("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
In the early years of the state of Israel, the mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizingoff, visited his Bedouin neighbors in the south. Dizingoff hoped that visits such as his, would open the nomadic culture up to the young, modern state and its peaceful way of life.
Now, Bedouins are a transient group routed in very ancient ways of living. The Bedouin live in tents and tend sheep -- they are also ready to move whole extended families at a moment’s notice. On the one hand, Dizingoff was taken by the primitive conditions that his hosts lived in. It was quite simple -- no television or radio, no modern kitchens or electricity.
At the same time, Dizingoff was treated like royalty and was taken by the old world charm of his visit. The elders of this nomadic community sat with him, fed him and treated him like the most important visitor to their homes and life. The value of such cultural life was not lost on him.
At the end of the visit, Dizingoff profusely thanked his hosts for their hospitality. “Ah!” he was told, “you cannot take leave until you honor us with the best of our customs. When a guest leaves our midst, we offer him/her to take whatever s/he desires as a keepsake of the get-together. “ Not wanting to upset his hosts, Dizingoff reviewed some of the choicest gifts – live goats and sheep but settled on a lamp which he graciously accepted. “I hope to reciprocate soon,” he said as he left.
Sure enough, not too long after, he invited the community elders to his home in Tel Aviv to sample a modern home. He too, served them well and showed them traditional Israeli hospitality. As they took leave, he too, offered them the choice of anything in his home as a keepsake. They went into the kitchen and tried to take the faucet. Dizingoff offered them a replacement from his closet, having already attached the one in the kitchen and with that, the Bedouin departed.
The next day, the elders called their people together. Excited about the possibility of eliminating the need to shelp water for their needs, they extolled the virtue of the faucet and honored their benefactor – Dizingoff – who procured it for them. At the right moment, they opened the faucet and lo and behold, no water emerged. Try as they might to release the water, nothing came out. The people sent their elders back to Dizingoff to figure out why he gave them a dud.
When they returned to Dizingoff, they explained their problem to him. “Sure I can send a plumber” noted the powerful mayor of Tel Aviv. “But, sometimes it is simply a question of where it is connected” he mused. “Connected?” asked the Bedouin elders. “Yes, of course you must connect a faucet to a water source if you want it to work. Faucets don’t bring water by themselves you know!”
Rav Shabsi HaKohein Yudelovich used to explain that the same questions of connection plague modern man in the way that they plague the Bedouin. Often modern man asks the questions we all wonder about : “How will I earn a living? How do I get ahead?” -- and we forget to consider the connections that provide the answer to these questions.
We often need to remember that the answer to modern man is the same answer to ancient man – that we need to remember our connection to Aveinu She’BaShomayim when we are living life in order to remain connected and to allow the sweet waters of existence and success to spring forward. Yirmiyahu bemoans this fact about the Jews when he tells them “Osee Azvu Mekor Mayim Et Hashem” – they left me, the source of live flowing waters.
Often, I wonder what we think our connection to Hashem really is. Is He our punisher who leaves us alone when we are ok? Is He “Big Brother” who has our back when we are in trouble? Is he our loving parent who clears the path for us and protects us no matter what? Is He like a lover – who wants and expects a mutual connection with us and desires us to look up to Him while at the same time making Him proud to be with us? Or perhaps, is He desiring snippets of ALL of these relationships with us?
What and how do YOU consider and relate to Hashem? How aware are we of that relationship when we daven? When we play? When we work? When we take a break? How can we strengthen that relationship and connection?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.