Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bleaching (the) Geula

Many is the time I have shopped in Geula on a Friday afternoon and heard the announcements beseeching the “sons and daughters of Israel not to create an immodest environment”.
I personally have never had problem with that.

I am sure that the people that are behind this announcement are sincere, and in my opinion it just added to the experience that is “erev shabbos” in Yerushalayim.
Every once in a while you get a nut job that starts screaming and carrying on , but nobody gets hurt, his rantings get him the desired attention and life moves on.

Being a person that tries to understand others I tend to try and think about what motivates them.
I have seen garbage being burned on street corners, and thought, well it needed to go somewhere.
I have seen cops being attacked, and thought, well violence is never the answer, but who started this.
I have seen a lot of things that I disagreed with but as long as nobody got hurt, I was able to somewhat excuse it in my mind.

The truth is I think that all parties involved enjoy it.
The media gets “sensational” headlines, the youth’s get a chance to vent, and the Fire Department gets a chance to do something besides “shesh-besh”.

However, I do draw the line at their latest innovation. Bleach.

It seems that the Chevreh Hatznius, or whatever it is they call themselves, have been patrolling the neighborhood, and are spraying bleach on whomever finds disfavor in their eyes.
If the colors on the dress or coat are not to their liking, they will simply bleach it.

Now if they want to open a Laundromat and offer a bleaching service, I would be all for it, but to damage other people’s property, and perhaps even cause serious injury, just because the color scheme was not to their liking, uh uh, no excuse.

Of course the question can be asked; "what are these guys doing on the street searching out “immodest” women". But I don’t suppose the answer; “they just happened to be there with a water gun full of Sodium Hypochlorite” would suffice.

Discriminate, Nah.., Never!

I happen to work at a place that is owned by a fellow chusid who has a very interesting outlook on the prospect of “discrimination”. Ask him outright if he is prejudice, or discriminates, the answer will be an indigent “NO, NEVER”, and that might even be the case but when it comes to a fellow yid…. The story changes a bit.

The office employs a few frum employees, several Mexicans, and one or two Muslims. All are treated more or less the same, except the Frum employees.

Let me explain. Mohammad one of my co-workers has just finished fasting l'kuvid Ramadan. He was at work every day, did his job well, all was good. Now I don't know hilchos Ramadan very well, but I suppose that on the last day of this very hungry month there will be a holiday and Mohammad will call in sick, or request a vacation day etc. etc. no? Well I asked him that question and he said “Chaim, I work hard, no need vacation, I be here tomorrow”


The next morning I get to the office, Mohammad is not there, I ask the secretary if he took the day off, not looking up from her breakfast she replies “Avadeh!! He did.”

I laughed to myself, and made a mental note to tease him about it the next day.

The next morning Mohammad comes stumbling into the office chewing on a mouthful of Tums. I grin as he gives me a look, and says “I have stomach problems yesterday, no able to come into work”. That’s OK I tell him, I hope you feel better.

I was a bit surprised when he went into the boss’s office to request a vacation day added to his paycheck. The policy is that vacation must be scheduled one month in advance, so when he got the day approved, I thought, good for him, he worked hard, and I guess he deserved a day of wild and frenzied gorging.

I happened to be in the boss’s office as he was reviewing the payroll, and he makes a point of telling me that he approved Mohammad’s vacation day off, even though it was not requested accordingly, and that I should learn from his highly tolerant business practices.

"Ya, ya, he is a goy, one should not make a chillul hashem, always remember that."

I am a bit surprised at the newly found generosity of my boss, and tell myself, see never judge others, here you thought he made Scrooge look like the most charitable man on earth, and you were wrong.

Mohammad gets his pay, all is good.

As I stroll back to my little office I can't help but notice the difference in responses from my boss when Mohammad asked for a day off due to his religious concerns and a conversation I had with him two weeks ago about taking off a day for Hashana Rabba.

Boss: (in a strict tone of voice) "Chaim, I see you are requesting a day off next week, you know the policy."

Chaim: (in a very meek tone) "Yes I know, but I just thought about it, and since it's Friday anyway, and I am scheduled to be in all of Chol Hamoed, I was hoping that you could approve it"

Boss: "Nope, sorry I can't approve it, a company rule is a company rule, and I can't break it. It would not look good to the other workers. You can take the day off, but with no pay"

Walking through the cubicles back to my office I blurted out "Ess is nisht gerecht" and as my fellow workers fixed me with concerned stares, no doubt questioning my sanity, I turned red as chrain, and quickly ducked into the safety of my office.

