Eli Shmuel and I are here in New Orleans at the Jewish Federation of North America’s TribeFest 2014 – which is awesome so far. Over Shabbat, Eli and I were discussing whether we (Karaites, Rabbanites, others) know the true color of techellet.
And the conversation led me to one of the most profound realizations of my young life.
Eli started by explaining the arguments in favor of the traditional Karaite view, and he concluded by suggesting that for most people it doesn’t really matter whether the Karaites or Rabbanites are right about the source or the color of the techellet. Most of us just need something to look upon in order to remember the commandments.
My eyes immediately lit up.
As I explained to Eli, I had never realized the importance of “blue threads” until recently when I was walking to work, carrying a set of tzitziot t0 mail to someone who wanted Karaite-style threads. I was running late for work and I passed a homeless woman who clearly needed some assistance. But I, like everyone else, rushed on and started crossing the street. I do not know how it happened but as I took two steps into the crosswalk, the tzitziot I had been carrying entered my field of vision.
The blue threads – the techellet – opened my consciousness to the suffering of this silent homeless woman. So, late for work or not, I stopped at the Peet’s Coffee on Montgomery Street in downtown San Francisco and bought some food and coffee for the homeless woman.
After I finished my story, Eli told me that the Chief Hakham of the Karaite Community, Hakham Moshe Firrouz, believes that we should give something to every homeless person we see. One penny. One shekel. The amount does not matter.
And at yesterday’s opening session for TribeFest, Joshua Molina, spoke about his personal Jewish odyssey across many Jewish movements, and he mentioned how his conservative Jewish father would give something to everyone who asked for help on the streets.
And then it hit me: it doesn’t matter what your affiliation or denomination is; all that matters is whether you open your arms and doors to your fellow man.