Monday, April 03, 2006

Common sense?

There have not been many times in my life when I was embarrassed to be wearing a yamulka. Sure, sometimes you may feel awkward and strange, depending on the situation, but embarrassment for wearing it is not something I usually feel.

I had the misfortune of spending some hours at the local branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles this past Friday. I was prepared for the headache that's usually involved, but I was not prepared for what happened.

As I was waiting on one of the many lines, I notice an obviously frum man (hat, jacket, beard) walk in the door with four (4) of his young children. Why someone brings any children, let alone four of them to the DMV is completely beyond me. He sits down to wait his turn, pulls a small chumash out of his jacket pocket and settles in for the wait. His children, obviously, do not. They're running all over the place, yelling, tripping over people and pretty much irritating everyone. He's oblivious, buried in his chumash.

A woman who works there approached him and tapped him on the shoulder (gasp!). He jumps up. "Can you please control your children" she asked him. He rounded up his kids and asked them nicely to sit down next to him. Then he buried himself back into the chumash. Predictably, about 1 minute and 12 seconds later, they're running all over the place again.

What happened to common sense? This man probably thinks he's doing something good and noble by learning his chumash and going over the parsha in his spare time. But he's not. He's making a terrible Chilul Hashem. Yes, I realize kids are kids, but most reasonably sane people do not bring children to the DMV. And if it couldn't be avoided, at least make sure they behave! Put the chumash away and take care of them to the best of your ability. Wearing a hat, jacket and beard carries responsibilities with it. All eyes are upon you. You are representing Orthodox Judaism whether you like it or not. If you can't live up to that, at least try to act the part for a few hours.

He wasn't able to see the looks or hear the comments. I was. My yarmulka was getting heavier on my head.

I wouldn't complain if this was an isolated incident. So one guy may be crazy. But I know and you know that it's not. I'm sure you've seen this behavior yourself.

I think it's the ghetto mentality. Some people (in my opinion) are not used to going out among non-Jewish people. They go to Jewish schools, Jewish stores, learn in yeshivos, and never really have to interact with people who do not see things the way they do. Unfortunately there's a certain accepted behavior when you're among frum people which would not be accepted in the real world (that's another subject for another post). Frum people would generally not complain if the kids are running all over the place in their store. So that becomes normal. And it happens even when they're not among frum people. And it's very wrong.

Derech Eretz kadmah L'Torah.