Monday, May 18, 2009

Taking tea with the Rabbi

This is not our Rabbi. Though that may be his beard.

This was ruining our weekend. For the last week it had been looming up. Just when you were enjoying a quiet moment the thought of taking tea with the Rabbi would leap out at you from a behind a corner. We were not looking forward to it. Why? For one thing, English wasn't a strong point. And though we have friends who are of the people, we weren't sure how much we actually knew about Judaism - would our ignorance lead us to commit an unforgivable sin? Basically, we were terrified because a Rabbi is a completely and utterly intimidating personage.

Except for our Rabbi. He's a real sweetie. We had been a little concerned that 'tea' = dinner and had primed ourselves with several potential topics of conversation. Thankfully 'tea' = tea - a lovely box of fancy teas from Israel that were almost too pretty to break into. And rugelach (yum!) Our Rabbi turns out to be a committed story teller - and an amusing one at that. He also had the astounding facility to keep track of the original point he was trying to make, despite having taken a million Scheherezade-like turns into stories in stories in stories.

We'd been invited over as a 'thank you' for our efforts at reaching neighbourhood peace. There had been growing tension and, sadly, some violence. The Chabad House is there to support Israeli tourists - young folk on holiday, fresh out of their time in the Isreali army. Their celebrations were noisy, rauckus and seemingly never ending. Left over bagels piled up in the yard, young people spent their time loitering on the footpath outside our place, treating everyone with suspicion (even having a go at Mr Chairman as he parked outside). Requests for peace had gone ignored. Police had been called, but still the noise did not abate. It all came to a head after a week of sleepless nights, when some idiot neighbour started throwing things at the House - straight through the window of the room in which the Rabbi's young family slept. They cried out in alarm and the young Israeli boys who were there at the time promptly raced into the neighbour's apartment to attack. We had two terrified teenagers climb out the apartment's bathroom window, climbing over the fence and seeking refuge as they bled from cuts. The police were called and took a dim view of things. Neighbourhood relations were very very strained. Things were not good.

So we started making flyers a week before a Jewish festival. We'd explain what was being celebrated, the food and traditions of the festival and an idea of what would be going on at Chabad House. I did the research at work, Mr Chairman gave them a slick finish with his graphic design skills and we tucked them under the doors of all our neighbours. And not a peep has been heard since! We now pop over and get an overview of what events are coming up, what time they start and finish and give the neighbourhood and idea of what is going on. Anyway, you could have read all this at Mr C's blog.

We talked about Jewish beliefs, what they were trying to achieve at Chabad House, why they'd set out from Israel to Melbourne and, yes, Palestine. It was absolutely fascinating and we found we'd been there talking for two hours. The Rabbi's wife, Sara, is lovely. I suspect she provides a practical anchor to the dear man who is not quite of this world. But there is something about his pure view of his religion and a commitment to selfless kind acts - no matter how small - that inspires you to do good and makes it seem so simple. He's a remarkable man. He had very kind things to say about me and my new job (Mazal tov!) so I feel somewhat blessed. How can I go wrong? The Rabbi thinks I'm alright!

They had such a sincere appreciation for what we have done. In a way I am saddened that he is so surprised.

1 comment:

Kim Roberts said...

That's funny!

Actually, he kinda looks like our Rabbi...