Thursday, December 09, 2004

Ode to the Shaigetz

I call myself The Shaigetz because that is what they would call me if they knew who I am. I wear the name with pride because I would hate to be anything else.

The new generation of shgatzim is going to go places. There can be no doubt in my mind that Chassidism in its current state will implode. A generation of young people, brought up in third world conditions in the middle of an urban jungle, is going to need the tools to survive. When they realise the establishment has denied them these they will learn to question. Sadly it is only the more intelligent or the lucky that will still learn to adapt. I don’t want to think what will come of the rest but I believe the shgatzim will survive.

A true shaigetz is, in my definition, a believer in God and His mitzvos, who also sports a healthy dose of cynicism towards those who use Him for their business objectives. For me the appeal of the shaigetz is that he has been brought up in the repressive society of the Men in Black and yet has persevered. The true shaigetz is pragmatic enough to accept that he can never leave but astute enough to realize their way, in its current form, can never be his or His.

It encourages me when I notice there is a burgeoning community of shgatzim out there. It is impossible for me to get the details of all visitors to the blog but I know the vast majority comes from within the Chassidic communities of New York, London and Antwerp. I am not under the illusion that all that visit are shgatzim but I have no doubt many are and in any event, the fact that they visit and are interested to hear puts them in class above the mindless zombies who make and enforce the rules.

So welcome to The Shaigetzphere. Here few of us care (or is that dare?) to use our names yet somehow that just makes it truer. Here you either accept my opinion or reject it on its own merits. Would you be able to do that if I signed my name and you had to?

Here we are happy to read
The Hassid and even get into a discussion with him about his butter sandwich with chicken soup. We might secretly be glad he ain’t our son but we nonetheless see no reason to deny him the opportunity to make his point, and take the time to politely disagree.

Here too we can meet Dasi, sadly, as yet without a blog of her own, yet her wisdom sparkles here and there on other comments rooms in the shaigetzphere. Would we guys be able to appreciate her exquisite wit and wisdom in some front-room in Heimishtown? Would I dare to give her this compliment in public if we knew each other’s name? Same goes for Hoezentragerin who obviously sees herself as the power holding up the throne in her household.

Tamara lives in the capital of the shaigetzphere where the digit system starts at 4. She was the first to welcome me when I dropped in. She has a slightly different idea as to what a shaigetz is. But she’ll learn. I could go on forever listing the interesting personalities I have come across here from the kind and learned Yessir (whom I suspect to be part of the establishment) to the knowledgeable Doc who I wish was.

I am proud to have had a hand in forming this space and I hope it will further develop, as the new generation of shgatzim join and become active. I believe the day of reckoning that we all face in the great shteeble in the sky is an awesome occasion for the best of men. I am not among them. Still I suspect, as the Rebbishe prosecutor pompously reads out the long litany of my transgressions against Chassidus and its appointed henchmen, He will covertly lower one deific eyelid at me in conspiratorial wink.

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