Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Saturday Girl-A Personal Rant

We recently had a yard sale in an effort to get some neighborhood unity-the thinking was by the lady who is trying to form a neighborhood watch. When she originally lighted on my door, she had a plan to have it on a Saturday. My answer, “We will not be able to participate then; it’s our Sabbath.” She looked perplexed, but indicated that she knew what I was talking about. “How about Sunday?” I asked cheerfully. (Okay, it wasn’t very nice of me, being that I know it is church-y town. But I wanted for one moment to put the shoe on the other foot. Why does everything have to be scheduled on Saturday here?)
This wasn’t out first encounter. She lifted her clipboard and asked, “I didn’t get your husband’s first name last time…” Truth be told, she didn't ask and I, being ona roll felt the need to say so. She waited pen poised... I think I’m fairly liberal about social situations. I’m accessible, friendly, my friend’s children call me by my first name, but the thought of anyone calling a Rabbi by his first name uninvited makes me cringe. Maybe ‘liberal’ is relative. “Rabbi,” I answer. She looks surprised, but writes it down. It was only too clear where this was going; damage control complete. “We wont be able to do it on a Sunday,” she tells me with a wave of her hand. And although she hasn’t left my step, she is convinced that no one will be interested in Sunday. I shrug. “Okay.”
A few blocks from our home is a small but lovely museum. They have an opened call, twice a year, to regional and local artists. Since I paint, I looked into it, and even became a member. Guess what day EVERY drop off to the jury is scheduled? The pick-up too.
There is an artist’s gallery a few towns over. I have participated in their spring show. The manager, a young Muslim woman, who likes my use of Hebrew lettering in the shading, a blessing here, a prayer there, and lets me set up a time to come before sundown on Friday, sometimes Friday afternoon, sometimes Thursdays. But, I have never gone to an opening night there, even when I am in the show-they are all on Friday nights and Saturdays. As you might imagine, this makes networking difficult and eventually I stopped getting notices from them.
Our local theater has performances on Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. So if I’m up for a matinee, this schedule works. We recently brought our religious school there for an outing and the children really seemed to enjoy themselves. They saw “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.” The adults might have been more interested in last years “Fiddler on the Roof” if it hadn’t played during the nine days. (If only there was someone for them to call, who would know what holidays would interfere with gaining an audience-but I digress.)
The Fireworks Festival celebrating the fourth of July is regularly scheduled for the Friday night after the fourth. I live a few city blocks away and usually it does start well after nine, so I could go if I wanted to, I suppose. The same Saturday schedule is true for county fairs, craft shows, the farmer’s market, most one day sales, and the artist (free) outdoor show, a once a year occurrence, just down the street from me. Saturday only!
Last year, another gallery a few towns over invited me as their feature artist. I hung the show on a weekday, instead of the usual Friday. Also, the opening was changed from the usual Saturday to a Sunday. The manager was very inclusive and changed the days for us. Usually, the worry is that there will be fewer people and fewer sales on an alternative schedule. But it was well attended and beautiful. Flowers on the table, wine, cheese, fruit. People ate and drank and talked …and bought. We sold 25% by the end of the show. For people who aren’t involved in the art world, those are good numbers. In fact, the manager said it was the highest selling show in her history. I’m invited back next August.
Imagine my surprise when about three weeks ago a notice appeared on my door. (I hadn’t got a neighborhood notice since I said I couldn’t participate on Saturdays.) The yard sale was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday! After a nice shabbos rest, we emptied our belongings one to the lawn. My friend’s son straightened and arranged the flotsam and jetsam for five dollars and all the Popsicles he could eat. And while it is true that only one other family in the neighborhood set up in their yard on Sunday, a fact I was only told, as they were too far away to see, it was nice to have it extended. We made about half as much as our next-door neighbors did the day before, but in our defense it did rain in the morning for a time and I did price some items low, with the idea that I would rather sell them than have the Rabbi lug them back to the basement.
We had the opportunity to participate-and even though I suppose we could have planned our own-it is nice not to be excluded.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

