This is gonna be a short post, being written under the ominous shadow of a mountain of deadlines, but it's been so long since I've blogged I just HAD to bite the bullet. Yuck. Where DID that expression come from, anyway?
This blog is about society and change and comfort zone. There. No foreshadowing, no carefully layered nuances and plot-building. No prologue or preface. Basically, I'm giving it all away at once. As my grandmother says, "How d'ya like that?" :-)
Our Sages teach us a principle: "Oy l'rasha, oy l'shchainoh"--Woe is to an evildoer; woe to his neighbor! And conversely, "Tov latzaddik, tov l'shchainoh"--Good for the righteous person; good for his neighbor. In other words, we are creatures of the society in which we live. As someone with a bit of an anti-authoritarian streak in her, I have balked at this principle. I have definitely felt capable of bucking the trend, of swimming against the current. But I have come to see that even if, by and large, one can continue to hold his or her own against the immediate environment, there are subtle changes that penetrate. For the good and for the bad.
There are so many personal examples I've witnessed in myself, on both sides of the fence, and every time I try to bring one to mind here it just seems to eclipse or take away from the others. So I guess I'll just leave the phenomenon open-ended. The bottom line is that I have noticed, without a doubt, that the society or societies in which I live and mingle with definitely influence me. And "society" in this case is a conglomerative umbrella term (can you tell it's raining out?!)--in this context I mean it as a catch-all word for community, neighborhood, apartment building, friends circle, synagogue members, work colleagues, grocery store personnel--whatever. The changes can be permanent and specific--like choosing to eat a certain hechsher (kosher supervision and certification) of chicken, or temporary and relatively banal--like wearing a more chic-looking outfit if I'm going to attend a wedding of a certain type of friend. But it certainly give me pause to know that, to a certain extent, I am a drifting boat and something else is moving the oars.
I worry that we may not take this reality seriously enough. We may not consider it with the appropriate amount of forethought when we make a decision--which city and community to live in, where to work, which block to buy on, where to send our kids to school, even which Gym to work out in or which company to interview at.
I guess the metaphor for this would be pores. Our skin is full of these pores. They absorb and release all sorts of stuff, some of it good and some of it bad. Is it such a stretch to imagine them taking in the intangible, the spiritual? What do you think?
About Riva Pomerantz
I'm a freelance writer, widely published in several magazines including the internationally-distributed Ami Magazine and Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly. Riva's work also appears on the award-winning website www.aish.com, amongst others. You can buy my books here.