Friday, July 27, 2012

Families are like fudge, mostly sweet, with a few nuts

Home is the place, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
Robert Frost

Israel, for better or worse, is the Land of the Jews. Jews have returned to the Land from just about every country on earth, each with their own customs, language, and heritage. There are gefilte-fish-eating Jews and humus-eating Jews, and jachnoun-eating Jews. There are Arabic speakers and French speakers, and Russian speakers. There are religious and secular Jews, right and left. And let’s not forget the different colors.
The media says that there are great divisions in the Israeli population, that there is inequality, prejudice, even racism, that Israeli society is splintered. Perhaps it is. But that’s because there are always fights in a family and, whether we like it or not, the Jews of Israel are a family. Gefilte-fish-eating Jews will (mostly) happily munch away at melawach with their Yemenite in-laws. Humus-eating Jews will (often) laughingly try blintzes and knishes with their Polish neighbors (and then pronounce them tasteless, but hey, they tried). There are always Haredi relatives at a secular wedding, and seculars at a Haredi wedding. It’s rather hard to miss them. (You can always tell the work table at a wedding because they are the ones eating when everyone else is dancing.)
George Santayana must have Israel in mind when he said “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.
This feeling of family manifests itself in all scopes of life. These are my personal examples: being asked to mind a stranger’s baby at the beach so the parents can go in for a swim; having your own baby wrapped up tight (in 35° C) by an old lady in the street so ‘he shouldn’t get cold’; being offered birthday cake by the secretary from the office two stories below yours, whom you’ve never met; being told the most intimate details of the life of the person sitting next to you on the bus/standing behind you in the line at the supermarket/riding up in the elevator with you/waiting to pick up their kid from kindergarten.
Being in an extended family definitely has its perks. You can always ask the person next to you at the shoe store what she thinks of the shoes you chose and you can be sure of receiving an honest answer. Nobody is too shy to tell you what color looks good on you, where you can find the best bargain for whatever it is you’re looking for, and how awful you look you should get more rest I know a great bed and breakfast up north I’ll speak to the manager for you he’s a relative of my neighbour….
There are volunteer organizations that make sure that everyone has a place to go to for the holidays; pensioners, foreign students, soldiers with no ‘real’ family in the country. Other volunteers supply meals for new mothers, post-op patients, and people in mourning. Because soldiers of the IDF are everyone's children they get special prices in movie theatres, clothing shops, book stores, and restaurants.
A family is the most complex of all relationships. You can’t pick your family. In fact, you can’t even ask to be in a specific family. A family just is, comprised of those who don’t eat carrots or eggs, those who only eat grapefruit and peas, those who only wear pink and black, oddballs, zealots, politicians, sportsmen, rabbis, mothers-in-laws, grandchildren, and the one you don’t talk to anymore because he never returned your garden shovel. 
Family is the people you love, even when they are not so lovable.
Tomorrow is Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat before the fast of Tisha B’Av. Our sages tell us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of hate spread throughout the nation.
Let us rectify that by spreading love among us, remembering that, at the end of the day, we are all family; with a shared heritage and history, and more importantly, with a shared destiny.
There is no better way to contribute to society, to your country, or to the world.
“What can you do to promote world peace?” asked Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mother Teresa. “Go home and love your family.” 
I invite you all to come home. Be part of the family.
Shabbat Shalom.

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