This post will be non-political. It is something personal, yet something universal.

The local post office notified me: a package has arrived for me from abroad. I wasn't expecting anything – but don't we all love surprises? Off went I to retrieve the mysterious package. Walking to the post office I daydreamed about all the possibilities: books sent by a thoughtful friend? An inflatable sail boat? A desperate message from some castaway on a deserted island – deserted, that is, except for a post office?

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I received a heavy package, supposedly sent by my brother who has recently removed himself from Chicago to Utah (don't ask, I'm stumped, too). What could it be? Walking home my daydreams were suddenly overshadowed by nightmares: what if it's a bomb sent by a less-than-enthusiastic reader of my blog? Gulp! Arriving home – my wise, wonderful wife reassured me that the handwriting on the package was indeed my brother's, and "besides", she consoled me, "you're not important enough for someone to bother to send you a personal bomb by mail". She had a point. Besides – the postage cost was over eighty dollars.


I enthusiastically opened the package, incidentally discovering my brother's talent for packaging in a way meant to withstand normal efforts at opening! Ultimately succeeding (we are the start-up nation, after all) I fished out the contents. The good stuff was photographs and letters – aerogrammes to be exact, almost like ancient archeological artifacts.

A few photographs were of me, from a five-week-old baby up to a cap-n'-gowned graduating senior almost seventeen years later. These were helpful to those of my kids with kids who could now compare between their kids and grandpa. Most were small black-and-white photographs taken in the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp, after the Holocaust, where my parents had met. I recognized my parents, but as to the rest – I pored over every face, wondering what their stories were before, during and after the Holocaust, and since the pictures were taken.

The letters had been sent to me forty-one years before, from friends who were already in Israel at the time and wrote to me, a high-school senior in Chicago who expected to make aliya after graduation. At that age we were very pure, innocent, and idealistic. Wouldn't it be great if you could receive a letter from your younger, more idealistic and optimistic self? I did, more or less. Those letters reconnected me to that purer and idealistic stage in life. One friend who was already studying Torah – Judaism – in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) wrote this to me:

"By the way, how's your learning coming along? (Torah-study, which was my main point of concentration then.) I got a report that you've been fooling around (that doesn't mean what you think! It just means I wasn't studying seriously)… and haven't taken your learning too seriously. My friend… you should be pushing yourself to learn well. OK? I want you to really know what you're doing, backwards and forwards – not just to be able 'fake people out' so they think your mind runs like a computer! My friend – we both know it doesn't. It's like when people tell me I'm smart. I know it's not true – but I only know what I sit down and sweat over. We have to live for ourselves, to know that we're good in our eyes and feel that we're moving up in G-d's estimation, not just in the eyes of other people… If you want me to 'mind my own business' let me know, but somehow my friends are my business, know what I mean? A real friend… is one who criticizes you and whom you criticize – no one getting insulted, but the opposite – being glad there's someone who cares. That's why if I don't sense a certain feeling of warmth on the side of a person – a feeling of sincerity – I don't attempt to 'acquire' them as a friend because they will not care about me enough to risk their 'popularity' with me – in order to criticize me."

Reading the letter I thought: "Wow! I need to read this often, to remind myself to be true to my ideals and live up to them!"

So dear S.G. (formerly S.), a real friend, wherever you may be: message taken. Thanks.








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