The ProsenPeople

Bageling

Thursday, April 12, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman wrote about an unexpected Hava Nageela moment and about his disdain for the phrase: "How's Everything?" He has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Have you ever been ‘bageled’?

Bageling,” is:

the conscious act – or speech - of a non-obviously looking Jewish individual to an obviously looking Jew intended to indicate that he or she is also Jewish; or, the conscious act of a non-Jew towards a Jew to indicate his or her affinity with the Jewish people.

An example of the former is when I was on the plane back from Denver and a bare-headed Jew came over to me and said Shalom. He was ‘bageling’ me. He was attempting to indicate with the word Shalom that he too is one of the tribe.

I am sure that many of us have been bageled before. Often all of us have been approached by individuals –Jewish and non-Jews- and befriended or just greeted in order to inform us that the person standing before us would like to connect with us.

In the latter case of a non-Jew, the act of being bageled can be as innocent as the non-Jew also saying Shalom or sometimes - as happened to me at the airport in Denver- much weightier and significant.

So sit back, relax and listen to one more tale of the ‘travels of Rabbi Eisenman’.

My least favorite part of flying is the security check point. Believe it or not- I enjoy the actual flight. After all, I have hours of uninterruptible time by myself; what could be better?

However, the security check point is always uncomfortable for me. I do my best to empty everything in my pockets, hoping that the metal detector alarm will not sound, as I do not want everyone seeing ‘the rabbi’ having to undergo the ‘wand’ treatment.

As I was approaching the security machine in Denver I was quite conscious of the fact that I was the most obviously looking Jew in the airport at the time. I emptied my pockets and waited for the guard on the other side of the metal detector to signal me to begin the shoe-less, belt-less, cell phone-less stroll through the metal detector doorway to the freedom of the plane.

The officer on the other side of the detector was big. He was about six feet three and trim, fit and very stern looking. As I waited to be instructed to begin my walk, I wondered silently if he was physically capable of smiling.

He slowly lifted his fingers ever so slightly and indicated that I was now to proceed through the invisible aura which sees all.

I walked through and looked up at my protector expecting and hoping for ‘the nod’ which would allow me to proceed without further delay.

However, it was not to be. 

Officer Cheerful-face indicated that I must approach him.

I slowly neared my ‘defender of the homeland’ with both trepidation and nervousness.

“Will I be whisked off to Gitmo, never to be seen again?

Will I become the next poster child for the Agudah?

Will prayer rallies be held on my behalf?

Will the very same ‘please forward to everyone you know’ emails that I have preciously railed against now be splashed all over the virtual world for my quick and immediate release?

Will the young girls in Bais Ya'akovs all across the globe know my Hebrew name by heart as their pristine and sinless lips fervidly say Tehillim for my redemption?

Will I now write books from the inside of a prison cell in Guantanamo Bay?”

I was now face to face with the law. 

He slowly looked me in the eye and then, in a move which no doubt would strike fear in the hearts of the mightiest of men, he motioned to me to come very, very close to him. He then began to look from side to side.

“What is going to happen to me now?

If the person who is supposed to be my protector is now making sure no one else is looking and that no one else can hear us, what is he planning to do?

Could it be that he is secretly related to a choleric and cross congregant who still bears a grudge against the rabbi for his not getting ‘Shlishi’ last Shabbos?

Could it be that he is really a secret admirer of Osama Bin Laden and he has mistaken me as a fellow Taliban?’

Finally, after his being convinced that no one else could hear us, he began his murmured divulgence:

“America must support Israel! The only hope for America is when we and Israel are totally in sync and when there is no difference between our interests and that of Israel. That is the only hope for our country. I just wanted you to know this!”

I nodded and, as quickly as my little legs could transport me, I proceeded to the plane.

Friends, I was just super bageled; with cream cheese and lox as well!

Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman's The Elephant in the Room is now available.

How's Everything?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman wrote about an unexpected Hava Nageela moment. He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Yesterday a man came to see me for an appointment. As he came in to the office he asked me, “how’s everything?” At first I did not answer, so he asked again, “Is everything alright?”

Once again, I did not answer.

I do not recall when the phrase “how’s everything” first became part of our vernacular. When I was a child, people greeted each other with “How are you today?” or “How do you do?” I don’t think the phrase “how’s everything” became popular until the era of ‘a cell phone on every belt clip and a blue tooth in every ear.' 

Whenever this phrase became popular, I really dislike it and do my best never to use it.

Why do I have such disdain for this seemingly innocuous greeting? What possible reason could there be for me, a normally mild mannered and easy going person, to become full of wrath and contempt about the use of this little ditty of a phrase?

