By Martine Maron Alperstein
Someone recently told me that you cannot change the world, that we need to learn that the world is not our problem, and we can’t fix the things that we can’t fix. All we can do is fix ourselves and help others. The rest will fall into place. No form of education will accomplish anything. The only way to make a difference is to lead by example.
Surely, I have a responsibility to try?
Even the minutest little pebble will cause a ripple when it hits the surface of the water. Even the tiniest of flames will illuminate the path when walking in total darkness.
The butterfly effect.
The murder of 6 million Jews was not so long ago. Most of my generation have (or had) close relatives who were survivors, and family members that were not so fortunate to survive. Most of my generation have witnessed the sight of a tattooed arm at some stage, heard the horror stories firsthand, experienced the consequences of being raised in a home that was tormented by PTSD and the obsessions that resulted.
And yet, we are once again living in a world that not only appears to be strife with anti-Semitism, but a world where anti-Semitism is widely accepted, and acts of hate and terror are becoming tolerated and a common event.
And I cannot just sit back and watch, while trying to be a better person and leading by example. I have a voice. I need to use it. And if I only get to influence one person, if I only enable one person to see the light and change their perspective, then I am proud to have used my voice.
ואהבת לרעך כמוך Ve’ahavta Le’raecha Kamocha
Love your neighbor as yourself.
What exactly does that mean?
What does it mean to love others as you would love yourself? How do we interpret this basis and foundation of Judaism, and of many other religions?
Well, for me the answer is simple and is probably something you have heard many times before. In order to be able to love your neighbor, your fellow Jew, your fellow Human Being, the residents of this world……YOU first need to love yourself. And to love yourself means to know yourself. And to know yourself means understanding your heritage, valuing your culture and treasuring your traditions. Loving yourself means being proud to be a Jew, to hold your head up high and stand fast in your meaningful traditions – traditions that connect you to your people of thousands of years. Once, and only once you know who you truly are, will you have the ability to love yourself, and fully love your neighbor.
Jews do not bow down or kneel to anyone except the Almighty. We do not lower ourselves nor do we prostrate ourselves in front of any human being, any idol or any other set of customs and traditions. We are proud of our heritage. We stand by it. We uphold it. Always.
It’s from this position of pride, confidence, strength and respect that we have the power to help others, to educate, to make a difference in this world.
Take the time to practice your religion. And by this I am not asking you to become Sabbath observant, Kosher or follow the laws of family purity. I am asking you to learn and understand who you are and where you have come from, to stand proud and strong, to celebrate our traditions and to embrace the religious practice of loving yourself and then loving others.
And maybe, just maybe from this place of love and strength, we will be able to reach out and be that minute little pebble that makes gentle ripples or that tiniest of flames that illuminates a path in the darkness. And slowly, one person at a time, we can change perspectives, remove hatred, animosity and violent acts of terror in this world that we call home.
In the words of Shuli Rand and Amir Dadon:
והמסע הזה כבד וקצת גדול עליי
אני צריך לגדול מזה ודי
Hamasa haze kaved ve’ketsat gadol alie
Ani tsarich ligdol mezeh ve’die
This journey is heavy and a little too heavy for me
I need to grow from it, it’s enough
Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.