I don't usually like to use this space as a venue to vent my frustrations, but, please, just bear with me for a minute.
For those of you who don't know, this week is Sukkot (or sukkos). I'm not an expert on these things, and there's certainly no shortage of more qualified people to explain this to you, but Sukkot is a Torah mandated festival that involves an outdoor structure that looks like a walled booth with some kind of plant material covering. This structure is called a sukkah, and it is meant to represent the makeshift dwellings that the Jews lived in during the exodus from Egypt. Sukkot also includes repeating specific prayers and blessings, recited while holding a yellow citron (called an Etrog) and a date palm frond (called a Lulav).
Now, if you live in New York City, you are most definitely aware that during this one week of the year there are both stationary and mobile sukkahs strategically located around town. Seriously, who doesn't love a sukkah-mobile? And accompanying these multiple sukkahs are young orthodox Jews carrying Etrogs and Lulavs. Personally, I think it's terrific that these young guys are so committed to their traditions and practices that they wander around town wanting to share the joy of this sacred festival with others. I don't know exactly how it's phrased in the scriptures, but because it is mandated for Jews to take part in this festival, these young orthodox guys ask passersby, "Are you Jewish?" This would be fine too, but several times when I've been asked, "Are you Jewish?" and I've responded, "No." The guy just turns around and goes hunting for the next potential Jew.
Dude! If you're going to be asking people if they're Jewish, there are most probably going to be a number of people who are going to say, "No." In this case, I would suggest that the appropriate and polite response might be, "Okay, enjoy your afternoon." or "Very well, thanks man. Have a great day." or "Sorry for disturbing you." or "May the love of God be with you." or possibly a handshake and a friendly nod. But somehow me being a non-Jew qualifies me for immediate dismissal. Call me sensitive but this REALLY PISSES ME OFF!
This very scenario happened to me earlier today, and when the young Jew dismissively turned and walked away from me, I wanted to chase the guy down and say, "Hey, haven't you been taught about the teachings of Rabbi Hillel? About how he said, 'That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbors?' What part of that very simple interpretation of the golden rule do you not understand, Putz?
But I didn't. I had a moment. I stopped. I breathed. I remembered that justified indignation is rarely a good idea, and, truth be told, I'm glad that I live in a city where Jews are celebrating this ancient and joyous festival all over town, and encouraging others to join them. So I was able to shift my focus from one of anger to one of gratitude. Seriously, I love seeing a sukkah-mobile working its way down an avenue, and most of all, I love New York.