November 16, 2018

Sukkot and Fifty Shades of Kosher.

We love people who sin like us and judge harshly those who sin differently.  Jews quarrel so much over how to approach God that we end up pushing God out to win an argument.  There are so many shades of Kosher.  On Sukkot, we are told “come together.”

A friend told me that he eats kosher.  When we went out to a restaurant, he ordered lobster.  “I eat kosher, too” was his response.

Another friend told me he keeps his home kosher, but eats non-kosher meat outside.  At dinner, he packed the leftover non-kosher steak to go.  “I don’t eat it at home.  I’ll take it to work tomorrow.”

One Passover, my cardiology fellowship preceptor brought Matzah.  I was delighted to find out he was Jewish.  At lunch, he took out sautéed shrimp to have with his Matzah.  “I always do something Jewish.”

Two Jews engaged in trade.  The buyer decided to take out the seller for a favorite meal, which was the best lobster restaurant in town.  They laughed and bonded over the crustaceans.  The following month, to repay the meal, the seller invited the buyer over for a home cooked meal.  “This is so delicious.  What is it?” asked the guest.  “A special family recipe with minced pork…” The food was spat across the table and the guest barged out disgusted.

Once, when I asked a new patient to take off his shirt so I could examine his heart, I was surprised to find him wearing a prayer shawl underneath, with his head uncovered.  “If I ever do something wrong in public, I don’t want someone to judge all Jews.  I keep my Keepa off until I get home.  I hope God forgives me for this.”

Unfortunately, families have broken up when a more observant son refuses to go over to the parents’ home because the meat and milk dishes are not separated.  There is no end to the degree in which Jews split each other apart through labels such as Ashkenazi vs. Sephardic, Reform vs. Orthodox, Observant vs. not so much.

A Persian poem tells the story of an eagle that takes flight, filled with the pride of having the entire world under his wings, only to be shot down back to earth.  When he looks over, he finds that the piercing arrow has feathers from another eagle.  He concludes that our troubles are brought on by ourselves. 

My grandmother Morvarid (‪Pearl‬ in Farsi) was known as the family‪ peacemaker‬. Her skills were in shushing any conversation that sounded like gossip or complaint, her index finger pointing at her nose, her eyes telling you to be quiet if you have nothing nice to say. Mothers often remain a ‪‎glue‬ that keeps the family together, until the siblings part upon their passing.

The most important part of the ‪‎Lulav‬ is a small piece of paper that has no name- which gathers and ‪holds‬ all the species of plants‪ together‬. Just like that ‪‎hidden‬ treasure, Pearl, this paper‪ goes unnoticed.  Immediately after Yom Kippur we take four species (symbolizing diversity of our people, even those whose use we don't understand) and we tie them together to say a blessing. 

Holiness is in bringing together, in maintaining harmony. Only when we draw close to one another, can we seek God as does the Lulav during ‪‎Sukkot‬. It's easier to cause division, to split apart, but God blesses the gatherers, the holders, the peacemakers.