Off the Pulpit: Toothpaste and Travel
By RABBI DAVID WOLPE
In my house growing up we only used used Crest toothpaste. That may seem a negligible datum, but in fact it shaped my childhood. I learned that no other toothpaste was used by smart, responsible people. When I visited another child’s house and saw Colgate, or one of the unserious toothpastes like Ultrabright (the very name suggests frivolity) I knew those parents were not as wise as my own.
The day I realized that one could be as kind and as smart as my mother and use Pepsodent, my world changed. And that, my friends, is the point of travel. It is not only to see magnificent sites, although that is glorious. It is to recognize the variety of legitimate and even wonderful ways in which human beings arrange their lives, so different from one’s own.
To travel well is to be humbled: To recognize how little one knows of the vast world, and how many assumptions about life one has not thought through until experiencing another way of doing things. We still love and value home, but in a wider frame and with deeper understanding. You cannot properly treasure your own country if you never see it from afar. I still use Crest although now and again I grab a brand from another country, where apparently, they too have teeth.
(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)