With Love For All
We are now in the midst of a three-week period (from the 17th of the Jewish month, Tamuz, until the 9th of the month of Av) in which many tragedies have struck the Jewish people throughout history - most notably the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It was a terrible blow, from which we still haven't recovered nearly 2,000 years later, and is the root source of all of the world's problems. Our sages teach that the main reason God allowed the Holy Temple be destroyed was as a consequence of unwarranted negativity - hatred and infighting - amongst our people, and that it will only be rebuilt when we reverse this and relate to each other positively, with genuine love and unity. Let's take this chance to reflect on this bitter lesson from our past and begin to act in a way that will 'rebuild the Holy Temple,' and bring us - and the world - to a brighter future.
In our story, a kid finds the 'Holy Temple' within herself and brings a little more love into the world.
"THE GOLDEN GIRL"
"You have really outdone yourself, Sarah!" exclaimed Jill. "Everything's just glowing. People will be talking about this party for years!"
Sarah blushed at her friend's compliment, but inside she was beaming. Sarah Gold had invested a lot of time and effort (not to mention a good bit of her parents' money) to make sure her Bat Mitzvah party would be perfect in every detail. Like her name, the theme of everything from the matching place settings and table decorations, to the breathtaking cluster of helium balloons floating gracefully in the center of the room was all glimmering, shining gold. The food was ample and delicious and the music upbeat but tasteful. Her speech, so carefully prepared (but not too long) about the sad destruction of the Holy Temple, which had come about through dissension, and would only be rebuilt through loving friendship, hit its mark, leaving all the kids who were lucky enough to have made it onto her exclusive, handpicked invitation list happy indeed to be considered her friend.
Sarah, was still glowing from all her friends' kind words and compliments, when the door opened, and like a rain cloud coming to ruin a perfectly sunny picnic, walked - or rather trudged in - the last person she or anyone else would expect to see at this beautiful gathering of beautiful people. It was Harriet Geemes. She was a dumpy, clumsy girl, who had the uncanny gift of being able to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and manage to clash with nearly everyone and everything around her. Sarah was still in shock as the shabbily-dressed girl made her way into the room, managing to knock over a tray of hors d'oeuvres and a bottle of soda along the way.
Sarah came back to her senses as she felt a tap on the shoulder. "Harriet must have thought the party was open invitation," whispered her best friend, Jill, who had helped her plan the guest list. "Are you going to break the news to her, or should I?"
By now, Sarah's shock had turned to indignation. How dare this 'nobody' come crashing (literally) the party and ruining the event she had been planning for months! "I'll take care of this myself," hissed Sarah, as she pulled the invitation list out of the shimmering gold handbag that matched her shimmering gold, formal dress. 'I'll just show her the list, ask her to find her name, and when she doesn't, I'll ask her to leave,' thought Sarah, as she glided across the room. It would all be over in a moment - quick and painless (except perhaps to Harriet.)
Sarah drew closer, glanced at the paper in her hand, and felt her feet slowing down. Instead of the list, she found in her hand the last page of notes from her speech that she had shoved in her purse. She skimmed it over and felt faint as she read the following lines:
"The last straw that caused the Holy Temple to be destroyed was when a man embarrassed and threw out a guest he hadn't invited from his home. The lesson we learn is to make room in our homes and our hearts for everyone - whether we think they deserve it or not."
'Oh wow, I'm about to do just the same thing - aren't I?' she thought, horrified.
Sarah glanced over at Harriet, who by now got the idea she had made a mistake in coming to the party. She had retreated to the corner of the room, looking confused and embarrassed, while futilely attempting to brush a newly acquired chocolate stain from her blouse. Sarah knew she'd have to think and act fast.
Replacing her scowl with her sweetest smile, Sarah calmly walked over to the uninvited guest. "Harriet, I'm so glad you came," she said warmly. "I felt just terrible when I discovered that I had forgotten to mail some of the invitations. But why are you standing alone in the corner? You must come and sit next to me, at least for a little while."
Sarah put her arm around the enormously relieved girl's shoulder and, in full view of everybody, escorted her to the head table, leaving no doubt in the mind of the other guests that Harriet 'deserved' to be there as much as they.
The party wound down, and Sarah, exhausted but happy, sat back in her chair and relaxed for the first time. Jill, who had promised to stay behind and help her clean up, plopped down next to her. "Sarah, I really have to hand it to you. This was the party of the year, everything just shined. And I don't know why, but from the moment you sat Harriet down next to you, the whole, golden party took on an even more special, deeper kind of glow."
Sarah smiled. She knew why. It was the glow of the Holy Temple beginning to be rebuilt.
Q. How did Sarah feel at first when she realized that Harriet had walked into her party uninvited?
A. She felt angry and that it would be okay to kick her out even if it would embarrass her.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She remembered the lesson of her speech - that we should treat others kindly, even if we feel they don't deserve it, and she felt that treating Harriet nicely was the right thing to do, so she did, and was glad she did.
Q. Why do you think people often feel unwarranted negativity toward one another?
A. It can come from a number of sources, such as jealousy, or perhaps the person feels negatively about himself and carries that feeling over to others. He might feel threatened by someone different from himself and feel he needs to justify his own way of being by hating the other person.
Q. What practical steps can we take help ourselves feel more positively toward other people?
A. One effective tool is to try to focus on how they are similar to us rather than how they are different. In addition, it is a spiritual principle that we naturally feel more positively toward those to whom we give, than toward those from whom we take. We can try to find ways to give or help a person we are hoping to feel better about. We should also constantly remind ourselves about the value of feeling positive toward others, and correct ourselves when we feel ourselves slipping the other way.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. In order to feel positively about someone, do we need to approve all their actions? Why or why not?
A. It is important to realize that there is a distinction between the essence of a person, or who a person is - and the actions of a person, or what the person is doing. There are times when a person is living or acting in a way that is destructive to himself or others, when we may and should disapprove of or even hate his behavior. However, we should be careful not to let this turn into a negativity or hatred toward the person himself, but always remember that each of us is in essence good and pure - a child of God, created in His image, and with infinite potential to improve.
Q. Do you believe that our feelings toward others have any effect on their feelings toward us?
A. Our sages and mystics explain that a person's heart is like a mirror and will reflect back at us the feeling we send out to toward another. If we deeply and honestly feel positively toward someone, eventually he will be virtually compelled to feel positively toward us. Likewise, unless we genuinely like someone, we can put on the best act in the world, but deep down he will know our true feelings and reflect them back at us. Think about this idea, it is a powerful, life-changing tool.