When I was growing up in Jerusalem, we lived in an apartment building. There were ten flats which were inhabited by many different kinds of people: young and old, Israelis and foreigners. They had different careers, some were stay-at-home mothers. They prayed in different synagogues, or not at all. It was a busy place, people were always going up and down the stairs. It was a diverse group of neighbors, but they shared a common trait: they cared about each other. If you ran out of flour, your neighbor would provide it. If you were ill, another one would go for medicine or bring you some homemade chicken soup. If you were alone, all of them extended an invitation for a meal, and so on. But mostly, you always had real friends to lean on and friends to help you physically and spiritually in happy, challenging, or sad times. When I lived in Schenectady, a more suburban setting, I was also lucky to have special neighbors: one that brought me fresh flowers to decorate my hats, another that provided me with fresh produce from his garden, and others, that shared their squash blossoms to enhance our Italian cooking. One planted a burning bush in the Rabbi’s yard. Most importantly, I had a neighbor who would hear my troubles compassionately (whenever I needed to share), who would give advice and offer to help in any possible way.
Today I live in Santa Fe, in a time of Covid restrictions. My next-door neighbor leaves surprises on my doorstep—organic tomatoes. My other neighbor drops off the Jewish newspaper after he finishes reading it. Another “angel” goes out every week to shop for our more urgent necessities: she shleps heavy packs of water bottles energetically and I can feel her warm smile from under the mask. I have a fourth neighbor that lives a little further away and talks and texts with me daily, offering a sympathetic ear. And another one yet, who, in addition to calling and inquiring about my well-being, appears periodically at my door with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Let’s not forget the Zoom group, they are not neighbors per se, but they do “reside” in my living room daily, reaching through the screen with virtual hugs.
For these neighbors, and all the past neighbors, I give thanks during this Thanksgiving season. I’m sure we all have great neighbors! Let us acknowledge them, thank them, and cherish them today and always.
La Rabinessa Liora