My granddaughter came shopping with me. The expedition was successful and we were on the way home, laden with parcels. Suddenly, a bright green chameleon appeared on the path.
"Sh... look... don't move," I whispered. "Just look at that chameleon. Usually they are a dull gray like the pavement or a dark green, like the bushes by the side of the road. I have never seen such colors before, lime green and bright green in such a strange pattern."
Then I looked up at the tree above us and I saw those colors. The sun shining through the green leaves caused some to appear lime green. "See those? They're the same as the chameleon. It must have been on that tree for a long time and so, his skin changed to those colors. Chameleons change to the color of their surroundings," I explained knowledgeably. "That's how they hide from creatures that want to harm them."
So we stood silently, one old lady and one little girl, and watched as the chameleon slowly made its way to the bushes. It climbed up a wall, slipped a bit, tried again, and nearly made it and then tried a third time and was successful. We lost it as it hid deep in the dark green leaves.
The first emotion was disappointment. I make it a rule to take a camera everywhere that I go. Here, in this country of contrast, interesting moments crop up when they are least expected. On that day, we had rushed out and I had forgotten my camera. The moment would never be captured on film and was mostly unlikely to ever occur again.
Then I felt a sense of elation that I had been able to share this moment with my granddaughter. It was all very well, telling a story about a chameleon and its wonderful ability to camouflage itself, but to see it so dramatically -- that is really remarkable and unforgettable.
It was only later, much later, when the Shabbos meal had been eaten and the zemiros sung, that I had time to think some more about the small incident. It occurred to me that humans are so much like chameleons. We, too, disguise ourselves to blend into our surroundings. How else can one explain the lemming- like way that certain sections of the population have during this last year taken to fashions that are clearly unflattering to all!
Taking this a step further, each section of the community has its own particular style of dress, even headgear. Modesty imposes certain guidelines, but apart from that, it is often possible to distinguish the particular community that people come from by their dress. Some communities favor scarves, tied this way or that, others hats or wigs. Within the community, there will be uniformity.
Then another thought occurred; when a person changes direction. When a person decides to discard one life style and adopt another, there is a moment when s/he must leave old and familiar surroundings and go to a quite different environment. So, if someone has tired of the attractions of `modern' living and seeks to return to older, more traditional paths, they must seek out a different set of people. At the moment this change occurs, they are highly visible. They are dressed differently from the people of the community they wish to join.
The chameleon was vulnerable at the moment it crossed the gray pavement. It was bright green, clearly visible, moving slowly enough for anyone or anything to destroy it. A person making the change is also most vulnerable at the moment of change, of indecision, of being dressed for one environment while seeking another.
Looking at a chameleon and the surroundings, it is easy to see where the chameleon came from and where it is heading. It is easy to stand and look and not cause harm. I feel that with people, the issue is not always so clear-cut and unless extreme care is taken with the words we use, we may inadvertently cause harm.