Wednesday, December 13, 2006

By the way . . .

My Shabbat lunch at the home of my Chareidi relatives went quite nicely. None of the kids said that I do anything assur, maybe because their mother spoke with them, or maybe because I was wearing long winter sleeves and did not mention anything about learning gemara. Everyone was very nice to me, and we had a good time laughing over the Jeremy story.

Watching how the parents are raising their kids, though, is a fascinating sort of sociological study. It's fascinating how they are in tune with broader society in some ways, self-aware and perfectly reasonable, and yet so close-minded and racist, in others.

On the "OK, my relatives are fairly normal" side, at one point the children started talking about some older kids they know who make a habit of going to Route 1 on Saturday afternoons to yell "Shabbos! Shabbos!" at the passing cars. My young 3rd cousins once removed were very excited about this idea and wanted to go too. To teach the chilonim about Shabbos! To which my cousin Shimmy replied "No way. Absolutely not. This is not something you should do." The kids said "But Abba! It's a mitzva to give mussar!" and their father replied "Not if the people will not listen. This is not an appropriate way to give mussar. No way. You are not going. End of story." Chevy also told me a story about a neighbor "who is very normal" whose son went to the highway to yell at the cars, and the neighbor leaned out the window and yelled at him: "If you don't stop that right now and come home, I'm going to lock the door and you're NOT coming home." Perhaps not effective parenting (especially since the kid didn't listen), but I'm glad that in Chevy's book, NOT wanting your kids to yell "Shabbos, Shabbos" at the cars qualifies as "normal."

Of course, I would have liked for them to go a step further, to tell the kids "if you really want the chilonim to keep Shabbos, the best way is to invite them over and share Shabbos with them, so maybe they will see how wonderful it is to keep Shabbos." But they didn't. No explanation of WHY yelling at cars is not effective mussar. Just that it's not. Some of the kids were certainly more than old enough to understand.

But it goes back to the question, I guess, of how much you can blame a group for not speaking up more against the flawed behavior that comes out of their communities. Is it enough to simply not engage in that behavior? To tell your kids that they can't, when clearly they are picking messages -- probably from their friends -- that the behavior is not only OK, but laudable?

Food for thought.

Anyway, the main reason I visit these relatives as often as I do is that, with the exception of my wonderful (chiloni) cousins in Petach Tikva, Shimmy is the ONLY blood relative I have in Israel, that I know of. I settled with them a long time ago that I don't sleep over at their house for Shabbat, because staying in a 3-bedroom apartment with them and their 9 children is way too intense and noisy for me. So I walk over for lunch, and then either walk back later or take a taxi home after Shabbat ends.

But the walk is getting old. It's an hour and 15 minutes, uphill all the way, to get to them. If any of my readers know people in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood or its environs, who have room for a guest, or if you know of a bed and breakfast or something, I'd appreciate having someplace to sleep closer to my cousins. The walk from my house is getting really annoying.

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