Monday, November 16, 2009


For those of you who don't know, Rabbi Hillel, who died in 365 CE, wrote the meaningful phrase:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

Fast forward to today, a beautiful sunny day in Southwest Florida, the year 2009. This last weekend celebrated the infamous Rib Fest in St. Pete. A time when crowds throng to the bay, when traffic becomes thick, music echoes and bounces off our homes for 3 action packed days, and when there is not a parking place in the neighborhood.

For me, it is not an event near and dear to my heart. As a vegetarian, the thought of "ribs" just means hundreds of slaughtered animals; and as I read the long list of featured musicians, I realized that I had not heard of a single one! As a music affectionado, that was a rude awakening that musical trends are quickly passing me by. (Is that a nice way of saying, OMG, I am getting old!)

The fallout from a weekend of Rib Festing, is litter, beaucoup des beer bottles strewn along the streets and walkways of our neighborhood.

This morning, as I was taking the pups for a walk, I passed an empty six pack of bottles piled up on a tree trunk. I walked past.......

and then the words of Hillel crashed into my mind, in paraphrase: If not now, when? If not you, who?

And I thought: holy Hillel, he's right!

So I backed up, and tossed the bottles into my poo sack and deposited them in the garbage can in the alley.

And then I thought: 1659 years later, this sage's words are still so very relevant. No, not just to remind me to pick up someone else's beer bottles. (Can you imagine if someone would have told Rabbi Hillel in 350 CE, that 1659 years later, a female rabbi - oy gevault! - would be quoting his words as she picked up empty beer bottles littering the street!)

But beer bottles aside, these words are so necessary in today's crazy and chaotic world. We can't wait for someone else to fix things or bring peace. We can't just sit on our tush and think that the evils that are creeping into our society will be banished by the government. We can't sit quietly with out heads in the proverbial sand.

With each concern we have, we need to ask the question posed by Hillel over 1600 years ago:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

and, my favorite paraphrase of it: if not me, who?

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