Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Today, outside my house, I met a Jewish lady. We started schmoozing. She lives on my street, but the next block over.
So she says to me, "Maybe we can join you for shabbos sometime," which I heartily agreed to. Then she said, "Maybe you could be our guests sometime," and I smiled. In my heart I knew we never would. She had a hat perched atop her head, and I saw all her hair.
I felt very sad. I didn't feel sad that she didn't cover her hair properly, I felt sad that I made a kashrus judgment based on that. I mean, if this is "where she's holding" with her hair, who knows "where she's holding" in kashrus?
I have been on the other end of this equation. My landlady, whom I have become quite friendly with, will not eat in my house. She lives in Brooklyn and comes down every now and again. I invite her for shabbos, yet she makes this excuse or that. I know it's because she doesn't trust my kashrus. She's a frum -from-birth Satmar chassidiste and I'm a ba'alas teshuva to a decidedly different group. The truth is, I won't eat in her house either - but that's another story.
Tonight, at a shiur, the rabbi speaking said that one of the great "chiddushim" the Ba'al Shem Tov brought into the world is he made all Jews equal. There was a time when the scholars and the laymen sat separately in shul. No way, said Reb Yisroel. The shoemaker and the wagon driver have lofty Jewish souls, just like the greatest rabbis. In Ba'al Shem Tov stories, the simple Jews were often on a higher spiritual level.
Oh yeah? I thought to myself. So why don't I see all the fine frum-from-birth families marrying into the fine ba'al teshuva families? How come all the 7th generation chassidim marry each other and won't even consider a ba'al teshuva for a spouse? Ok, there are exceptions to this "rule." But those are few and far between.
I'm aware of these "divides" amongst my people. Nobody says them aloud, but I'll bet we all think them. This one wears scarves and this one doesn't wear stockings and this one shaves his beard and this one wears a knit yarmulke and this one doesn't keep cholov yisroel and this one has a television and would you believe where this one da'avens?
Make no mistake, I LOVE JEWS. If that was a bumper sticker, my minivan would be all the finer. But I wish I could look at another Jew and see a G-dly soul, and nothing else.
Maybe you have to be a Rebbe for that.