Last evening, my husband and I went on our first post-winter walk around the neighborhood and we bumped into another couple we have known for several years, Fern and Alan.
“I love your blog!” was her enthusiastic greeting to me.” And I think last week’s was the best.”
“I’m having trouble this week,” I confessed.
I had started on more than one and nothing felt quite right.
“I’ll tell you what to write about,” she said in that unique Jewish woman way. “We were invited to a Seder on Sunday. Can you believe how people change things in Judaism just for the sake of convenience?”
“That’s pretty crazy,” I told her, “but I don’t think I can write about that.”
We chatted a bit more, then she had another suggestion.
“Why don’t you write about something that was hard for you, I don’t know, maybe when you wanted to wear a halter top and couldn’t anymore.”
I told her it’s hard to remember things like that because I became observant so many years ago. I do remember some things feeling hard, but those hard feelings are long gone.
I remember it was hard to say goodbye to almost perfectly good dishes, almost perfectly good clothes, an almost perfectly good television set, and our beloved pastime, going to almost perfectly good restaurants.
But I laugh about those “hards” because, for one reason or another, none of them is hard now. The outer parts of my life were easier to get rid of.
What’s hard now is not judging people, especially people who, come to think of it, make Seders on Sunday.
I know I shouldn’t judge them because they didn’t see what I saw. Or if they saw it, for reasons I can’t judge, they looked away.
But when I went on that Shabbaton twenty-seven years ago and saw observant Bubbes and Zaidies having Shabbos lunch with their observant grandchildren, talking about what G-d wants from us as Jews and the purpose for the world’s existence, I knew I wanted to try to become that Bubbe.
It is only with G-d’s infinite help and that of the Rebbe and his emissaries that my husband and I merited to actually do it.
Interestingly, the word seder means “order.” Just like there’s an order to the Passover meal on the fourteenth of Nissan (no matter what day of the week it occurs), I sensed there was a seder, an order, to all of Jewish life. If I wanted to try to become that Bubbe, I couldn’t pick and choose; it had to be all or nothing. How could I think I was smarter than G-d Who created me?
I must say that some concepts were harder to grasp than others. I still remember exactly when Mrs. Miriam Nadoff, a”h, introduced me to the Chassidic precept that a Jew does not separate himself from G-d unless overtaken by a ruach shtus, a spirit of folly likened to temporary insanity. With a living part of G-d inside our souls, only temporary insanity can explain why we speak negatively, eat improperly, and behave in ways that deny what our G-dly soul knows. This temporary insanity “fools” us into un-G-dly behavior by telling us that it doesn’t matter, that we will still be close to G-d, no matter how we behave.
At first I struggled with the concept of the soul’s temporary insanity, but if it was part of the order of Jewish life, I knew I had to try to refine myself to a place where I could internalize it. I’m not tempted by the same “folly” of wearing something I shouldn’t, but I still struggle with my own insane urge to judge other Jews–something my soul knows not to do–especially those Jews who think I’m insane for doing what I do.
And it’s hard not to judge them.
So why is it part of G-d’s order that I have to care about them?
Because no matter how much of G-d’s order I have tried to put in my own family’s life, we are all out of order until our entire Jewish family is in order.
It’s hard to see the suffering–and the insanity–but it’s even harder because I know that G-d doesn’t want it to be this way.
It’s hard because I wish I could more successfully make the point that the same G-d that freed us from Egypt, gave us our Jewish souls and made us His Chosen People, wants us to ask Him to bring Moshiach, to free us once and for all from golus, the exile that began when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
Because until Moshiach comes, we all make Sunday Seders –bending G-d’s eternal Truth for a short term sell-out.
We have been saying “Next Year in Jerusalem” long enough.
So, the question then is, if someone doesn’t know to ask or refuses to ask G-d to bring Moshiach, has the “temporary insanity” found a permanent home within him?
Maybe, but either way, I will try not to judge him.
Because now more than ever, the unconditional love for a fellow Jew is in order, especially when it’s a tall order.
And that, for sure, will help to bring Moshiach, maybe even before the Seder.