Jan 10, 2011

Reliving the Bible Slap

I posted last week, not to mention in late 2010/early 2011, about this search I'm having for who I am and how I got here. This is another installment, sort of a follow-up to that post, as well as a pairing to go with my Don't Forget to Review the Conversion Manual post, that got a lot of mixed reactions. That post, of a little old man bringing into question my Jewishness, came about in December of 2007, whereas this post came about a year after my conversion in April 2007. From this post below to the one in December, I think I'd been through a lot. The pairing here is that in my Conversion Manual post, it is a Jew that challenges me. In this post, it is a Christian who challenges me (although without knowing that I am a convert). 


Date: April 6, 2007
Post title: A Challenge 

I'm sitting in Argo Tea near Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Just by Water Tower place. I'm at a table among tables crowded with people, headphones in, listening to Explosions in the Sky (my Torah music). My Etz Hayim is open to Ezekiel 37:1-14, reading between talking via GChat ...

An older man with bad teeth appears over my shoulder, and with a thick British accent says, "Greek?"

I pull off my headphones and show him the cover, "No, it's Hebrew ... Torah."

He responds very quickly, as if waiting to quiz someone -- anyone -- with, "Ahh, how many Sabbath days in Passover!?"

I, taken aback at his random quizzing because it doesn't appear as a friendly exchange, but rather a challenge of "what do you know there little Hebrew girl?," respond with, "Well, the first two and last two days are treated as holidays." I, being Reform and in the Diaspora, know there are differences in the traditions. But this is the first thing I say, of course.

Wrong! He chides me, says "look it up! look it up!" and points me to Leviticus. There are TWO days, he says. And of course, in tradition, yes, there are. He then retrieves his Christian bible and reads the verses to me. I respond by mumbling the Hebrew translations and he continues to correct me when I say that the harvest was 'raised up' ... in the Christian bible it says it was waived about, I guess.

Then, almost as an insult he says, "You must be Reform, eh? Maybe someday you'll become Orthodox and really know your stuff!" He then talks about Easter and the crucifixion and blah blah blah. A barista approaches, mouthing "Are you okay?" The guy eventually shuts up and walks away.

It was like he was challenging me. Like he could see a sign above my head that says "Pick on me! I'm the Reform girl reading Torah in a tea shop! Please, quiz me!"

But it's bigger than that. He stood above me and I sat. I was below him. He reciting words from his Christian bible proving he knows better than I about the tradition. But I knew. Why didn't I just say "Listen man, this is the Diaspora, we do things differently. Not everything in the bible is word for word nowadays. It isn't the precision that matters, it's the passion." But I didn't. Why? I felt intimidated. Unprepared.


It's Good Friday. Beware one and all. These used to be the days when the Jews got nervous and skittish. Blood in matzo and all that. Mrph.

What a day. Chunks of meat in my ranch and getting lectured by the Christian on my own holiday. Slap! Slap! Slap!


Elle said...

oh I just posted about a situation much like that!

That said, I'm sure you know this by now, but those types of people... well it's their thing to challenge a person on any given topic (religious or not) that is very in depth and can't be answered simply. When you pause to reflect... well that's when the questioner jumps in with a bunch of "facts" and dumps them on the your poor startled head and says "boo-ya!" and walks away beaming proud of himself while you stand there dumbfounded.

That is how people like that feel smart without having to actually know much about anything. Really though? it's a sad tiresome existence because the novelty of being able to slam people like that eventually gets eaten up by the fact that you have no friends and no real knowledge or understanding of much of anything and well.. that's a sad way to live really.

Rivki Silver said...

Oh. my. gosh.

Reminds me of when I was attending a friend's wedding. Her father, a cah-razy evangelical-type was in witnessing heaven. A whole room full of Jews! Wheee!! He was talking to everyone he could (she sat him at a table with Kiruv rabbis, btw). When it was my turn, he kept asking me about Isaiah, and telling me how I "really needed" to read it.

It made me wish that I had a better understanding of Navi, and also better comebacks. I just kind of stood there and then ran away.

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