate, because it takes the discussion into a space where each side feels its back against the wall.

Reminds me of the story of the messiah coming to earth, and being tossed out of synagogue after synagogue because his head-covering was never the right one for the synagogue in which he was visiting. Finally, he left -- mankind wasn't ready for him.

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