Sunday, March 26, 2006

Oh My Goy

The word goy, in our community, has none of the connotations some of my readers suppose it to have. For the native Yiddish speakers on our Hill the word masks none of the hidden longing and jealous admiration that the secular Jews are accused of. The definition of goy, for us, is non-Jewish. The definition of Jewish is less simply defined on the other hand. Far too many Hillers define Jewish as anybody with a level of judaic religious observance above whatever standard they arbitrarily decide, but that is another matter.

Goy means gentile like boy means male human child. So when someone says to you “Listen here boy,” it means, listen to me male infant. If you happen to be overweight, fifty-seven years old, black and lesbian you might take umbrage but that does not make boy a rude word.

When a Chassidic property dealer with a messy beard and an accent thicker than his waist says, “My goy vill deal viz it.” with utter finality he is not denigrating his ‘man’ rather he is asserting his manhood. His ‘having manhood’ that is. You see everybody on the Hill can deal a few properties here and there but it is having your own goy that really makes you the man. ‘I’ll tell my goy to take care of it’ is a sentence you practice before the mirror before skipping to brush your teeth.

Each industry has it own set of goyim. When I was younger each of the property-dealing families used to have an Irish man. A Paddy or an O’Riley they could call upon any time of the night or day to deal with whatever needed to be dealt with, from a dripping tap in a bathroom, to a front room to chassidified with three fluorescent tubes or a grandmother that has to be picked up from the airport. It was an Afro-Caribbean in the eighties and Columbian in the nineties. Today it is most often a Polish guy with lots of drive, a big toolbox (with tools in) and the mistaken idea that hitching his star to a Jew will shoot him off into the stratosphere- moneywise.

The car salesmen all have a mechanic they like to call My Goy and even my washing machine repairman proudly proclaims his goy’s virtues above rubies. These batmen are invariably very well treated by their Chassidic benefactors who are more often than not completely baffled by the mentality of the gentiles they are dealing with. It is these goyim whose task it is to serve as interpreter and cultural attaché, translating English for their bosses and their bosses to the English. They understand fully well that while their bosses might dress like the Jewish version of a priest that is a sartorial mirage and in fact, behind the exotic exterior often lies a Londoner (pun intended). Forewarned and forearmed by the information provided by his goy the Chassidic businessmen’s associates can come to table with no unreasonable expectations and thus can business commence.

Come Pesach, the Rabbis too have to produce their very own uncircumcised member. Like the businessmen whose lives they covet all year and who lead and advise them in all matters, when it comes to Pesach each Rabbi worth his salt has to have his own goy. Originally the idea of selling Chametz (leavened foods forbidden over Passover) was instituted to allow businesses, that would suffer financial hardship if they had to liquidate all their stock every year, to circumvent this law. The ceremony involves a symbolic selling of the goods, which are stored in a carefully marked place, to a certified goy for the duration of the week after which the goods are returned to their original owners automatically.

Today in our ever growing frummity we all dutifully traipse down to our local Rav and sell him a whole pile of stuff that is not chometz anyway, like headache pills and washing-up liquid, but which we earnestly put aside as questionable because they don’t have the kosher stamp. The Rav does so out of genuine concern and also because each of us leaves him a generous gratuity. The Rabbi then performs the same transaction with the goy in a ceremony I am dying to see; Especially the part where the Rabbi verifies the credentials of the goy.

Happily, the goy is an awfully understanding and generous chap so he does not mind at all that half the town borrows from his stuff without asking, like when suddenly someone falls ill and remembers the Aspirin are in his box. As I said we might look like Rabbis but that is a deception and far from being goy haters, this particular Yomtov we positively love ‘em.

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