Thoughts on the challenges of being a chossid (or trying) in a modern world.
Fellow Lubs are most welcome to read and share and comment. Chabad-haters and agitators, please find another place to troll.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Leverage, Diversity and Unity

I was sitting at the kotel recently on Shabbos morning (OK, very late morning) thinking about saying hareini mekabel. Davening at the kotel is always a treat - besides being as physically close as possible to the holiest place on earth, I love Yerushalayim and just walking around soaking in the atmosphere.

The kotel is magnet for all sorts - sefardim & ashkenazim, chassidim & misnagdim, Jews of every affiliation and plenty of non-Jews too. The person next to me is a tourist - no idea if he's Jewish or not - and approaches the wall with arms outstretched and immerses himself in whatever engagement with God works for him. Next to him is another who is writing a note - again I have no idea if he is Jewish or not. But what they all have in common is a sincerity and respect and a desire to commune with the Divine - with something greater than themselves.

I'm struck by the well known vort about the effect of getting closer to the source. In Australia, we all daven facing north west. In the US and Europe, it's east. But as we get closer to Yerushalayim, our practices diverge. People in Tzefas daven to the south, but in Beersheva they face north. Within Yerushalayim, the divergence grows: people in different suburbs are davening in different directions. The principle is that the closer we get to the source, the more exaggerated are our differences.

In addition, the closer we get to the source, the greater the homogeneity of Jews gathering together. In communities and shuls around the world, we cluster with those similar to us. But in Israel, and especially at the kotel, it's the most diverse mix you will ever encounter.

Archimedes famously said: give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world. It's a similar principle - the closer we get to the mokom hamikdosh, the greater the diversity and the leverage.

This concept of "leverage" applies not only in space, but also in time. The current weekly parshios talk about the Ovois, and as we know ma'asei avos siman l'bonim. We see in the meforshim many instances where the actions of the Ovois had a huge impact in future generations - to many people many years in the future.

But back to the kotel and my quest to say hareini mekabel. Being confronted by such visible differences between Jews, I am equally struck by the one thing we have in common - a holy neshomo that is a chelek Elokah mima'al mamosh. Thinking about that made it easy to press ahead with davening. But the anomaly is that in our more remote communities, where we are all more similar, we have a tendency to focus on our differences. This doesn't have to be the case.

This week chassidim from all over the world have converged in Crown Heights for the annual "battery recharge" that is the shluchim convention. They comes from different communities large and small, near and far, with different challenges and issues. But what unites them all is their affiliation and their mission. And that's something they can all take back with them as they return to "regular life" - that we are simultaneously diverse and united.

We all need that regular recharge - where we step back from the forest of daily life and reflect on the bigger picture. With that levered perspective, we can see things we don't usually see, and bring those positives back into our daily lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment