HAPPY HEART

Typically, a visit to Israel for me consists of visiting relatives as well as taking in the sites. There were three sites I took in during this most recent trip, two of which I was totally unprepared for.

After dining at a pricey restaurant in Tel Aviv last Thursday night (not my style), rather than hail a cab, Shirah and I opted to embark on a 15 minute walk to the Arlozorov bus station to catch a bus back to Jerusalem (very much my style.) En route, we encountered a daughter pushing her elderly mother in a wheelchair. In all likelihood, the mother had sustained a stroke, given her unintelligible speech. It was however evident, that the mother had taken an immediate shine to me, in that she reached out to me with her good arm. Hand in hand,we walked for about 5 minutes, as I made small talk with the daughter. The daughter informed me that her mother’s native tongue was French. With the bus station across the street, it was time for daughter and mother to go their own way as well. Thereupon, I took the hand I had been holding, pressed it to my lips, turned to the mother and said, “Tres enchantez. Bon soir!” The smile on the mother’s face along with the smile on the daughter’s face was only equaled by the smile on my heart, knowing that I had made a difficult situation just that much better, even if it was only for a mere 5 minutes.

The bus to Jerusalem was already boarding. I handed the driver a 50 Shekel bill and said, “Two for Jerusalem.” “You’ll have to take your seats. You’re blocking the door. You can pay me later,” said the bus driver. Shirah and I took our seats and settled in for the 45 minute trip to Jerusalem. Upon arrival, I suggested to Shirah that we wait until everybody was off the bus, lest I hold anyone up as I paid the driver for the trip. “I owe you for the two of us,” I explained to the driver. “Look, I’m tired,” said the bus driver. “On your next trip to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, you’ll pay double.” Never in my life had this ever happened to me before! There was no way the bus driver could have known what transpired between me and the woman in the wheel chair. Was it an immediate reward from HaShem? But haven’t I taught any number of times, that HaShem does not interfere in interpersonal behavior, whether it be good or bad? And so, rather than rather than spend the rest of the evening trying to make sense of what just happened, I decided to add yet another smile  to my heart.

Little did I realize that I would be going for a trifecta that evening. The lobby of the hotel at which we typically stay is known for the “dating scene” that takes place in the Orthodox Jewish world. Because their culture is so unique, dating amounts to a one evening event – two evenings if absolutely necessary – on “neutral territory.” Hence the hotel lobby. While waiting for the elevator, I had the opportunity  to take in one particular scene. The young man was sartorial in dress; the young lady was clad in the very best of taste. A number of empty soda bottles on the little table in front of them, testified that they were enjoying each other’s company. The smiles on their faces confirmed this. And once again, there was yet another smile on my heart.

This time however the smile was different. Aside from shepping naches, that young love was very much in bloom, I could not help but wonder if marriage were in fact to ensue from this meeting, would the opportunity present itself over the years for either of them to have a smile on the heart because of a kindness done by either of them to a compete stranger? Alternately, would there be a smile on the heart because of a kindness done to either of them by a complete stranger?

Fifty years ago, Andy Williams hit the airwaves with a song known as “Happy Heart.” For me a happy heart became a reality – three times no less – within a very short period of time in Israel. Should any one ask me “How was Israel” I might just be inclined to respond: :Heartfelt and heart filled”.

 

THE DEATHS OF THOSE WHO SERVE HIT A NERVE

In the aftermath of last week’s carnage, the city of Dallas immediately responded with a vigil held at Thanksgiving Square at noon on Friday. Over the weekend, any number of clergy in the city held special prayer services at their respective congregations. Kol HaKavod! G-d bless them! As one who has participated and even hosted similar events over the years, I cannot help but feel that as necessary as these vigils and services are, that such gatherings are as much for the average Dallas resident, parishioner and congregant as they are for the victims and their families. Having never met those whose lives were snuffed out last Thursday or those in the hospital either fighting for their lives or on the road to recovery, we feel helpless. In addition to making a statement to the families that we are aware of their sorrow, in addition to reminding society that carnage and mayhem will be met with neither indifference nor silence on our parts, we feel the need to do something. We show solidarity.
Solidarity, real solidarity must not in any way be limited to attending a vigil or prayer service. For those of us who’s hearts truly go out to the families of Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa, why not try to find out more find out the bereft parents and siblings as well as the widows, widowers and orphans left behind? Perhaps funds have been established to which contributions can be made. If you are not a fund person, then perhaps you can adopt a family. After the initial shock wears off and the survivors attempt to return to normal everyday living, why not send a card, drop a note or write a letter? As much as a “mitzvah” as it is to be present at a vigil or to attend a memorial service, it’s an even “bigger mitzvah” to reach out to the stricken families after they have become yesterday’s or last month’s news. A note to bereaved family members from a complete stranger thanking them for sharing their loved one, so that he/she could protect the residents of this city quite often means more than you can imagine.
For those who are react “Jewishly” and go into “pay a Shivah call mode” there’s no reason why you can’t convert a Shivah platter into an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner, assuming the family is pretty much all alone. Better yet, let Tiferet share in your mitzvah. Anyone who brings family of stricken Dallas Police Force officers to one of our many Shabbat dinners throughout the year does so compliments of Tiferet. Just get them here and the meal for both host and guest is on us!
As Jews, we have a unique role. We can reach out to the family and tell them that even though we cannot in any way fathom their distress, much less feel their pain, we do share something in common. Because of our history, we know what it is like to lose our loved ones for no other reason that they were Jews. To those who have lost loved ones for no other reason than they were police officers, please know that you are not alone and that we have a hug waiting for you.