Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Trip Up

Traveling for Yomtov to the Rebbe is another one of those Chassid things I just don’t understand. Did the old tzaddikim never envisage what the effect would be on a girl growing up in a family where the father is never home Yomtov? For those who are not familiar with this concept, let me explain. Genuine Chassidim of former times used to travel over Yomtov to visit their Rebbe in the village he lived. The journeys were often long and rough and much of Chassidic folk tales are of the travelers-tale variety. This probably adds considerably to the mystique of today’s highly popular trips For Yomtov To The Rebbe.

Travel today is less dangerous I suppose. You could still face the ultimate test of your strength, when you arrive last onto a plane, with too much hand-baggage, to find yourself holding the card to the only place left and it’s next to a woman. Naturally as proud bearer of the flag you will explain to the two hapless stewardesses with finality (and your eyes averted of course) that you “cannot possibly sit next to woman. It’s in the religion.” Some have been known to fail this test.

Not every chassidus (Chassidic sect) is equally notorious for being family Yomtov poopers it has to be said. Some chassidi no longer encourage the very long Yomtov trips, invariably undertaken by young heralds on their own. The damsels are left at home to fend for the hearth- and that should be read literally, with the hearth holding a fair few toddlers too. Only one notable exception still has young men coming for three even four weeks to immerse themselves totally in the loving embrace of the group, yet I believe most still encourage their adherents at least to prove it over Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.

I have never been quite sure what the real reason is for these trips. I am sure a lot of it has as much to do with male bonding as the strengthening of those divine bonds. And have oftentimes wondered whether there is not some flaw in the marital ties of those men who prefer a month with their friends and Rebbe to the marital brood.

I have to steel myself not to cringe when I see some of those Rebbe-widows forlornly standing there outside shul after davening, waiting for a nebbich of a thirteen-year-old boy whose job it is to be the Man in the house for Yomtov. As a thirteen-year-old girl once told me “We never have a Yomtov meal except when we are invited out. My mother does not bother when my father is not there.” I have to keep mum when I am earnestly explained that the school fees have to got rise, again, because so many of the younger parents cannot afford to pay at all. I suppose they back-pack to Israel or the States.

I have no problem with my own son going to his Rebbe. As long as he is young and single and his bills are paid let him have his fun. I regularly insist at home that trips to the Rebbe alone are a bacheloric luxury and that they will have to stop when he is married. And I hope he will listen to his dad even though his never did.

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