Wednesday, February 23, 2011

As you would have them do

Thus said the sage Hillel:

אם אין אני לי, מי לי; וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני; ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי?
If I'm not for myself, who is; if I'm only for myself, who am I; and if not now, when?

דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד...
If you don't like something, don't do it to someone else...

In short, Hillel understood the human condition, and had mad lyrical skillz to boot.

It is said of him that during his years in New York he was very kind to homeless people and helped innumerable old ladies across uncountable streets, but that he was shooed out of every shul he wandered into because his style of Judaism seemed a little quaint and, frankly, he dressed funny (Babylonian sandals are SO BCE).

So, as the story goes, Hillel grabbed a quill and jotted down some thoughts. They were as follows:

"Man, is it cold here. I mean the people -- no one smiles at anyone they don't know, no one takes time to talk to anyone they don't know, people pay a cashier for lunch and have a bus driver drive them home and never once really stop to look at either of them. And I wish I could say the Jews are better, and to some degree they are, but they seem more interested in explaining why they're not like the other Jews than they do in realizing why they are. And I need, need, need to swap these sandals for some Babylonian winter boots before it snows again."

He then walked into a Starbucks and tried to order a latte. Chaos ensued, and he was promptly exiled ("Again," he sighed.) from the orthodox community to the Conservative community, which eyed him suspiciously because he seemed a little too... well... orthodox, and having him there made some of the more progressive members uncomfortable.


If we don't take care of ourselves, who will? But if we take care of ourselves more than we take care of others around us, what kind of people are we?

And if we don't start now to be the kind of people we should be... when exactly will we?


  1. Good point, but NYC has plenty of kind people, kind considerate Jews, and various acts of kindness. The fact is, annoying people and bad news always attract more attention, while goodness is often overlooked or taken for granted.

  2. Duh. :) But the point of this blog is to complain, not to issue a comprehensive and balanced review of the Jews of New York at large.


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