Monday, January 03, 2005

Current Affairs

Father L. Lovasic, a catholic priest, is immortalized through his legacy of brightly coloured books for children, selling the catholic message to them by way of simple language and imagery. There was a series of Jewish inspirational stories that also did some pretty impressive work for a time. I vividly remember one called Yossef Moker Shabbos that was published about twenty years ago. A beautifully illustrated ten-paged book with shiny faced, starry-eyed tzaddikim and pot-bellied, ruddy-cheeked villains. Today of course we chassidim have the privilege of some sem-girl who knocks out badly proportioned pictures with no perspective points that are even more kosher. My baby brings home these excruciating images on scribbled-on photocopy paper, to prove his Rebbe has tuned in to the twenty-first century and is big on arts and crafts.

Lovasik is eminently quotable. ‘Only the ignorant and narrow-minded gossip, for they speak of people instead of things.’ After this last week on the Hill that is what should be hanging on the notice boards, before all those badly written admonishments to buy Heimish. One ‘thing’ we should be discussing is how comes we expect God to be so forgiving yet we are so unforgiving ourselves.

We all know that there is a large group of disenfranchised youth that is kicking and screaming for some attention. We gleefully recount the stories of ‘his daughter’ and whathisname’s son. Of meetings in the park and in the parking during the meet. Of divorces that will happen and should happen and must happen and why. We all know exactly what the problem is in everybody’s family and exactly where they went wrong to place them in their current predicament.

The closed community we have, admirable as some of its advantages are, shares a fault with our educational system and chassidic underwear. It only comes in a medium. If you do not fit into the average measurements you are either painfully squeezed somewhere intimate or swimming around helplessly.

Our most efficient organ (or second most) is our rumour mill. Every day someone or other is taken under the loupe and painstakingly dissected. The laidigayers, with their superior knowledge of these things, will be intensely interrogated for all the sordid details of an alleged crime. The Frummers will then gleefully pass the information round, accompanying each titbit with the appropriate shake of the head to indicate it is purely for educational purposes that it is being discussed. The poor individual under discussion will never get the chance to make his or her case because the truth is irrelevant to the moral of the story. Another one bites the dust.

There is no appeal and no retrial. No mitigating circumstances and no temporary insanity. No name has ever been removed from the list of offenders. Because these cautionary tales were never officially told, they can never be retracted. This, in a kehilla called Chassidim, based on a concept designed to allow that simple souls become closer to God.

So when you gossipers gather round the coffee dispensers in shul to tell those who have no internet access that ‘der Shaigetz hot gequoted a gallech’ remember this one from him too, "Only a kind person is able to judge another justly and to make allowances for his weaknesses. A kind eye, while recognizing defects, sees beyond them."

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