Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reprisals

So I was asked to write up my experiences in CT for the Lubavitch paper in, where else, CT. It's a bit soppy, and you've read most parts, but I'm too lazy to write anything else. And with that fabulous introduction, here it goes!

When I first found out that I was coming to Litchfield, CT, with my friend Yossi, I thought, "Wow, Connecticut? Does anything interesting ever happen there?" I spent last summer in Kansas, and blogged about my experiences on the great plains. This year, I wondered, would I have anything to blog about? Turns out that I did. For example, I met a wonderful old Jewish man, named Wolf, who shared some truly inspiring stories with me. Here's one:

In 1938, when Wolf was 15, the Germans kicked all foreign-born Jews out of Germany. All these Jews were thoroughly Germanized, and it came as a big shock to them. These Jews had originally left Poland ten or twenty years before in order to find a better life, and they had done so in Germany. Even though they had become German citizens, the Nazis decided to deport them. They were brought to the border on a Thursday, and put outside German territory. The Polish Government didn't want to accept them, as they were officially German citizens. The Germans had stripped them of their citizenship, so they weren't citizens of anywhere.

The local Rebbe managed to bribe the guards to allow the Jews through, but the only time they could do it was on Shabbat. All the townspeople went to the border, with their horses and wagons, and brought their fellow Jews to the town, though they had to go outside the Eruv (enclosure in which one may transport certain objects on Shabbos), as Wolf noted. Once everyone came back safely, there arrived the additional problem of food, as no one had prepared for the guests. Back in the day, everyone used to make Cholent in their homes and then bring it to the baker's oven to cook until Shabbat afternoon. The Rebbe announced that all the Cholent was now owned by the community, and would be distributed to the refugees. The townspeople went home and ate herring and crackers.

It's amazing when you realize the Mesiras Nefesh that people had, and still have. The realization that nothing is mine, but rather it is yours; the understanding that we are not put here on this earth to serve others, but rather to serve our fellow men.

Another time, we visited with a Jewish man who's currently incarcerated in a hospital prison ward. We discussed reward and punishment, which seemed a bit strange, because this man was currently in the midst of a pretty long punishment. In the middle of our discussion on Teshuva, wherein I mentioned that Teshuva is properly not repentance but rather return, he mentioned something along the lines of "Well, I did a big sin. I killed my parents." I didn't quite know what to say, and just responded with a "hmm". The conversation continued unabated, and I explained how no one is inherently evil, no matter how heinous a crime he or she has committed. If anything, their soul has merely become covered; all they really need to do is wipe off the grime. He seemed to appreciate that, and I suppose that answered my questions on punishment as well. G-d doesn't want us to suffer, but sometimes he has to do a little scouring, much as we wash dishes to make them sparkle again.

We also met a lot of Jewish people in old-age homes, and in hospitals as well. At the time, I wrote, "This afternoon we went to the Waterbury hospital and I put Tefillin on a guy who can't speak with his mouth; it didn't matter, because his eyes spoke louder than words ever could. Funny, you read a sentence like that, and think, "Man, TRS is being trite and illogical, eh?" Funny thing is, it's the truth. He really did communicate with his eyes." I look back and realize that it's really true, isn't it? Words are merely echoes of the soul, and when there are no words, the soul can speak clearly. For a Jew, no matter where they are, or in what situation, is always connected to Hashem, and he sends his messengers to help. Here I was, thinking that I was doing a favor, coming out to Connecticut, but the truth is, Connecticut did me the favor.

12 comments:

yossi Beenstock said...

where was this published?

The Real Shliach said...

I'm not sure if it has/was/will be published. Rabbi Eisenbach asked me to write it up, and I did so.

Cheerio said...

awwwwwwwwwwwww.

The Real Shliach said...

Huh?

Cheerio said...

it's so, so (sniff) beautiful! your deep feeling and genuine emotion expressed in such eloquence.

The Real Shliach said...

And girls wonder why I don't like their blogs. I suppose I should take this as a compliment, but I think that it's merely exposing my aversion for sap and pretense.

My whole life is a joke, and she thinks I have deep feeling and genuine emotion. Oh man, that didn't sound right. Oy, this whole comment doesn't sound right. Whatever.

Cheerio said...

you don't like my blog?!!?
and only take it as a compliment if it was intended as a compliment.
so what makes your whole life a joke? and what makes you think i think you're capable of genuine emotion, and i wasn't just mocking your trite imitation of actual genuine emotion?

The Real Shliach said...

Yes, yes I like both your blogs. In general, I can't stand soppy shtuff, but mercifully you generally manage to avoid it, which is more than I can say for a lot of female Lubavitchers.

I meant that I treat my whole life as a joke. It is undoubtedly quite a serious matter, but I refuse to deal with this.

If you were mocking me, then A. I'm impressed, and B. is this guidance on my tentative acceptance of the potential compliment?

Cheerio said...

awwww, now my ego is quite contented. it intrigues me that you think i manage to avoid "soppy shtuff"; i have had other readers complain that there is a proliferation of such material on my blog.
as for treating your whole life as a joke - there may be better ways to approach it, but those aren't half as fun for the people reading about it.
and A: thank you
B: indeed.

The Real Shliach said...

Remember, I've only been reading your blogs for a relatively short period of time. Perhaps you've only recently been tightening up your style and avoiding mush.

Better ways? Pray tell, what are they? I long to know.

A. You're most welcome.
B. So I suppose you dis/liked it?

Cheerio said...

perhaps. it is a natural impulse that i have been trying to avoid in my writing recently. although when i have something serious or beautiful to say, i do try to say it, whether or not it might fall under the classification of "soppy shtuff". and despite being a recent reader, i think you've been exposed to a variety of my writing styles. except poetry, maybe.
better ways: seriously. optimistically. pompously. (ok, that might not actually be better.) focusedly. (and that might not actually be a word). goal orientedly. happily. lovingly. spiritually.
but still - none of those are as entertaining.
and A: thank you for saying your welcome.
B: it just wasn't the style of trs that i enjoy.

The Real Shliach said...

Yeah, I suppose that beautiful and serious things sometimes need to be said, but still, there is a way to say them; unfortunately, many people haven't learned this way.

Seriously=Boring. Optimistically=I am basically an optimist. That doesn't mean that I have to take life seriously though- it just means that I believe that no matter what sort of mess I generate there'll always be the great shower of life, ready to wash me off. Pompously-I don't think I could pull it off for more than ten seconds without laughing. Focused-on what exactly? Goal oriented-the worst word in the human condition is "goal". Happily-I can be happy without taking life seriously. At least, I think I can. Lovingly-honestly, I don't even know what that means. Spiritually-sounds truly horrendous. I'm not a big fan of spiritual people.
"But still..." Have truer words even been typed?
A. It was my pleasure.
B. Ahh! The truth comes out! Don't worry, it shouldn't happen again. BTW, did I fake it well? Would an uninterested observer realize my disgust with my own writing in this case?