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Filth and Loathing

  06/08/14 06:07, by , Categories: General

This comment has been brewing since we read Parashat Kedoshim, particularly the lines at Leviticus 19:17, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and you shall not bear a sin because of him.” It was restated by William Blake thus:

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake

So I asked a Rabbi, “What then if I did share it and the response was ‘Meh’?” It got me thinking. I'm a lawyer; I do that. Perhaps my problem here is the premise. Am I mistakenly thinking of the Jews with whom I share a community as my brother or my fellow, or is it just that I have not communicated effectively?

I have this notion stuck in my head that if we believe that the land we live on is holy, we should share a commitment to having it appear so. As the chosen people, we “should” do a lot of things - not steal, be nice to each other on the roads, basically just give a damn about each other - but the thing that gets my goat, and has since I landed here, is the filth. I have written blog post after post after post after post and even shared a web page on the topic, but I suppose a lot of that energy just vanished into the ether.

So I write again because a Rabbi suggested that if we do not reprove, we allow ourselves to hate, and that is a sin, because everything can supposedly be resolved through communication, and because I don't particularly harbor much love for my “brother” at the moment, and perhaps in sharing with him my sensitivity, I can allow my “wrath to end."

So here it is. It drives me to distraction when I see dozens of people walk over the same piece of garbage to enter the synagogue without taking the moment to pick it up, when the event has passed and the sign for it, and especially the tape used to hold it up, continue to stain the windows and walls, when the flowers and flags put up in celebration stay up until they are wilted and tattered, when the secretary of the Yishuv steps out waiting for a guest in front of the building and does nothing to pick up the garbage on the lawn, when parents sit in a playground and don't make it a nice place to play, when the place I have cleaned today has the wrappers of candies and ices and plastic bags and coffee cups and what not tomorrow, when someone's kid puts the household garbage on a pile of construction waste, the animals come to tear it up, and no resident of the community does anything to clean it up, when the wrappers from the candies thrown at the last happy occasion litter the ground outside the synagogue and I feel like I am the only one to pick up after, when a cleaned dining hall means that there is a stream of waste outside of it, or when the bonfire is over, but the fuel that was not burnt stays to litter the fire sites for months.

So I renew my request. Be my partner. Pick a spot to keep clean, or just make a commitment to picking up a few pieces of trash every time you are on your way. Train your kids to do the same. It's not somebody else's job, and even if it were, it would be the right thing to pitch in, here, and in school, and in life. Perhaps we should give it an even bigger context. If we go back to Leviticus 19:14, it is said that we should put no stumbling block before the blind. For those who might not be inclined to see the beauty that you see, any distraction is that stumbling block. If we really want people to see the beauty that we see in the world, we should make sure there is nothing that might take the eye away from that.

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