"From Moshe till Moshe, there arose none like Moshe." (famous Jewish folk saying)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Lessons from a shoe shine

I like to get my shoes shined. I always have. Sitting on that big chair with your feet up, sort of feels like a rich and famous life style thing to do. I think that my enjoyment may relate back to when I was a kid and we would travel as a family. My Dad would always get his shoes shined. He would wear cowboy boots and would have to pay the extra $1 for boots. I may like getting my shoes shined because its what my father always did? So when I travel, I like to get my shoes shined.

The shoe shiner people are a rare breed. You can tell the ones who really like what they do. How they take great pride in the new shine, the like new appearance they provide after a job well done. I like the shoe shiners who are old. They seem to possess a rare wisdom that can only come from meeting 100’s of people each day, only once for a maximum of 3-4 minutes at a time. When they inevitably ask me where I’m from, my reply that I live in Israel often invokes a biblical or religious reply. Many of these older men, are black and often seem to be devout to their religions.

On my last trip, I could tell this shoe shiner was very special. His very dark, wrinkly black skin, bald head and huge smile was so welcoming after a very long flight. Shine sir? You bet! Then came the inevitable question. “Where you from?” Israel I replied. “So, you’re a friend of Arafat?” And all of a sudden I began to worry about where this next 3 minutes of conversation was going. Arafat is not my friend, I replied. “Yeh, I hear that,” he said. Whew! I survived that question. Then he asked, “Do you believe that Jews can be Christians.” And I began to worry about the next 2 minutes. I carefully responded that I believe that people should be devoted to the religion of their birth, and a person who believes in G-d is better off than those who believe in nothing. The man looked up at me and said, “You a wise man, a very wise man.” Then he started speaking to himself. “Lots of war, lots of death, killing, many of your people have died over there because that Arafat man. He’s a bad man, a really bad man.” “But you know,” he said, as he put the finishing touches on my shoes, that regained their luster, “ the real war is within. We’re all fighting an internal war. That’s the real war. That’s the important war.” As I gave him $5, I smiled and said, you’re the wise man, a very wise man.

There are many battles we face each day. Some are on the battlefield some are within. The news today, tomorrow and the next will feature the modern day Haman,/Hitler. We should not loose sight that as we celebrate the demise of our modern day Amalek, to focus as much attention if not more on our own internal struggles and doing what is right in the eyes of G-d.

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