Monday, July 17, 2006

Guarding Our Speech

I'm really on my way to bed, but wanted to share a few ideas before I get there.

I attended the Shmirat HaLashon (Guard Your Speech) gathering that takes place every summer usually during the last nine days of the three week period between the 17th Tamuz (when the walls were breached) and the 9th of Av (when the Temple was destroyed). Since the idea is that the Temple was destroyed due to senseless hatred, we take this time to watch what comes out of our mouths.

This year this gathering seems to have rattled me a bit... in a good way.

Everyone needs to understand, this is a gathering of women. A huge gathering. Last night was the Hebrew speaking gathering and tonight was the English speaking gathering. Imagine - thousands of women (really!) getting together to hear words of Torah - how to use our speech properly. Like was said tonight, it's not only about what not to say.. it's also about what should be said. We can build as well as destroy. It was truly awesome. I hope to type my notes and post them soon.

Binyanei HaUma is the hall where this takes place. It's a rather large hall which can accommodate hundreds, if not a thousand people. When you come in and walk up the stairs there is an open area where tapes and CDs of classes and speeches are being sold for the specific reason of learning how to use our speech properly. Or just how to treat each other properly - the commandment of treating each other like we ourselves would like to be treated.

I started the evening the way I always do. I hung out in this area so I could look at all the people walking through. I love doing this because I always see people I know and get a chance for two minutes to hang out and talk to them. Of course by doing this I missed Rabbi Orlofsky's opening remarks (he was the MC for the evening, brilliant as usual).

I got to my seat and listened. I had some trouble getting into it at first, but finally focused and took notes. Rabbi Orlofsky made an interesting point I believe toward the end of the evening. He said that usually they have this gathering during the nine days, but since Binyanei HaUma was being renovated, they were holding the gathering earlier in the three weeks. Really, he made the point, was not that we were having it early - but it was perfect timing. It was perfect timing due to the fact that we were having a war in north and south of the country. And of course, any Torah is bound to have a positive effect, please G-d.

Also, toward the end of the evening, there was the announcement that anyone who had extra space in their home, or even an extra apartment to please contact Mrs. X since Mrs. X was spearheading trying to place people who were leaving their homes in the north and needed a place to live. Amazing. He gave out her name, telephone number, and address. Mi K'amcha Yisroel, who is like you Israel?!

I was sitting in the nosebleed section, way up top, and after the speeches I wandered slowly out to the stairs. I stopped at the top of the stairs overlooking that main area I mentioned before and to watch all the women walk down the stairs opposite me and through that main area. Hundreds streaming through - with their notes, with new ideas, with new books and tapes and new perspectives.

I then remembered that some years ago I was at Binyanei HaUma for the same gathering, and found myself in the basement of the building (looking for the bathroom). While in the basement I found that they had sectioned off in a way that it was accessable some Roman ruins that they had found. That's how they do things here in Israel since if you dig down, everything is from ancient times.

It seems that the 10th Roman Legion had camped where the hall is today. If I remember the plaque correctly, the 10th Roman Legion was the same group that actually destroyed the Temple. Crazy. The same place where the actual Romans camped that destroyed our Temple is where thousands of Jewish women learn Torah, the very same Torah the Romans tried to destroy three thousand years ago. Where are those Romans? Do they exist? No. But we do. We still do not have our Temple, but we still have Torah, there are still Jews in the world, and there is even a political entity that Jews claim as an independent state (no matter your opinion on the matter). The Romans are long gone, and what have they left us? Buildings made of rock. The Torah is eternal and as long as we Jews are connected to the Torah - we are eternal as well.

What an amazing night. On my way out I stopped at one of the tables that had books on it. It was a two volume set of mussar books based on the Chofetz Chaim's book. I asked how much it was - she said it was free. There was a man who had a sick daughter who sponsored the book in order that it should be learned in her merit that she should be healed quickly and completely, please G-d this should happen. Where in the world do we see such a concept? It's so connected with spirituality it's mind blowing to see someone who has that reality in the front of their mind. Learn Torah so my daughter will be healed?! Wow. Mi K'amcha Yisroel?!

We were reminded that it was because of the women that we were redeemed out of Egypt, and it will be because of the women today that Moshiach will come and redeem us again the final time. Whether male or female, G-d created the world for us. Rabbi Tauber explained that we must use our talents in the service of G-d. They were given to us for a reason, to bring us closer to G-d. The world was created for us, we need to understand how important we are, and understand the amount of power for good was given to us as G-d's creations. We not only have rights, but responsibilities as well. We are responsible for Torah and Mitzvot. We are creations trying to do what our Creator wants from us as best we can.

It is so overwhelming. But we need to remember that Judaism is not an all or nothing religion. We ask questions, we move ahead, and sometimes we move backward. Something I've learned over the last three months of physical therapy - take it slowly, step by step, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you need crutches, sometimes you can do it yourself. And amazingly somehow, you've gotton to where you were trying to go. The key is however, we need goals. It's impossible to go somewhere when you don't know where you're going. I'm talking to myself here. I'm typing and realizing that I'm really just talking to myself. Thank you G-d for allowing me a clue of what I'm supposed to be doing. I hate to go to bed now, I'm afraid it'll all slip out while I'm sleeping.

Good night all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Jesus and Homeless People

I was on my way to school this morning and was only a couple stops away from my apartment when I heard a guy groaning about how something hurts him and whining that he was going to be late for work. I look over at him and he starts into a spiel about how he isn't an entertainer, but he's here to tell us about Jesus. We need to take care of each other, and men shouldn't run after men. Women shouldn't run after women, probably said something about needing to be saved etc. etc. etc. As soon as he started I looked at my watch and it was seven minutes after 7am. Way too early for this sort of thing. Thankfully he was only on the train for one or two stops.

I'm waiting for my next train and I hear some woman calling out about Jesus I checked my watch again, it was 7:25am. Way too early for this. Two Jesus people before 7:30 in the morning, what the heck. Although it did cross my mind to go over and argue with her just because. The feeling passed quickly.

On the first train ride, there was also a homeless fellow asking for money. He's the first of the day. It got me thinking how it's possible that there's no one for this person to go to. How is that possible? Absolutely no relatives? Friends? We need to take a moment and appreciate the people around us, especially family. That's what keeps being pounded into my head when one after another keep asking whether on the subway or on the street.