Skokie Chabad invited Shimona Tzukernik to address shabbos dinner guests Jan. 15. Since no one wants to speak to a hungry crowd, we had dinner first:
challah (of course)
beef in gravy
sweet potato in philo (outstanding)
Mrs. Tzukernik spoke about spirituality in a way that even I found compelling. The talk was titled "The Mind's Eye," and I think one concept she put forth quite well was suggesting that the ideal wasn't an extreme side of the spectrum but right in the middle--just right, so to speak. (I didn't put that in quotes because I don't think she used that term.) She pointed out that we think the opposite of stinginess is generosity, and she said it's not true--that the opposite of stinginess is the inability to manage one's finances, and that generosity (tzedakah) is right in the middle. She made another observation, the details of which now, of course, escape me, but I think it was about happiness. We shouldn't consider happiness to be one extreme, or the opposite of sadness. Happiness is in the middle--it's just right.
She told a couple of stories which I found to be utterly fascinating, including one of a Polish Catholic man dating a Jewish woman--a relationship both sets of parents vehemently opposed. Years later, they ran into each other--in the Vatican. She was in line to see the Pope; that Polish Catholic decided he could never marry after that unhappy ending to the relationship, and he eventually became Pope John Paul II.
Mrs. Tzukernik is South African and grew up in the waning days of the apartheid government. In the late 1980's, most political observers thought that either the apartheid regime would continue its grip on power while violently suppressing its opposition; or there would be a violent revolution resulting in a bloodbath of the nation's civilians, both white and black. Many South African Jews were obviously concerned about the latter possibility and considered leaving. At the behest of the South African Lubavitch community, a community member flew to New York to ask the Lubavitcher rebbe his advice--whether the community should flee the country to Israel, Australia and the United States. In his wisdom, the rebbe replied, "Stay in your country. There is going to be a peaceful transition of power."
Now, I can try to imagine the Lubavitcher rebbe appearing on Meet the Press or This Week With David Brinkley and making such a declaration. He turned out to be absolutely right. South Africa remains a difficult place to live with its high crime rate. And many South African Jews did leave. But the transition of government from de Klerk to Mandela was indeed peaceful. Amazing.
pareve frozen dessert (faux ice cream)--chocolate and vanilla flavors