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Reflections from a rendezvous with the Geico Staff

09/12/2012 05:58:50 PM


I mentioned this incident two weeks ago at Shalosh Seudos but wanted to take the opportunity to relay it here again. Clearly the thoughts are simplistic but they are felt, and hopefully expressed, with real sincerity.

Several weeks back after a long day and night in the Yeshiva, I returned back to the garage to find that one of my tires was completely flat. With as much good cheer as one can muster at 11:30 at night, I called Geico and was connected with a wonderfully polite woman with a distinctly deep South accent. After relaying all of the particulars and arranging for the road service, she and I began to chat and soon got into a rather lengthy conversation about balancing family and work and the toll it takes on a mother to have to work such late hours. She relayed to me with evident pride some of her kids accomplishments and we hung up the phone with her wishing me a 'wonderful new year' (she figured out pretty quickly that I was a New York Jew).

A half an hour later, the African American gentlemen from Pop-a- Lock arrived to replace the flat and soon enough a similar conversation ensued. He figured that because I was working in YU that I must be a Rabbi and he soon enough expressed to me his trepidation as a parent of two young children as to how to raise his kids engaged in the world but sheltered from all of the lurking dangers and depravity that often feel like a click away. Before long he was pulling out the pictures and we were comparing notes about what it was like the first time we became fathers.

I finally got into my car at 12:30 A.M for the drive home with a real feeling of being in raptures with the world at large. I couldn't help but feel, and in turn be inspired by the feeling, that at heart there is this amazing connection between most of the world's billions of inhabitants. I'm living in a totally different orbit from the one inhabited by a non- Jewish woman from Alabama, or from an African American man from Staten Island working for Geico, but at heart we are three people who love and worry about our kids, who try to be a good friend and neighbor and who want to eke out a living and do a little good in the world. That's not to discount the fact that there are whole nations of people who would rather have Israel wiped off of the map, but I believe that in a larger sense there is a unifying thread that bonds us in a meaningful way to most of the worlds inhabitants.

As I was driving home struggling to stay awake, I was thinking that if this 'cosmic' bond exists within the human race than how much more so should we feel this ethereal connection within the nation of Israel. Perhaps we have become insensitive to the impact of Moshe Rabbeinu's last speech in which he cemented a bond between all members of klal yisrael when he proclaimed 'atem nitzavim hayom kulchem'- you are all here, you all share a national responsibility to eachother. Perhaps lost in our chinuch of our children is the overriding dictate of ahavas yisroel which is born out of our shared national past and should have been cemented through centuries of an equal measure of triumphs and tribulations. Every significant experience in klal yisroel's history, from the exodus through mattan Torah to the settlement of the land of Israel and everything since is predicated on the simple reality that there is an entity called knesses yisroel whose bonds should be no less meaningful than those of one's own nuclear family.

It goes without saying that the motif of national unity is particularly potent during the Yamim Noraim. The gemara informs us that the entire nation (and the whole world for that matter) faces judgment on Rosh HaShana. Its not enough to feel like the singular sheep passing in front of the Ribbono Shel Olam as 'he' stands in judgment. Rather, Chazal demands us to consider the chayal on the front lines in Israel, both the health and the future of the state of Israel, the choleh fighting for their life in place unknowns, as well as our neighbor who might be struggling under the weight of life's burdens. This is no small task, but I believe that the reward for this communal sensitivity is the ability to feel a certain national embrace that is hard to quantify but is nonetheless very real to those who open themselves to it.

We should be zoche to experience a year of bracha for ourselves and for our families. It should be G-d's will that we can relish and share in those blessings jointly and collectively by a nation deeply and passionately connected.

With warm wishes for an inspired Yom Tov and a meaningful and successful year ahead.

R' Blass

Fri, May 7 2021 25 Iyyar 5781