“Do not hate your neighbor in your heart” Vayikra 19:17

When you are angry with someone, or disappointed or annoyed, what is your first course of action? Do you speak to the person directly and try to sort out the problem? Sometimes when we approach a person with the respect we all deserve and say, “I am upset about something…Can we talk about it?” (Notice the use of “I” statements here. This is because “you” statements such a “You said…” or “You made me mad” or “You probably…” leave a person feeling attacked. This solves nothing, but is like pouring gas on an open flame.)
When we address the problem directly, we find out that the person did not say or do what we think they did or that they didn’t realize our discomfort. How often it is that an off-handed remark can lead to a rift in a friendship. And the tactic we use instead only causes the problem to worsen. That is to complain about it, or more often the person in general, to people who can do absolutely nothing to solve our dispute. Herein lies the problem. Not only do we continue to have negative feelings, but we have started a course of action that we may quickly lose control of. (And it grows, sometimes like a snowball rolled down hill, other times like an avalanche, in proportion to our anger- as in “You know what else bothers me about him!”) Who knows how many times this story or stories will be repeated even after we are finished being mad or find out our assumption was not even true!
The Talmud (Yevamot, 62B) reminds us of the dangers of treating each other with less than the respect we all deserve. “…Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of students…and they all died in one short period of time, because they did not have proper respect for each other.” The period of death finally ended on the thirty-third day of the Omar (Lag BaOmer). How can it be that the students of a brilliant and renowned Rabbi, who taught that the essence of the Torah is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” could lose all of his students in this manner? One theory is that like Moses who tried to shoulder the responsibility for the golden calf, the student took on the responsibility for people not having the proper respect for each other. What a burden that must be!
One of the problems with this approach to ‘problem solving’ is that it assumes mal intent on behalf of the person we are annoyed with. To a degree we assume they knew we were annoyed; that they did it on purpose; that they are ‘out to get us’. (It would be a little funny to see ourselves in this light, if it were not so very sad.)
And the second half is that the problem never gets solved, so our negative feeling grow and fester. Add to that equation speaking Lashon Hara and we have the perfect storm.
Even listening to Lashon Hara is a problem. For one thing we endanger ourselves because we might begin to believe it and we endanger those around us by listening because our mere presence supports and endangers others to believing the rumors are true.
I’m sure you are aware, the Teshuva for speaking Lashon Hara involves: regret, praying to G-d, and a commitment not to repeat the behaviors in the future. In addition, one is required to find all the people who hear the Lashon Hara and tell them that he or she was incorrect. (This is no easy feat, and explains a great deal about why a story reported on the front page of the newspaper will be retracted somewhere near page 6 section C.) One is also required to ask the person harmed to forgive them, but they are not supposed to upset the person by confronting them with a rumor about themselves or cause them distress, so it is permissible to be vague. We don’t want to embarrass or humiliate the person further.
Committing NOT to repeat or believe Lashon Hara, anything that damages the reputation of another, is more demanding that it sounds, but what better time to consider and correct these behaviors than the High Holidays. We have an opportunity to deliberate and reflect on our behaviors, this is our task during the ten days of awe, and atone for them on Yom Kippur.

The Dare List

The List Dare

I can’t help but notice the recurrence of “I Hate” videos. Why so focused on this? I don’t know. Sure it feels great to vent once in a while, but that dissipates quickly and really what is more irritating about the thing(s) you hate most, than to focus on them. How about a ‘joy list’ once in a while, or a ‘love list’, even a ‘like list’ would be interesting and preferable. It seems that depression and angst and disharmony are fashionable. (Master of the obvious says, I am NOT talking about a diagnosis of depression, which is a serious medical condition.) It’s almost as if by not voicing these you are outside of the trend. Maybe it has become taboo to mention being happy?
If anyone has the nerve to make a ‘joy list’ or an ‘I like’ list. I dare you.. I double dare you. Make one and send it to me (and youtube.com) and (space and number not prohibiting.) I’ll post it on my blog! Don’t be trendy! You’re more interesting than that!

Your view of the world changes the world. 