Friday morning: broom and dust-pin in one hand, mop and soapy bucket in the other, heading up the apartment building’s stairs for the weekly cleanup, when a neighbor stops me: ‘are you maybe interested in another building? I know up the street, they are looking’… it’s so good to know that if all else fails, cleaning is still useful…
This week was Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. It sure was “different”, but it was also good in its own way. People were together in a unique kind of way; not hugging and “high-fiving” and banging on each other’s heads with plastic hammers, but with the deep sense of care and hope.
I was reminded of one of our rabbis in CA, long ago, and far away, who sent his kids to yeshiva in another state, actually a few states away. I was in awe and amazement, and asked him, how he can send them so far away. In his thoughtful manner, he answered with half a smile, ‘so they can be close’. He knew that while he and his wife (and siblings no doubt) had to put up with the physical distance and longing, this was ok, as long as their spiritual and religious connection were kept tight.
This is what it feels like now, not to minimize any pain, but compare with my aunt who hid for six years in a Berlin cellar, we’re doing fine. The streets were decorated with blue and white flags; floats came through with music; bbq’s were lit in so many yards and balconies where families sat together in white shirts for the holiday’s meal. In some places, the day’s special prayers were blasted in the loudspeakers. I’m not saying it was “normal” (a word I don’t know it’s meaning anyway…). But, hopefully, many years from now, when little eyes will look at us and ask with wonderment, ‘you lived then’??? we’ll remember these days with their unique strength, rather than darkness.
Between my writing, I happen to catch the tail end of an interview with Rabbi Dr. Zachi Hershkovitz. In an effort to paraphrase, he says: when the Reform movement began, they said, ‘be a Jewish in your home and a human, outside’. We, in the Land of Israel, have created a life where we can be Jews outside the home, and “people” inside. Maybe this time is calling on us to bring Judaism back home, to refocus. And also, maybe a little soul-searching: maybe we took for granted how ‘everyone’ should come to shul; we were upset at people not showing up for certain events, minyan, holidays, meetings… maybe we have overlooked how difficult it can actually be for many people to show up, for all sorts of reasons. Now we stand in their shoes and we can learn to empathize and learn new tools, so we’re not just sitting here, thinking when will this be over and we’ll all be back to “normal” (that word again), but what have we taken with us.
I don’t know anymore if he said all of this, or I heard it into his words, but the message of contemplation, trust, faith and hope, did come through.
And something ny from this week’s daf:
אֶלָּא יָתֵיב רַב פָּפָּא בַּר שְׁמוּאֵל קַמֵּיהּ דְּרַב חִסְדָּא וְיָתֵיב וְקָאָמַר: בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁכּוֹרַעַת לֵילֵד טוֹמְנִין לָהּ שְׁנֵי עֲזָקִין שֶׁל שֶׁמֶן, וּמַנִּיחִין לָהּ אֶחָד עַל פַּדַּחְתָּהּ וְאֶחָד עַל הָרֶחֶם כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּתְחַמֵּם. אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַב נַחְמָן: אִם כֵּן, עֲשִׂיתָהּ יַלְתָּא.
Rather, Rav Pappa bar Shmuel sat before Rav Ḥisda, and he sat and he said: At the time that the animal crouches to give birth, those tending to the animal soak two swatches of wool in oil, and place one on the animal’s forehead and the other on its womb so that it will be warmed. Ḥanunot refers to animals with those swatches. Rav Naḥman said to him: If so, you turned the animal into Yalta, my wife, who descended from the house of the Exilarch. That is treatment fit for her, not for an animal.
This chapter in tractate Shabbat talks about how we treat animals, especially on Shabbat and any day, with attention, tlc, care and kindness, but, nevertheless, animals are not people. You can pamper your pet or livestock, but don’t overdo it too.