Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Yarmulke Obsession

Tuesday night I was at a wedding of a man that was almost single handedly responsible for me and my father’s return to observant Judaism. I say almost because, as chance may have it…there was a certain Rabbi whom I had met two years prior as a cadet in military school, who would come every Sunday. The Rabbi would bring BBQ potato chips, and cinnamon buns, and divrei Torah…and even a portable sukkah. Eleven years had passed since that year in military school, and now this Rabbi, none other than a Chabad Shliach, was at the wedding, being that he is the bride’s uncle. Ok so far everything sounds nice and sweet…your typical pareve L’Chaim magazine kind of stuff. Now let me get to my point. When I lean over to tell the Rabbi who I am; before any introductions were possible he noticeably stared at my yechi yarmulke. I mean it’s a crown heights wedding, so it’s not like it’s a big chiddush or that I stick out or anything. Anyways…you might be thinking “OK, big deal.” and for now I’ll agree, but wait there’s more. The Rabbi is so excited to claim me as his baal teshuva and starts introducing me to all of his friends and his wife. So I play along to give credit where credit is due. Before I go any further with what is about to happen...I want to say that the Rabbi was genuinely happy...and I could feel his sincerity. He and his wife were mamash excited…and really remembered me and are extremely dedicated to their shlichus in their community and the cadets for at least two decades. In general I want it to be known that I’m not writing to be political, or to bad mouth anyone. Back to the story….the first Rabbi that I’m brought to tell my ”cadet” story to, introduces himself as “where did you get your yarmulke from?”
“The gartel gemach in 770” I replied

“It turns me off to Judaism”

“Rabbi if my yarmulke can turn you off to Judaism, then maybe you need to strengthen your foundation.” I answered with a sweet innocent smile.

“Take it off”

“Ok” I took it off jokingly, hoping he’ll realize he’s being stupid, and put it back on.

“You shouldn’t be wearing it…do you wear it to the bathroom?”


As this dialogue goes on with a perfect stranger…I’m also trying to tell anther perfect stranger how his friend brought me to Judaism…while the other friend continues…

“How can you wear such holy words to the bathroom?”

“It’s not a Torah doesn’t mention any names of G-d, what’s the problem? Maybe it’s like Modeh Ani” (I was about to start darshining chassidus to him about Moshiach and yechida. This will suffice for the understanding ;)

“How many times a day do you say Shema...How many times do you say yechi….”
This many times for this and that many times for that blah blah blah…this guy is not worth my time.

This is just one such example of many. I haven’t decided how many to share yet…..because I don’t think there are enough rocks for these Rabbis to hide under. But here is my point: ARE THESE PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR MINDS???

First of all...if I told you the story happened with a misnagid then no one would be surprised. That’s normal because for the most part we don’t expect them to know better.

Second of all...I’m telling him how his friend got me to start wearing a yarmulke…and he is telling me to take it off because obviously he doesn’t agree with what is written on it.

Third of all…we don’t know each other from a hole in a wall…and he’s asking me about my bathroom practices, and my fashion tastes in religious head garments, and the consistency of my prayers.

Bottom line...he thinks I’m nuts…and stupid…I’m just a silly baal teshuva wearing a yarmulke that says that his dead rebbe is my living one…whatever.

And I think……..
This is the introduction to my new series...I hope you enjoy and stay tuned.

by Velvel Kutsy

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