15 Jan An Open Letter to Those Coming to Florida for Yeshiva Week and to My Fellow Floridians
This week marks the much-anticipated and highly-celebrated time on the Jewish calendar – Yeshiva Week, when many Jewish day schools and yeshivos give vacation and it feels like a significant percentage of the Jewish world goes on pilgrimage to Florida. There are many beautiful aspects to welcoming so many fellow Jews to our community. For me, I look forward to meeting and greeting guests, and learning about new people and the places they are visiting from. Nevertheless, for some visitors and local residents, yeshiva week can be challenging and frustrating when waiting on lines, looking for parking or struggling to get a table.
In general, whether we see the beauty and blessing or instead focus on the frustration and aggravation is really all up to us. In our Parsha, the Torah describes that after the Jewish people experienced the miraculous splitting of the sea, they encountered a problem. Lo yuchlu lishtos mayim mi’marah ki marim heim, they weren’t able to drink the water from Marah because they were marim, they were bitter. The Kotzker Rebbe asks, what was bitter? We traditionally translate that the water was bitter and it logically follows that this is what precluded the people from drinking it. The Kotzker, however, says marim heim is describing the people. The people were bitter, disgruntled, critical, judgmental, dismissive and dissatisfied and they accordingly infused a bitter taste into the water and were unable to drink it.
There is a phenomenon that psychologists call the ‘Missing Tile Syndrome.’ When a person is in a beautifully tiled room, his eye is not drawn to the ornate tiles or to the detailed labor. Rather, if there is one tile missing in the whole room, our natural tendency is to be drawn to and focused on that tile. We tend to fixate on what is missing, on what is lacking or deficient, instead of emphasizing the beauty, the abundance, or the plenty.
Our Jewish world too often has a culture of criticism. We suffer from the Missing Tile Syndrome, drawn to what we think is wrong or missing, instead of focusing on the abundance of blessing. Yeshiva Week presents a fantastic opportunity to bring parts of the Jewish world together, to form relationships and enjoy each other’s company while on vacation. We can focus on the blessings, the opportunities and the good, or we can be fixated with hyper criticism on what is frustrating or wrong.
There is always more we can do to make each other’s lives even more pleasant. Here are some suggestions:
To our Yeshiva Week visitors:
We hope you have a safe and smooth trip down here and enjoy your time in our community. We are very excited to welcome you and to benefit from the influx of your energy, enthusiasm and participation. We are grateful you have chosen to visit our community and to support our local establishments and attractions. If we can be helpful in any way during your visit or can offer any hospitality, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
If you don’t mind, here are a few reminders that may be helpful during your visit:
Unlike the Beis HaMikdash, our restaurants don’t expand based on the pilgrimage of Jews. Our proprietors and their staffs are doing the best they can. Please be patient, understanding and courteous, and please be generous with your tips, since the waiters are doing the best they can during an overwhelming time. Please note and be sensitive to the fact that while you enjoy our many kosher dining options and kosher supermarkets, it is the local residents who support them all year long and enable them to be available to you when you visit. Our community has many minyanim each morning and each evening. Please attend one of the listed minyanim and do not form a new one based on what time you arrive. In South Florida, life moves at a little slower and more relaxed pace. If the light turns green and the person in front of you doesn’t step on the gas within a millisecond, be patient, take a deep breath, take in the palm trees, and enjoy being on vacation. If you encounter a line, see it as an opportunity to spend time with others in your group or to read, learn, or listen to a shiur. Talk to the person in front of you or behind you; they are as eager as you to get to the front. If you enjoy the minyanim, shiurim, learning opportunities, programs, mikvahs, eruv, or kashrus available in our community, please feel free to make a contribution of any amount to our Tomchei Shabbos or chesed fund that can use help and support.
Over the course of your stay, please come say hello and introduce yourself. If you are considering moving here, please let us know if there is any way we can help or any questions we can answer. We would love to get to know you.
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg