Makor Rishon columnist Yair Agmon wrote a great piece last week on the need for more “Rakut” — literally “softness” — in Israeli society. I wrote something similar in honor of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, in search of more Ahavat Yisrael. Alas, we who dwell here in Zion, who would help anyone with all our hearts in time of need, often overly honk our car horns and behave gruffly in public situations.
Where can we learn the art of patience, how to smile and breathe more, and berate less?
Last night, my son struck up a conversation with an older passenger on the bus. He asked him what his favorite bus line in Jerusalem was. That led to an interesting exchange with a lovely, veteran Oleh from Ukraine, who was not used to being noticed by charming young Israelis:)
Perhaps the secret of going that little extra mile for others begins with our own internal security and values. What I do and what I don’t do.
This connects us to the list of illicit relations in this week’s Parsha, which reminds us that sexual morality and fidelity are innovations of our Torah. Moshe teaches us that the common behaviors of the nations surrounding us in ancient times are anathema to the Jewish people. These laws limit and protect both men and women, and animals too. They nullify the option of “free love” and reinforce the sanctity of the family. They establish most importantly, that even within family, relationships must be respected.
It is beautiful and encouraging that family life is still a high priority in modern Israel, and that our birth rate — about 3.2 children per family — is the only one on the rise among the OECD nations. This, in stark contrast to Europe whose 1.5 birth rate is far below the replacement rate for maintaining any society.
The fact that every fourth person in Israel is under the age of 14 does not mean, of course, that we have arrived. We need to work hard to preserve and pass on values of family and morality — in our homes and in our daily interactions.
Once we are sure of our red lines and priorities, we can reach outwards with “largeness”(another great Israeli term), not worry about being taken advantage of, or that we need to fight to the end to get that parking spot.
We can learn to smile freely, and surprise and uplift people all around us.
People who smiled too much in Soviet cultures were considered either stupid or crazy.
But we are not in Russia anymore, and Israel could use more smiles, respect, and gentleness.