People often ask me if going to the States is a culture shock. It isn’t. Nothing really changed since my childhood. People are still earning it and spending it, and enjoying the process to varying degrees.
Israel is constantly changing. It moves so fast that you don’t even have time to escape feeling more or less continually in the grips of culture shock. I have culture shock when I go to Malchah Mall (which was the largest mall in the mid-east when it was built, and now is Nothing Special). When I first came to Israel every possible item was sold in its own specific store. Even meat and chicken were sold in their respective Ma and Pa enterprises. Most businesses closed Tuesday afternoons and didn’t reopen, while on the other days closed between 2 and 4 for siesta. Most women worked until 1, when the troops came home from school, and taking full day job was for those whose kids had flown the coop. When I recently heard that the seminaries are no longer even offering courses in “little” jobs because there is no demand, Culture Shock made its next appearance.
All of this came to mind when I was watching the scene at Bnos Avigail’s graduation on Tuesday. The girls grew up in a different world than I did. They have a “normal” that they think is : The Way It Is. This is normal only when you are young enough to not see beyond your specific frame of reference. They don’t know how fast the world changes. The trick is to enjoy the show.
Hashem is taking us exactly where we want to be and have to be in the unfolding vision He had when He began creating the world.
If you want to enjoy the show the first step is to refrain from speaking lashon hara. Loshon hara is toxic. It poisons your view of life, and your ability to view the world optimistically. It allows you to focus on the perennially empty half of the glass, while ignoring the half full aspect that you have just as easily chosen to make reality’s center.
Going back to Malchah Mall. People had a lot of negative things to say when it opened. Lots of kvetching about how it is just another step leading us all down the road to the bottomless pit of indiscriminate consumerism. When I opened the radio that night to hear the news, I was surprised to hear that Rabbi Kaduri, the famous Moroccan Kabbalist had come to the mall. He blessed the mall, wished all of the storekeepers and vendors success, and even inspired one of them to have a room in the back of his store where he would put his unsold end-of-the-year items and give them to people whose economic situation makes buying new clothes an unrealized dream.
The same choice is yours to make when you think about the ever-growing number of people who go to the Kotel. You can let the negativism speak so loudly that all you hear inside of yourself is that people have lost contact with the kedushah of the kotel and relate to it as still another tourist attraction. You can make another choice. You can see the thousands of people who stream to the holy Wall as living testimony of how alive the spark of longing for kedushah still is in the hearts of so many people who have no idea of what it is that they are experiencing.
The halachic definition of lashon hara is speech that is negative, harmful and true in the narrow sense of the word true. After all, it’s just as accurate to say the glass is half empty as it is to say the glass is half full.