Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Few, The Proud, The Jews

You know you’re in trouble when the first thing you read on a blog is a disclaimer, but that is the situation you all find yourselves in now. I am still recovering from a crazy wedding weekend (Mazal Tov Josh and Jenny!!) and it turns out I might have torn the meniscus in my right knee, so aside from the charley horse from dancing and the headache from lack of sleep/dehydration, I now have piercing knee pain thrown into what has become a very physically uncomfortable situation for me. As such, I am unfocused and tired and am only awake now to write this, because we all know that I’ll never start writing a post with more than three hours to spare. There are exceptions to this well documented fact, but tonight is not one of them. As such, while I have a nice thought to share and a reasonably good idea of how I want to present it, I cannot be held accountable for length or philosophical value; I imagine, given my physical state, that it will be shorter and less involved than I normally go. To some that’s probably a good thing, but then again, I’ve never exactly been able to write short and simple so we’ll see how this goes.

I find that wisdom can come from weird places if you keep your ears open and listen for it. I’m not quite sure who says that, but I’m sure it’s one of those “they say” things; it sounds too cliché not to be one. However, clichés become clichés because they’re cheesy and overstated, and while I can’t condone the cheesiness, they’re overstated because they tend to be true. Such is the case with the above, and, since I generally try to keep my ears open to good advice, I now have a nice thought to share with you all, brought to you by my barber, Alex.

Alex and I tend to lengthen my average haircut time by about 10 minutes because we schmooze a lot while I’m in the chair, but it’s okay because the conversations are enjoyable and he’s a pretty intelligent guy so he usually has some cool things to say, such as the one I’m about to share with you. It was this past Friday when, as I was getting cleaned up for the aforementioned wedding, he told me a story about a 10-day cruise he had just returned from. He had originally thought he and his family were the only Jews on the boat holding 200 plus crew, so it surprised him when on Friday afternoon a man came up to him and told him that Shabbat dinner would be on the lower deck at 7 PM. When he got there, everything was set up in a picturesque Shabbat fashion, save for the fact that the husbands and wives were running around with cameras taking pictures with their friends. Alex wasn’t bothered by the blatant breach of halacha though, because he was reminded of something a friend once told him: “To me, Judaism is like the US Armed Forces. What I mean is like this: you have the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, the Army, and so on, and each division has a job that it’s supposed to do. You wouldn’t tell an air force pilot to drive a submarine, because that’s not his job, he’s not in the Navy! In that same way, Judaism has its divisions and we each do our own part. A Conservative guy shouldn’t be Orthodox and a Chassid shouldn’t be Reform. They should be what they are meant to be and bring Moshiach in their own way.”

The gaping hole in the halachic validity of that statement notwithstanding, I think that’s a beautiful thought. It speaks of an idea that we sorely need to learn in this modern era, one that, strangely enough, comes straight out of the Torah, boiled down to three words here for your convenience: Judge Everyone Favorably. It’s something that I’ve preached about endlessly on this blog and try to apply to my life daily, and while I tend to attack the issue from my own perspective, it’s important to notice that it works on two levels. Yes, it’s a terrible thing to turn away someone less religious than you simply because he is less religious than you, I've ranted about that ad nauseam. However on the other end of the spectrum, one that I am loathe to address given what’s been going on in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim these days but is valid nonetheless, it is also important not to globally pan the ultra-Orthodox community. Are the zealots who commit crimes against Jewish and secular law correct in their actions? Of course not! That doesn’t mean the entire Chareidi community is filled with similar nutcases though. So on both levels, it is so important not to judge, because remember, we’re all one family in the end, and a small one at that, so it’s important to stick together.

Song of the Day: Prism and Gate – Scar Symmetry

1 comment:

  1. Amen!

    It is so easy to fall into that trap, and all that matters really, as Jews, is for all of us to be able to ignore the lines that divide us and focus on that which makes us the same.


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