Thursday, July 8, 2010

Parshios Matos-Masei 5770

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Matos-Masei– Avos perek 2

27 Tamuz 5770/ /July 9, 2010

Did you ever hear anyone described as a “typical New Yorker”? Exactly what is it that makes someone a “typical New Yorker?”

The way I see it, it means that although he might know in the back of his mind that there are places that exist outside New York, to the “typical New Yorker” all of those places are peripheral, and they all seem to meld together in one nebulous blur.

It's been wisely said that to the ADHD child his temporal world is limited to two measurements of time: "now" and "not now". To the ADHD child ten minutes from now falls under the same category as three weeks from now; they are both "not now".

In a certain sense New Yorkers have ‘geographical ADHD’. To them there is only “New York” and "not New York". Therefore, there is little difference between California and Boston – they are both “not New York” and so that’s all that matters.

I admit that in that way I could at times be accused of bring a ‘typical New Yorker’. In last week’s Stam Torah I recounted a story from our dear neighbor Scott Kaplan. In a footnote I wrote that Scott spends most of his time teaching Torah in Dallas. On Shabbos a friend pointed out that Scott actually is stationed in Houston not Dallas. However, as a typical New Yorker to me there is virtually no difference between Dallas and Houston (except maybe for the fact that the Astros play in Houston and the Cowboys play in Dallas). The truth is that it's amazing that I got the state right.

In fact I once asked Scott if he knew my older brother R' Yitzie who lives in Chesterfield, Missouri. I reasoned that after all, Chesterfield and Dallas are practically neighboring cities; they are both basically in the southwest. I should mention that when Scott replied that he had never met my brother I told him that I was disappointed because I was under the impression that they were friendlier down south. I didn’t think they snubbed their neighbors down there.

My faux pas with Scott’s hometown brought to mind the following incident: A number of months ago I was in Manhattan for an educational seminar. As I was waiting for the bus to take me back to Monsey in the late afternoon, a man asked me if I knew directions around the city. I apologized and said that I wasn't from the area and couldn't help him. As he walked away he muttered audibly, "Oh that's right, you people are from Israel!"

I am unsure if the comment was said facetiously but it did make me think. Essentially he was right but do I truly believe that I belong in Israel? Do I really hope to become a "typical Yerushalmi (Jerusalemite)" instead of a ‘typical New Yorker’?

A true "Yerushalmi" also classifies the whole world into two groups - “Yerushalayim” and "not Yerushalayim", or at least “Ha’aretz” (The Land) and “Chutz La’aretz” (Outside The Land). But that distinction does not emerge from arrogance and hubris. Rather it stems from an awareness of the privilege to be a resident in G-d's city.

As the laws of the Three Weeks of mourning intensify as Tisha B’av rapidly approaches it’s something to think about. If we really aspire to become “typical Yerushalmis”, it’s not just a matter of attitude about where we live, but we must also ensure that we will be able to ‘fit into the neighborhood’. And when Moshiach arrives soon, fitting in entails that we are ready to live in the opulent grandeur of the Palace of the Supreme King.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum