Thursday, June 30, 2011

A word on behalf of the rest of us

by Shira Salamone of On the Fringe

Nearly forty years ago, I was having a nice Shabbat lunch with some friends when someone mentioned the name Michal. “Who’s Michal?,” I asked. “Am Haaretz! You don’t know who Michal is?!” I left the apartment in tears, my Shabbos ruined. Sure, I knew that I was an Am Haaretz, a Jewishly-illiterate Jew, but I never expected to have a simple, civil question answered with an insult that left me humiliated in the presence of a roomful of guests. I was so mortified by the experience that I was afraid ever to ask that question again, lest I find myself embarrassed once more. It would be several years before I finally learned, on my own, that Michal was the daughter of Shaul HaMelech (King Saul) and the wife of David HaMelech (King David).

Fast-forward almost 40 years. I just received a kind offer from some old friends to make a donation in memory of my recently-deceased father. In their e-mail, they asked whether my father’s correct name was Baruch Dayan Emet My-Father’s-Last-Name. After the initial shock of realizing that my friends of over 20 years had no idea what Baruch Dayan Emet meant, I reflected on the likelihood that I was probably in the same boat a few decades ago. I thought that it would be appropriate for my response to reflect both my own late start and my memory of how I’d felt at having a simple request for information thrown back in my face. So I answered that Baruch Dayan Emet means “Blessed is the True Judge,” and is the phrase traditionally used to send, or respond to, news of a person’s death, and I told them my father’s first name.

Those of you who were raised Orthodox and/or had the privilege of attending a Jewish day school sometimes take your Jewish knowledge for granted, and don’t understand just how fortunate you are. By the time you became a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, you already knew what I’m still learning at the age of 62. My question is, how do you interact with the rest of us?

You have two choices.

You can mock us and/or humiliate us in public, and thus, drive us away from Jewish tradition.

Or you can answer even what appears to you to be a stupid question with patience, respect, and a smile, and draw us closer to Jewish tradition.

The choice is yours. Please think responsibly.

No comments: