2020-04-28 – I had two rabbis back when I was in the yeshiva. One was a gaon, a genius at parsing the words of the Talmud and inspiring because of his mind. The other was not known for intellectual feats, and he knew it.
This was so long ago that I don’t remember their names, so I’m going to name the genius rabbi Reb Gadol (Large) and the not-so-genius rabbi Reb Katan (Small).
I remember sitting in Reb Katan’s class when he told us: “I’m not interested in making you boys rabbis. I’ll be happy if you learn to be menschen.” Menschen means “good people.”
I also remember an incident involving Reb Gadol. It was Erev Purim, the evening of the holiday commemorating events from the biblical Book of Esther. Through Esther’s courage, a decree of the Persian king to kill all the Jews was annulled, and the victory is celebrated today with a reading of the book and drunken revelry sufficient to blot out the distinction between the hero and the villain of the story.
We were all assembled at the conclusion of the reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther). This is a great holiday for children and there were a lot of them wearing masks and costumes and shaking noisemakers to blot out the name of the villain. And Reb Gadol was there, of course. And he was drunk and waving around a flask of whiskey. Suddenly, it dropped from his hands and smashed. “Rabbi!” came the cry, with people pointing at the shards of glass where children were playing. “It’s nothing,” he said and walked away in an aura of genius.
I shooed the kids away and picked up the glass.
Last week, there was an Orthodox Jewish wedding in my neighborhood. The neighborhood already has the highest COVID infection rate. Some blame it on a Purim celebration back in March. You’d think people would learn a lesson. But some people don’t learn. Some people refuse to learn aftselakhis (out of spite). And sometimes these people are the “geniuses” of the community.
Here’s a story from WGN about the wedding. I only hope they are lucky.
May the lord bless and keep the meshuga . . . far away from us!
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