Here is a fellow chusid that would bend a company policy so as not to cause a "chillul hashem", yet would deny me the same courtesy, because it would not cause a "chillul hashem"?

I ended up taking the day off, with no pay, and had a lovely time, but it still bothered me.

I wish I could say it was an isolated incident, but when Yosi’s sister got married, and he came in late the next day, the noise that was going on in the boss’s chamber was nothing like the time he excused Maria for coming late for the same reason.

I believe that charity begins at home. Equality does not mean taking advantage of a person that “you think” will understand and sympathizing with a person that might not.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wrecking the Religion!

A little bit about me.

I am a Chassidic guy, mid-twenties, that has the good fortune (?!) to be around all kinds of different, and interesting people. These wonderful people in turn, like to ask different and interesting questions!

For some odd reason people expect me to have the answers to what are sometimes the most mundane religious questions.

Why is it that a beard and peyos = instant rabbi?

As an “open-minded” fellow I sometimes have answers and other times am just as perplexed as the questioner is.

So when the answer to any given question is “oh, you have a point, I never thought about that” and their lower mandible drops, as they stare in googley-eyed disbelief, I chuckle to myself and move on.

I enjoy it, it makes life more interesting.

The other day I am standing outside enjoying a smoke, when one of my neighbors, Mark, who happens to be jewish, a YU grad back in 1965, but very far from frum, saunters over for a chat.
Past experience with this fine fellow teaches me that this will be a very “interesting” conversation with many religious overtones.

As he comes towards me I hear him muttering to himself rather audibly, “wrecking the religion, all you guys do is wreck the religion” I take one last puff, and mentally prepare myself for his newest onslaught.

“Chaim” he growls, as I open my mouth to say hi, “supposing I was to invite you to a nice restaurant for dinner, would you come?”

Knowing that any answer with this guy is wrong I decide to play it nice. “Sure Mark, as long as it’s kosher why not.” Before the answer has time to even leave my lips, He continues. “And if the waiter opens a bottle of wine that is not mevushal, and pours you a glass, would you drink it?”
Aha, so that’s the question, and here I was having visions of a complimentary night out.

“Ummm, no Mark I would not drink it” I replied as my shaky fingers fish in my pocket for a cigarette that I suddenly desperately needed.

“Aha, a bunch of fakes, phony’s, and frauds” he shouts jubilantly, with a knowing look. “And if the wine was mevushal?” he asks in an overly-sweet voice. “Ummm, I would drink it???” I ask hesitantly, thinking to my self that a bottle of wine was not a bad idea right now.

“Wrecking the religion, wrecking the religion” he shouts with his fist in the air.

The cigarette crumbles between my trembling fingers as I try to understand what was so wrong with my answer.

After a while I got the whole story.

Turns out that Mark had gone to a simcha of some-sort and there was an expensive bottle of wine on the table. Mark asked the waiter for a corkscrew, opened the bottle, and poured himself a glass. Two seconds later a chusid (that dresses just like me) passed by and grabbed the bottle off the table, sloshing half its contents onto the clean white tablecloth he reads the label. With a very Sherlockian “aha” he started running to the nearest sink, where he promptly poured it down the drain, all the time muttering to himself feverishly “yoy, er hut minasich geven diy van”. The fellow was chasidish. The bottle of wine was evidently not, it was not mevushal.

Mark being who he was continued to drink his glass of wine, while drumming his fingers on the purple blotched tablecloth. When he asked the fellow for an explanation, the answer he got was that the bottle was not mevushal, he was not jewish, and since he touched the bottle, it was forbidden for any jew to drink the wine. And so, to prevent any jew from drinking it by accident, this well-meaning fellow had immediately disposed of it.

Mark, once again being who he was, went and checked out what kind of mevushal was actually taking place in today’s commercial wineries. I need not tell you that “flash-pasteurization” was not something that he considered cooked (mevushal) at all.

“Ha” scoffed Mark, as he finished the story, “flash a light at some wine and suddenly it is mevushal”. Muttering once again about wrecking religions, he turned around and marched back to his house.

And as I said, “hey your right, good point” to his retreating back, I started thinking, does a flash of light make anything kosher? What are the standards today with the “better” hashgachas? Is there a big difference between say, the company that “answers to a higher authority” and any of the so called “better” hashgachas?

I certainly hope so.