Here I am in the midst of my American adventure!
The flight was amazing (what a cliché of a word! It means next to nothing, but for a change this is what it actually does mean in context). The flight was at least a third empty. When I arrived on Thursday I was totally refreshed from the most relaxing down time ever. I highly recommend not paying enough attention to the calendar, and leaving on Yom Atzmaut…
Wherever I went I met up with some of you. Seeing how you have made lives for yourselves, and integrated what you learned to the real world was a lesson that I shall not forget easily. You are great teachers. Especially when I met the Oldies But Goodies, and heard some of the challenges that you faced and still face without flinching, I found myself willing to learn from you. I met Shulamis Heldorn, who I haven’t seen in decades, and Rochelle Rubin and Aliza Caplan who used to be Elizabeth Wood. They were in Neve forty years ago! We ate a great deal of shish kebab in Flatbush, reminisced and discovered that on the inside nothing changed. When I saw some of my Bnos Avigail girls (who are old enough to be their granddaughters) I saw the same thing. What an education!
People often ask if things change rapidly in Neve. They don’t. The culture around us changes, but the deeper side of the girls who I encounter never changes. There is always sincerity, a bigger than usual scoop of honesty and optimism vying for a front and center position with fear of burning bridges and of facing an unknown future. The backdrop is, of course, different, yesterday the issue that was most frightening was facing a different future than you thought you would face. Today the issue is defining yourself in a world in which the like and don’t like buttons have so much subtle influence on who you are and who you are willing to be.
This coming week’s parshah features what is arguably the most well known mitzvah in the Torah, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. What makes Torah so unique is that there is an entire body of Oral law that tells you what to do with the principles stated in the written law. Loving your neighbor has defined halachot, which makes it more than just a noble sounding aphorism. You have to speak well of your neighbor, treat him with respect, and care enough about him so be genuinely concerned about his future and his losses. The verse ends with the words, “I am Hashem”. Maharal tells you that the implication is that you can discover Hashem through learning to identify Him by loving your neighbor. When you meet someone you are not only going to learn about yourself and about him, you are going to learn about the soul that makes him unique and unlike anyone else who ever lived or ever will live. This opens up new ways to “learn” Hashem by seeing the infinite number of ways in which each person mirrors His image. This only happens if you are both open to making it happen, and then act on it by keeping the laws that tell you how to zero in on his G-dliness.
Gotta go. More people to meet. As they say back in Israel, what a keff (ask your local Israeli what that means if you don’t know)