First of all, the good stuff-Mazal Tov to Friedman, Haddas Ziddle and Sara Weinberger all of Bnos Avigail on their engagements.
You may wonder why I include news that is not news of interest for most of you. Some of you went to Neve 40 years ago! Some of you never went to Neve or any of its institutions. One of you is a very eminent rebbitzen who is in her ninth decade. The reason is that on the deepest level we are all like one body with infinite numbers of limbs and organs. The trouble is that while this may resonate intellectually, it has very little to do with how most of us feel.
There is an Arabic saying that goes, “It’s us against and Them. My tribe against yours. My clan against yours. Me against my brother”. Do you live in a constant state of defense against Them? It’s easy. Even when Them is Us. If you spill soup on my shirt, your shirt isn’t wet. How can you feel as though you and I are one person when your experience in life tells you that we are not? There is a very unappealing axiom that explains the entire matter.
The more you define yourself, others and the world materially, the more isolation you will feel.
The more you see yourself, others and the world as an extension of Hashem’s unknowable Unity, the more connected you will feel
The more honest you are about the above, the more aware you will be. The less honest you are willing to be, the less likely you are to ever feel real connection or love.
UGH! How annoying when you realize that so much of your life takes place in the world of Things, and how much pleasure the physical side of life has when you reach out and grab some. This of course doesn’t change the truth of the axiom. The Jewish people were able to reverse the Arabic saying when they received the Torah. If you were not the “eye”, one of the people capable of profound insight and integration, that was okay. It was okay not to be the heart one of those whose ability to bring lifeforce to the entire people was tangible. It was okay if you were one of the masses who may have all said silently,” I am a finger”, you could make the fine motor action involved in living real life happen in a way that works. There was no envy or fear because of the depth of their grasp of what living purposefully is all about. When you are focused on a goal, ego can melt away (OR NOT! It depends on whether the goal is primarily about self-gratification, or whether that was never a factor).
I was once at the Kotel when there was a bomb scare. In fact, I caused it. I took one of my small kids with me that day. She was about two and a half, which is the age where many children are toilet trained, but not completely reliable. Like a good mommy, I didn’t plan an unrealistic visit to the holiest place on earth, just a sort of “hello” and home. I took her to the bathroom, settled her in with her bag of Bamba and began to say Tehillim. She immediately looked up with her innocent eyes, and said exactly what I didn’t want to hear. She has to go…. I knew that she didn’t generally give me much time between the Warning and the Event. I picked her up, hurriedly asked the woman next to me to keep an eye on my stuff and ran. When I returned in just a few minutes, the entire plaza had been cleared (kol hakavod to tzahal….), and a robot was in the process of blowing up my bag. The explosion was relatively controlled, and soon the crowd flowed back to the deserted plaza. Except for my bag’s guardian (who, in fact, had never actually agreed to the role that I had foisted upon her), who apparently had fled the scene earlier. I told the officer in the police station across from the Kotel that I was the owner of the bag-I didn’t want them to go on a wild goose chase looking for a non-existent perpetrator. I expected to be spoken to in the unique blend of restrained hostility with a heavily patronizing patina of civility that is the core patois of the Israeli policeman. Instead, he offered to pay for the bag (which he told me is the policy in similar situations) and let me go.
The plaza was slowly filling up. The usual divisions were visible; the Yerushalmis, the tourists, and the regular mix to students, women with much to pray for, and anonymous others. When they were fleeing the Kotel just moments earlier there were no divisions. Love of life and fear of death united them.
Ramban wrote about the instinctive separateness that G-d wants you to deal with. If you and a friend were in a desert and all you had left of your water supply was a small vial that couldn’t save both of you u, you are supposed to drink it yourself according to Jewish law. Nonetheless you can teach yourself to want for others what you want for yourself. You want success, acceptance, validation, beliefs’ basic necessities and more. The more you commit yourself to doing what you can to see that your friend has what he too wants, the more the walls that separate you fall. When that happens, you can still
Alone, unique and painfully mortal
But somehow never alone, or mortal while you are bonded with the rest of the those
Who stood at Mount Sinai.
During these weeks of sfirah, its time to get to work, to give genuine respect to each other, and to the rest of the time to find what you have to share and to receive.