I heard a story yesterday that almost brought tears to my eyes. A true story that really defines that "Christmas Spirit" thing that we all hear so much about at this time of year. As a committed Jew, I must admit that Christmas is not really on my radar screen. I do love this time of year, though. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, published a blog post this week that actually articulated very well why I like this season and why Jews can learn much more from Christmas other than where to find good Chinese food. Here is one such tale.
We have a very good friend down here in the Southern Home. He is a single man who gathers his friends close. He is the first one willing to help when something breaks down. He has been known to spend hours fixing computer networks, setting up wireless systems, hunting for bargains for needed items that he has heard them mentioned once in a passing conversation, waiting around for cable guys when neighbours have been unable or unwilling to do so, and basically just being an all-around mensch!! He graciously watches over our place down here when we are north, as he does for both of my sets of parents and countless others in the building, and we have come to think of him as a part of the extended family. What our friend doesn't have a lot of, unfortunately, is family. He is an only child who lost his father many years ago, and over the past number of years has been the sole caregiver for his aging mother and aunt. Unfortunately, his mother passed away this past summer and his aunt is living in an assisted living centre. This will be the first Christmas that our friend will be spending without his mom, and as the holiday approaches it is obvious that is painful.
He has gone about his preparations as usual. He has decked out the building with his usual flair. (As a matter of fact, he was just informed that his lighting designs won first prize in the Hallandale Beach decoration contest.) His tree is up, and he continues to attend mass every Sunday leading up to Christmas Day. But he knows, as do we all with sympathetic pangs, that this year is different for him. I think it is getting to be all too much, and he has had moments of tremendous grief and sadness as one might expect he would. And then yesterday, I heard something rather wonderful. My dad and mom told me that they, along with 4 or 5 other couples-all Jews, by the way-are going to join our friend at midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I was so moved by this act of compassion. These people are committed Jews, every last one of them. Catholic mass is about as foreign to them as is the thought of travelling to Afghanistan. They are going because it is an act of love for a friend in need, a friend who has been there for them many times, and because nobody should have to celebrate their holiest days without family.
My parents and their friends have truly demonstrated the true meaning of Christmas this season. They have crossed ecumenical lines with one single act of compassion. These people are performing a Christmas mitzvah and I am so proud that they are my family.
Merry Christmas to all of you who observe and may the season be filled with joy and peace. B'simcha v'shalom!!