I always think my scrabbly beard will make me look at home in Chassidic neighborhoods. But their denizens seem to be see me as an outsider just the same. One problem is the Williamsburg Chassids have nice beards (much nicer than the famous “Chassid Beards of Stamford Hill”). Whatever the cause, since I don’t, apparently, look Jewy enough to blend, I have to imagine it was my recent handsomeness that made that Chassidic guy trust me as I strolled along the boulevard last Friday night.
Since it was already Shabbos, he could not, of course, tend to any fires. Which meant — according to two thousand years of Talmudic tradition — that when his little imps switched on his car’s lighting, he was powerless to turn it off without incurring the wrath of Cohen. And was forced to ask me, a Gentile stranger, if I could turn the dad-blasted thing off for him.
I agreed without hesitation, though I have to admit I worried when it seemed I had to trudge over to his house to get the keys and maybe do something that drivers know but I do not. Fortunately, when he mentioned it would be a holiday Sunday and I immediately knew which holiday, a look of dread covered his face as he asked a question, the answer to which he did not want to hear … “Are you Jewish?”
His rapidly draining battery regretted to learn that the answer was yes.
Still, the devout soul grasped at straws. “Was your mother Jewish?”
Yes. … The whole “meshpoche.”
He was crestfallen (though, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure at what level the Orthodox are currently keeping their crests). I said I would be willing to help him anyway and that it was entirely voluntary, he would not be corrupting me.
I felt bad that I couldn’t help this guy. Who else would he ask? It can’t be every Gentile he’d so readily trust. Only someone, I suppose, with the right aura.
Like, maybe, someone who’s actually Jewish.
Or (scrabbly beard not withstanding) handsome.