A Bloggers' Chat - Headcoverings, Being Normal, Tikkun Olam and Other Stuff
Today I had the pleasure of having a thought provoking email chat with Psychotoddler, the almost-famous blogger, father, rocker and all around nice guy.
In the hope of provoking yet MORE thought I will post it here- As usual all comments and opinions are welcome.
We'll pick up where things get interesting (I've cut and pasted a little to help make things a bit more clear.)
PT: ...BTW I wear a yarmulke to work. I seriously believe that of all the things I've done on this Earth, that is one of the most important. When I go to the Pearly gates (or whatever), and have to explain why I didn't spend enough time learning, or why I let my kids play video games, or why I didn't do this or that, I'm going to say that I wore a Yarmulke to work in the midwest and that I acted like a mentch and did a kiddush hashem.
Shifra: I'm grew up in the midwest and I know what that means.
My parents still live there and my father wears a kippa to work as well.
When I was kid my father lost his job and after months of looking for work and not finding any he stopped wearing his kippah to interviews at the advice of his recruiter.
When he did get a job he felt odd about putting back on so he left it off at work. A few months later we went to pick him up from his new job and my mom sent me into the office to get him (it was a surprise I guess.) When I saw him with nothing on his head I was stunned (I was about 11 or so at the time.) My father is a Rabbi and a very learned man, he even wears a kippah when he SLEEPS I'd never seen him without it. I didn't say anything but he could see that there were tears in my eyes - it was a real shock for me in a way that I can't explain. After that my father came in to work the next day WITH his kippah on and didn't say a thing about it- he's never gone without it since.
Years later he thanked me for it- even though I really hadn't done anything.
People really underestimate the importance of menchlachkiet - that's not a bad ace in the hole either
PT: I came from NY and guys wore yarmulkes everywhere when I was growing up. We even wore yarmukles to Midnight showings of Rocky Horror.
So it didn't occur to me to take off my hat when I moved to the midwest. Also, I got a shomer shabbos residency in Milwaukee, so it was part of my "persona" if you will.
However, when I went to interview for permanent positions, it was another story altogether. I got a lot of great offers--over the phone. But I'd show up with my kippah and suddenly there would be no openings. Or they would grill me about shabbos--would I come in even if I wasn't on call, etc.
I thought about taking it off. And then my superstitious side said, "Tell me, big shot, if you can't get a job with Hashem's help, do you think you'll be able to get one without it?" So I just persevered. I eventually found a real mentch of an interviewer who was sympathetic to the Orthodox community and hired me.
But there have been many times when I've thought my life would be simpler, my practice fuller, if I looked like everyone else.
Shifra: It's never simple though - there is always shabbos - the birthday cake you can't eat... whether your head is covered or not it's just not possible to completely fit in - and I think that's intentional.
If you live in a cloistered community where you never have to deal with anyone who is not one of your own it's not big deal but it's not so easy in the "real world."
PT: I think it is very much intentional. You can't go out to eat with them and you can't go drinking with them on Friday nights, and there's much less chance of you dating and marrying one that way. The laws of kashruth are meant to keep us separate.
You're right, frummies in NY have no concept of what it's like in "the real world".
Shifra: This modern integrated societal mix is a relatively new thing even on a global level and America is probably the most diverse cultural community on earth.
Then again Jews have always been the minority (even as they lived seperately in their little shtetlach) within the homogenious cultures that surrounded them...
Hmmm lots to think about. I wonder if I'm only making sense in my own head now...
PT: It's good.
Shifra: How are OJ's really supposed to live? As oddballs in the real world - making kiddushea hashem whenever possible - or in an insulated community free of outside rule and influence?
PT: This is the big debate, no? Sit in learn in Kollel all day or get a job? Live in the real world or stay in Lakewood? Read the Newspaper or stick your head in the ground? You probably can figure out where I stand. I believe we were put here to be a light to the nations, a moral compass, and we can't do that if we cross the street every time we see a goy coming our way. Some people believe that there's nothing to be gained from exposure to the outside world other than corruption. But to me, then, what is the point? Why did hashem make goyim? We're not like the Islamists, trying to convert the world. They belong here as much as we. We have a role. Some say that role is to sit in beis medresh and keep the fires of torah burning. I think that serves only us. Unless you think there's some "mystical" power to the beis medresh. But that's just too hocus-pocus for me.
No, we're here to mingle and yet maintain our special purpose.
Shifra: And yet it's amazing though how the whole concept of "tikkun olam" and "or la'goyim" have become such foreign notions among the Orthodox.
Where are all the normal Orthodox Jews? There can't just be two of us!
PT: Nope, it's just the two of us.
Feel free to write this up as a "joint post"
Shifra: Will do!
PT:Just a word of caution:
The Psychotoddler Crossover post has been known to be the kiss of death to a blog: ask Dr. Bean or A Simple Jew. Hell, I almost killed Treppenwitz.
Shifra: I'll take my chances.