The reason, which has been made clear to me on numerous occasions, was particularly brought home yesterday when this fellow asked the question. Here was an individual who had requested a meeting to see me about his concerns. Nevertheless, normal human relations necessitate a formal asking of your host’s health and well being. For this somewhat almost perfunctory necessity, people would say, “How are you today?” That was fine. The petitioner would at least sincerely inquire as to how his host was feeling today.

However, nowadays we have this all encompassing and meaningless greeting “How’s everything?” 

When I hear it, I say to me, “does he really want to know HOW IS EVERYTHING?”
What does that mean everything?

Does he want to know all about my children and their issues? What about me and my personal struggles and battles? What about communal affairs? Does he really want to inquire about EVERYTHING

Of course not.

Therefore one can deduce that when one says "how’s everything" they really do not care about anything!

However, by using the word ‘everything’ they are being ‘politically correct’ in conveying the artificial message of care or of setting up the illusion that they really care about everything when in reality perhaps they are interested in nothing.

Try this sometime. The next time someone asks you, “how’s everything?” Answer, “I am so happy you asked" and proceed to discuss at length your issues at work, your issues with world politics, your issues with…..everything! And then see their reaction.

For those who think this post is Much Ado about Nothing, you are right. 

When people say: “how’s everything?”- they are indenting for all to believe that they are interested in ‘much ado’ while in realty it is all nothing.

So let us begin our own little “We Hate ‘How’s Everything’” club:

Show you really care about people and stop using the phrase how’s everything.

All members of the club should only say “How are you today” and really listen and care about their answer! Let’s attempt to stamp out this depthless and casual type of greeting. Let’s go back to the meaningful, "how are you today?"

This can make all the difference in the world.

Thank for reading and by the way, “How’s’ Everything?”

Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman's The Elephant in the Room is now available.

Hava Nageela

Monday, April 09, 2012 | Permalink

Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman is the author of The Elephant in the Room. He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

"Hava Nagila" (Hebrew: הבה נגילה) (lit. Let us rejoice) is a Hebrew folk song that has become a staple of band performers at Jewish weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.  The melody was taken from a Ukrainian folk song from Bukovina. The commonly used text was probably composed by Abraham Zevi (Zvi) Idelsohn in 1918 to celebrate the British victory in Palestine during World War I as well as the Balfour Delcaration. (From Wikipedia)

Yesterday was some day- I almost cannot remember the clock moving; it began early in the day at Shul and ended late at night. It was a day of constant motion and if I would fill you in on the details of the day… well, suffice to say we could sell such stories to ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not’!

At about 5 pm, I find myself at my next challenge of an already hectic day: attempting to find parking on the island of Manhattan. Finally, I spot a garage and quickly turn my vehicle into the lot with about 10 minutes to spare for my 5:13 pm appointment in mid-town New York.

As I open my door and begin to exit, the dark-skinned attendant and his side quick greet me with a smile. They could be African-American, Latino, Indian, Bangladeshi, Arab or perhaps Sephardic Jews (however, that last choice is very unlikely).

As I am step totally out of the car and place my hat on my head, suddenly my parking pals burst out in a spontaneous rendition of Hava Nageela.



At first I am totally shocked by this unexpected occurrence of being ‘bageled’ - by these perfect parking strangers. After all, here I am in the middle of Manhattan as these two men of unknown lineage are serenading me to the tune of Hava Nageela.

As I am in a rush (which seems more and more to be the norm of my life and not the exception) – I am somewhat turned off by this unneeded and bothersome waste of time.

However, as I looked at their smiling faces and their genuine attempt to connect with me on my terms I realized that this impromptu medley came from a good and pure place of the human experience; namely their want and their desire to connect to another human being in friendship.

With this epiphany in hand, not only was I no longer agitated by this spontaneous song, I was elated.

Indeed, this was exactly the G-d send I needed to cheer me up on this stress ridden and difficult day.

In less time than you can say “Uru aḥim! Uru aḥim b'lev sameaḥ” I joined their duet and we immediately created the ‘Nageela Trio’ in the middle of a cold night in Manhattan.

On and on we went, “Hava Nageela, Hava Nageela….” as the three of us sang the night away - well, that’s somewhat of an exaggeration as in truth our opening rendition lasted about thirty seconds; however, the joy and fun we had was real and meaningful- not to mention great fodder for today’s blog.

Why ignore those moments which are so precious and so meaningful when you connect with another person in joy and simcha?
Why ignore someone when they reach out to you on your terms?
If nothing else at least acknowledge and smile back- it will change your day.

Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman's The Elephant in the Room is now available.