your fellow man

January 19 2022, Golders Green, London, United Kingdom

I am a visitor here but I feel right at home. A Jew is always at home in a synagogue, any where in the world. So a few days ago I stumble into a synagogue, a shul, in an unmarked building. This is a highly Jewish area and yet the custom here is not to mark Jewish houses of prayer in any way, lest it provoke an Anti-Semite. 

Jews have lived in these parts for close to 2 millennium and have developed a way of life, a way of fitting in, keeping a low profile, and trying to maintain their balance while not provoking the Jew-haters. Thus the image of the Fiddler on the Roof, trying to keep your balance, standing on the roof while playing the violin and not falling down...(obviously not a flat roof)

I am welcomed and greeted as a member; where do you come from (with my strange American accent, and Israeli pronunciation of Hebrew)? What brings you here? Where are you staying? How long are you staying? Do you know anyone? What do you do for a living?

We are Jews, family, and they know it is OK to ask these questions. It is a Heimish feeling, a warm feeling of home. 

The rabbi speaks in Yiddish, the Germanic dialect of European Jews, everyone understands. I look into my prayer book and I feel a sense of peace. 

The morning prayers; These are things which a man eats their fruit (dividends) in this lifetime and the principal remains for the World to Come; And here they are: Honoring father and mother, acts of random loving kindness, rising early to the house of study, morning and evening, taking in guests who are in need of help, visiting the sick and helping a new bride get married and start a home, accompanying the dead on his final journey, analyzing the meaning of prayer, and bringing peace between man and his friend, his fellow man, and the study of the Torah is equal in weight to all these combined. (for the study of Torah will bring you to correct and proper behavior).

These are words in our daily prayers which I have been saying daily since I am a child, and yet this morning, for some unknown reason, I felt them in a different light. Acts which we enjoy the dividends, the fruits in this world and yet the Principal investment stays with us, to the World to Come. That is indeed an excellent investment. Bringing peace between man and his fellow man, and it made me think...

Two friends are having a dispute, a falling out, why get involved? Yet we are told, among this very short list of incredible investments of your time and efforts this is included, bringing peace between man and his fellow man. What a powerful message. Yesterday I had the rare privilege of crossing the famous Abby Road crossing in London, where the Beatles where photographed for the legendary album of that name. One of their earlier songs was, "We Can Work it Out". and I have always believed that two reasonable people should be able to work out their differences. We can work it out, bringing peace between man and his fellow man. These are acts of great importance, they make the "short list" of our daily prayers. 

A misused word, a misunderstanding, an oversight, and a friendship can be ruined. But there is no reason for this. Thus the rabbis tell us...and bringing peace between man and his fellow man. We can work it out. Any two reasonable people should be able to work out their differences, as long as there is good will. But we forget, and we get angry, and jealous and stubborn. So every morning, EVERY morning, as part of our prayers, we are required to repeat these words, and ...Bringing peace between man and his fellow man. For this we receive an eternal reward, for this we are blessed in this life and the next. It is simple and yet so difficult. To forgive, to see another's point of view, for life is too short for arguing. 

Life is very short, and there's no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend
I have always thought that it's a crime
So I will ask you once again

Try to see it my way
Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong
While you see it your way
There's a chance that we might fall apart before too long
We can work it out  (Lennon, McCartney)

Back to the prayer book. I believe the order of the prayers is no accident, if one pays attention there is profound meaning in the order. We continue; My God, the soul that you gave me, it is pure, you created it, you formed it, you gave it life within me and you preserve it within me and you are destined to take it away from me and to restore it in the future

and the words feel profound. All around me is the sound of prayer, a warm feeling envelops me and I feel elevated. If we remind ourselves daily that we all are born with a pure soul, then we can believe that we can improve, we can believe that we can work out our differences. If we believe in a pure soul we can believe that we can settle disputes and ...Bring peace between man and his fellow man. In this one little paragraph we are reminded of how temporary life is, how it comes and...goes. As the words continue...As long as the soul is within me I thank you God...

And the message is that the difference between the souls in bodies and the souls who have relinquished their bodies is that those of us who still posses a body have the ability to Act. We have the ability to make changes, we have the ability to right the wrongs. As the soul of the famous Yossele the Holy Miser from the 15th century Poland said to the rabbi in a dream, speaking from the afterlife, "The only thing I miss about this life is the ability to give to others, how I yearn for one more opportunity to help out the needy." 

We live in a time where everybody minds their own business, but Jews have never been that way; your business is my business, your wrongdoing is my responsibility. Yes, it can be a little annoying and invasive, but it is genuine, there is a sense of community and you are never alone. And yes, if two friends had a falling out, it is your obligation to make an effort to Bring Peace between Man and his fellow man. And the reward on this investment is very generous. 

As I walk out of the synagogue, the shul, I feel uplifted, by the prayers, by the warm reception of the people. I take a cup of coffee, a piece of cake, generously donated by members of the congregation, and I walk out on a cloud, determined to become a better person. And we have our daily reminder...we have a pure soul within us...

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