Friday, August 13, 2010

Taking off the gloves; Playing with fire... for the sake of Elul...

In the last edition of this Column, you may recall that we spoke of a "Community" Kashrut company, who, while calling themselves "Orthodox" or "Frum", or whatever term they wish to use to describe their sacred and extreme high level of observance, was caught with their proverbial hand in the cookie jar, when in my presence, they were seen and heard extorting money from a small restaurant owner in the San Fernando Valley, before the Community (a code word for their real name) would let them reopen.

Incensed, I wrote about the incident in this Column and was almost immediately besieged by e-mails from readers; almost all of them positive in that it was about time that someone supported the "little guy"; some offering help in "getting the big guys"; and one e-mail, from a dear friend and Colleague warning me against "playing with fire", and one, from a reader in Chicago that accused me, angrily, of sticking my nose into other people's business.

Playing with fire? Are we not talking about Rabbis? With long black coats, disheveled beards, big hats and Tzitit hanging from their pants? They would hurt someone physically?? RIGHT BEFORE THE MONTH OF ELUL???

Friends: Is it not our job as Rabbis, Cantors, Educators and administrators to teach, inspire and try, however we must, to make living a Jewish life easier for those who seek to rejoin our Communities? Is it not the job of all of us to remember that Talmud teaches us that Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh be Zeh? That ALL Jews are responsible each of us for one another? It is our job; it is our duty; it is our lot; period. Failing to believe this; failing to act accordingly and failing to take this responsibility seriously is simply, not very Jewish.

This week, Chaverai, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, on the day that we are supposed to be beginning our Slichot, our asking of others to forgive our behaviour from the past year; I learned that the Kashrut authority in Agoura Hills has caused the Falafel Grill on Kanan Road to abandon their distinction as a Glatt Kosher restaurant. Due to an almost three fold increase in the cost of Kosher meat from the only supplier that the Conejo Chabad will accept as Kosher, as well as significant increases in the costs of their supplies across the board, we, as a community, have lost another Kosher business.

Is it maybe not time to take off the gloves? Is it not time to maybe play with a little fire? Is it not time, my friends, to take off the gloves and fight for what is right? Is it not time for US to take control and follow the most simplest of all Mitzvot - veAhavta et Reecha kaMocha - and you shall love your neighbor as you do yourself. And, is it not time for us to take control and protect our brothers and sisters who are being wronged, not just in our own community, but by our own PEOPLE?

I suggest that we take back our playground. I suggest this by visiting Kosher restaurants and supporting them, at the same time making it clearly known to the restaurant owner(s) that you support them for providing a place for us to dine, but that you are not in support of the Mafia-Like thugs who pressure them.

I suggest that you forward this week's edition of Normal is Overrated to your e-mail contact list; I suggest that you leave a comment here for all to see pledging your support of our community; and I suggest that we all contact Kehilla Kosher in Los Angeles and voice our opinions on their business practices. And, when doing so, I suggest that we let them know that we forgive their sins and their transgressions in how they treat their clients, in that it is the month of Elul, after all. Just because they act with complete disregard for Yiddishkeit, does not mean that we will.

Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh be Zeh. It is our job; It is our responsibility and it is our duty.

Shavuah Tov, Wishing you a great week from Sunny Southern California. As always, I send Ahavah u'Vrachot, Love and Blessings...

--Rabbi Alan Abrams

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