Thursday, January 10, 2008

It is called a mezuzah

My townhouse is in a gated community of about 70 homes. I'm sad to say that I know very few people in the community. However, it's not because I am unfriendly, it has more to do with the fact that I would guess that the first language of 99% of the families in these homes was not English. (It's just a guess but I have rarely found an English-speaker among them!) But I digress. I was standing in a line to pick up a decal they were handing out for our cars and a man approached me.

Here's how that conversation went:

Man: Can I ask you a question?

Me: Sure, go ahead.

Man: I was down by your house and I noticed that you have a Jewish object on the door at your house. Can I ask why?

Me: Uh, because I'm Jewish.

Man: Really? I asked one of your neighbors when I saw it and he said he didn't know if you were Jewish. You must know that it is called a mezuzah. I have one on my door too.

We actually ended up having a nice conversation. He hasn't been to Shul in almost 30 years and I invited him for Shabbos. Still...for much of the conversation, I kept thinking - did this man just tell me that the "Jewish object" on my door is a mezuzah? Some things will never change.

7 comments:

Sona said...

You reminded me of the story I was once told. A friend of mine said that he had observed the most curious thing. A Jewish man was selling books door-to-door in his neighborhood and somehow he knew just which houses had Jewish occupants. He thought it was amazing until I explained that there is a way to tell who were most likely to be interested in Jewish books sold by a door-to-door salesman.

Rivster said...

However, I have heard of Jewish home builders who place mezzuzot on the door frames regardless of who will be residing in it.

So maybe...nah, he just thought that you don't look Jewish. Let's face it -- we are all guided by prejudice and I don't mean prejudice in a pejorative sense. Rather, based on life experience we make certain assumptions and most of the time we are correct.

Sometimes, however, we are not. And we need to be sensitive that our prejudicial remarks can cause pain and alienation.

Jack's Shack said...

That round thing with a hole is called a bagel. Looks like a donut, but... ;)

rivster said...

When you put chocolate in a bagel, that's when things begin to get murky!!

Leah in Chicago said...

Had a funny conversation with my Rabbi. He was talking about the symbols that hobos used to scratch into lampposts to show what house to go to to get food or a handout. He was talking about the Rabbi's Discretionary fund and said, "It's like those symbols. There must be a neon light somewhere that says come here and ask for help."

I said, "There is a sign, it's the mezzuzah."

He laughed and said he'd have to remember that.

Hila said...

oy... don't ya just love it? (not!) i still have people telling me things about judaism as if i were from another planet when it's like, um, yeaaahhh i got that a while ago. in particular it irks me when my non-observant friends try to tell me something they "know" about judaism and i end up having to correct them, and then they seem so confused and i feel badly. sometimes i think i really should take my mother's words to heart: "you can be right, or you can be happy. know when you can't have both."

Kol Ra'ash Gadol said...

well, it sounds like he was hedging his bets by saying "well you must know that..."
still, along the same lines there's a story told by one of my colleagues in which he (who lives in the deep south) was walking to shul one day, and this guy driving a pick up truck with a bunch of friends starts rolling down the street behind him.
He was feeling pretty nervous because he's wearing a kippah, and the guys in the truck are, you know, full out: gun rack, confederate flag, the works, and they slowed down to keep just breast of him as he was walking.
He was starting to ponder what to do next if something happened, when one of the guys rolls down the window of the truck, whoops loudly, "Shabbat shalom" and they speed off cackling madly....