During the busy span bridging Tishri and Chesvan, my husband and I merited to attend several seudot Bnai Mitzvah, a vort, a wedding, a Brit Mila and a Pidyon HaBen. Whereas I am grateful that as invitees at Chassidishe, Litvish, and Dati Leumi sma’achot, respectively, we helped publicize joy, somewhat more profound, for me, was the lesson I learned from some of those celebrations’ guests. I was taught about mirrors.
I am not referring to the fancy, glass-faced, framed objects that allow one to adjust one’s sheitel or lipstick. Rather, I am referring to the fancy, flesh-faced, amorphic objects that allow one to adjust one’s attitude or perspective. I am pointing out that individuals’ self-concepts teach us about them, and, more importantly, about ourselves.
Consider the simcha, where, after I hugged my hostess goodbye, she highlighted, with a small amount of surprise, that I had been sitting at “The Yerushalmi Table.” Reflect, in contrast, on the fellow guest, at a different seudah, who, despite the fact that she is to my hashkafic right, confided that she read some of my secular work and that she wanted to hear more about my writing. Think, in addition, about the celebration where many of the attendees were of a similar religious philosophy to Yours Truly, yet saw fit to scrutinize, audibly, my variety of dress. Last, imagine, again, another case of quite the opposite, at a lovely yeshuv, where generations came together to elevate, and where no disparaging remarks were proffered.
Lifestyle does not necessarily create behavior. Individuals who are comfortable with their choices for acting, for speaking, and for thinking are usually the last to offer criticism to others. It correlates that persons, who are in doubt about whether or not their decisions concerning any of the above manifestations of self are correct, are often the fastest to point out “faults” in others ( watch and see, for instance, who the readers are who hurl unmindful remarks at this posting)
Whereas most of us try to make a practice of mitzvot bein adom l’chaveiro, many of us forget that if left to table talk, this notion has no value. Analogously, knowing how to configure a car engine, but not bothering to learn how to drive, won’t provide haulage.
Sure, most of us, publically and in private, yak about the necessity of not placing stumbling blocks in front of each other, about building achdut across the entirety of Yiddishkeit, and about trying to be tactful of, careful regarding, and even sensitive to each other’s feelings. However, sadly, it remains commonplace for the financially challenged to judge their neighbors’ business ventures, for the sartorially confounded to inquisition their friends over fabric and cut, and for the shidduchless to cast dispersions on their unwed cohorts.
Worse, so familiar, i.e. ordinarily, have these thoughtless, reflexive communications become, within our circles, that as a community, we often fail to notice them. Over and again, we fail to notice that there is goodness both in honoring others’ neshemot and in ignoring the clarion sound of the yetza hara within ourselves.
Fortunately, tzaddikim get up, no matter how many times they fall, no matter how many times they feel discouraged. We can stymie our foul tendency to put other folk down in order to raise ourselves, no matter how fleetingly good such undertakings makes us feel and no matter many times, prior, we elected to define others’ worth in that manner, either passively or aggressively.
Fulfilling our individual missions is not about whether we like that a stranger or an associate wears a fall, a tichel a snood, or no covering at all, is not about whether we accept or reject Ashkenazi or Sephardi hecsherim, and is not about the color, the cost, or the apparent skill in the assemblage of floral arrangements ornamenting a simcha hall. Rather, our personal altitude depends on our replicating the grace, with which each of us has been blessed by HaKadosh Baruch Hu, no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Let us be intact mirrors of light, not, has v’shalom, broken mirrors of the opposite. Let us shine in our service to Hashem, revealing to other individuals what is good and true about them, not what is imperfect, especially as those imperfections are fabricated in our minds rather than in reality. Let us become the sort of vessels with which other people want to examine themselves.
When we attend joyful events, whether or not the host and the other participants live in a similar fashion to us, let us remember that any odd or otherwise distorted illuminations, which we receive about ourselves, are likely the result of cracks or bends in the objectivity of the person articulating reflections, not in our souls. We ought to, as well, try to capture and return as much of the original virtue of the people around us as possible. In doing so, we can improve many lives.