July 25, 2023 by Lazer Brody
This is my message for Tisha B’Av. It’s a parable, a figment of my imagination. People may call me a fool – that’s just fine. I’d rather be called a fool who does Hashem’s will than be an acclaimed leader who perpetuates the intramural hate and slander that destroyed the Holy Temple and sent us into exile.
So who will bring Moshiach and rebuild the Holy Temple? It’s the folks like Old Charlie, who never harmed or said a less-than-complimentary word about anyone.
Everyone in town loved Old Charlie. He wasn’t that old – maybe in his early-sixties at most. Yet, no one could ever remember a time when Old Charlie didn’t man his post as gatekeeper at the entrance of town.
What did the town need a gatekeeper for?
If you lived in a town with no crime, no sicknesses, no strife, no poverty and nothing but happy citizens, young and old, you’d want it to stay that way. You’d prevent any undesirable elements from entering your town. That was the secret of Charliesville. Ever since the town was founded, a gatekeeper manned the one entrance to town and filtered the folks who entered the town. Charlie was fifth generation gatekeeper, like his daddy, granddaddy great- and great-great granddaddies before him. Gatekeeping was a family tradition and they were successful at it. Since the town didn’t have to pay a sheriff or police force, it could afford to pay a healthy salary to the gatekeeper. Since he had no financial worries, he could concentrate on his job, which he did with dedication. Everyone knew that the town’s success was in no small measure by virtue of the gatekeeper.
Charliesville was in a beautiful rolling-green hill area between two large cities. Most people who passed by the town were heading for one of those two cities, but they’d stop in Charliesville to eat a meal or spend the night while enroute.
Charlie would greet every visitor. “Howdy, stranger,” he’d say with a warm smile. “What can I do for you?”
The stranger would invariably ask about Charliesville’s traveler services – the inns, the restaurants or the gas stations. “How’re the folks in Charliesville?” the stranger would ask.
Charlie’s stock question was, “How’re the folks in your hometown, my friend?”
Some people would answer, “Where we come from, you have to be careful. People aren’t so friendly. They’re jealous and they gossip a lot. They’ll rip you off if they have a chance – they’re out for themselves.”
“You won’t like Charliesville,” Charlie would tell such people. “Sorry to tell you, but you’ll find our folks the same way. You’re better off going back to the main highway and in another twenty minutes, you’ll reach Everton…”
On the other hand, other people would answer Charlie’s stock question with, “The people in our town are really friendly; they’re kind and they care about each other.” With a toothy smile, Charley would open the old wooden gate to the town and greet such visitors with a warm welcome.
“You’ll love Charliesville,” Charlie would tell them. “Our town is cordial. The food and lodging is wonderful and the prices are extremely reasonable. Enjoy your stay here.” There was no such thing that those visitors wouldn’t fall in love with Charliesville and make a point to stop there whenever the travelled between the two big cities.
Why? How? Charlie and the folks of Charliesville knew the secret that was passed down from generation to generation in their town. If the visitors didn’t like the people of their own hometown, then wherever they’d go, they wouldn’t like the people either, Charliesville included.
But, if they did like the people in their own town, they’d certainly fall in love with the especially nice folks of Charliesville.
There’s another secret within a secret: when a person likes himself, he likes everyone else. When he doesn’t like himself, he doesn’t like anyone else. As such, the folks who didn’t like the people in their own town were folks who didn’t like themselves. Folks who don’t like themselves try to bring others down. They think that if they find faults in and badmouth other people, they’ll feel better about themselves.
Wherever there are wagging tongues, strife and arguments and contention – health, happiness and income are out the window. That’s why Charlie nicely sent them down the road and wouldn’t let them enter town.
Wherever you have a place where people like themselves, they like others too. In that case, they never speak lashon hara, slander and unwholesome speech. Such people are great spouses. They’re happy with their lot in life so they don’t steal, fight or argue.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could turn our community or home into a Charliesville? Sure it would, but we have to start by being a Charlie – to love ourselves and to be satisfied with our lot in life. That way, we can love everyone else.
If you ask me why Moshiach isn’t here yet, it’s probably because he hasn’t yet found Charliesville on the map. Let’s build one for him, and let’s start on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. May we put an end to intramural hate and rebuild our Holy Temple speedily in our days, amen!