Pacific Jewish Center | Rabbi

The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

I Am So Disturbed

UPDATE: Friday morning 6/25/09 I updated the post to more accurately reflect the protagonist’s personality.

I am so disturbed right now.

My wife and I have a summer camp for pre-school children in Monsey NY. That is why we left Los Angeles / Venice for the summer. We don’t own our own camp grounds so during the year we store everything in a shed at my in-laws’ home in Monsey.

Sometime before camp begins we need to get everything from the in-laws to our summer location. Today was moving day. What I heard during the move was disturbing enough to share with you.

We hired a fellow who runs a local moving outfit called B!ny@m!n the Shlepper (BTS). He’s been doing this for 20 years and he basically manages the move while he sits in his truck and his workers do the “Shlepping”, he pays them quite well for their work and then takes his profit. Much of his work is in the Frum community. BTS is not known as a cordial guy to most (he is not a jerk, just not the most personable guy) (AND I think they are wrong) and has had his share of run-ins (customers refusing to pay, customers yelling at him etc) with his customers.

Today, I made an error in my estimated items needing to be moved. Immediately his sensors go off – “is this another Frum guy trying to rip me off?”. Of course it was an honest mistake and I was willing to pay for the extra work.

I apologized profusely. He goes off on a (perfectly understandable) tirade, “you don’t think I am a person”, “you people always try to cheat me” etc. I continued to apologize and we began to talk.

BTS tells me horrible stories of externally observant Jews who have cheated him, spoken rudely with him and treated him like a second class citizen. He drives a large moving truck and when he drives and traffic is jammed, he notes that he gets cut off all the time. He also notes that he gets cut off all the time by religiously dressed Jews. “Why can’t they just let me go first?”.

Now, Binyamin is actually not Frum himself. Very spiritual and personal growth, but not religious. What he can’t understand is why people who claim to be religious and perform mitzvos all the time, very often lack common courtesy and decency.

As we talk I see past the outer crust of his personality and beyond the veneer he is truly a wonderful guy. We laughed together, told some great stories and even a little bit of Torah was discussed. We really had a great conversation and I was actually disappointed when the job was over and our shmooze had to end.

In response to his complaints about externally religious Jews, I remarked that they are so busy being religious they forget to be human! ©

The truth is, I was embarrassed that this Jewish guy had such a bad feeling about religious Jews.We spoke for a while and I tried to assure him that he doesn’t notice all the great things. I also tried to remind him that all the negative stuff he hears sticks out to him, but people don’t remember when others act appropriately.

Bottom line, it was damage control.

Folks, get your priorities straight!

Step One: Act like decent human being. – Derech Eretz Kadma L’Torah, common courtesy precedes Torah.

Step Two: Integrate Torah and Mitzvos into your life.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

If you dress like a religious Jew, you are expected to act like it. It boggles my mind how insensitive, unaware and obtuse some Torah observant Jews can be. The same Torah that says keep Kosher, lay Tefillin, observe Shabbos, study Torah, Shofar, Lulav, Yom Kippur ALSO says to treat people with respect, honor our planet, act humanely towards animals and love your neighbor. We need to work on keeping all of those.

Please, I beg you, realize that you are representing the Jewish people. Act like it.


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15 Responses

  1. E. F. Shaar says:

    Yashir Koach for posting this, Rabbi Fink!

    PS: There’s heter for pushy behavior at Kiddush, though, right?

  2. Prof K says:

    Every time I hear that I’m “spoiling” my household help by treating her like a human being, and the comments come often, I see red. Thanks for pointing out that mentchlichkeit is also a necessary part of being frum.

  3. Tzvi Haber says:

    Although I wholeheartedly agree with you, someone who you describe as “known as a not so cordial guy” and has ” had his share of run-ins with customers” kind of loses his credibility when it comes to describing how others are less than courteous to him.

    • rabbifink says:

      First of all I completely disagree with you.

      It is exactly those types of people that we tend to ignore, talk rudely towards, insult and disparage.

      There is no excuse for not acting civilly, EVEN (especially maybe) in a potentially hostile situation.

      Second, the post is misleading and I am changing it, he is not a jerk or thief. He is merely not the most personable guy. That is no reason to treat him like trash. Period.

      • Tzvi Haber says:

        I wasn’t saying not to be nice to him, that was where I wholeheartedly agree with you. And I come across this sort of thing all the time living “in-town” and hate it passionately. Aren’t I glad I’m moving to LA 🙂 My point was in terms of BTS’s credibility – he may have a negative and bitter outlook on everything and thus you can’t take him at his word when he says people are rude.
        The problem is a real one and I’m glad you addressed it.

  4. Mark says:

    Too much kosher, not enough yosher.

  5. klc says:

    Traffic rudeness is an important one to work on, especially cutting off busses which have many more people on them than your car. Teaching my son to drive really brought that one home to me, that traffic courtesy is safer and often actually faster, even if they can’t see that you are a frum Jew.

  6. Ahuva says:

    While I think you make some very important points, I wonder if it’s not loshon hora to write the mover’s name, especially followed by the description “not the most cordial guy”. Personally, if I were now looking for a mover in Monsey, I would probably push BTS to the bottom of the list.

    • rabbifink says:

      I thank you for your comment.

      The only Lashon Hara here is regarding those who treat Binyamin like dirt. I said he is not “know as the most cordial guy” and that is due to the reputation that others give him. As is clear from my experience, merely talking to him like a human being opened up a completely different person and I happen to think he is a special guy and will be using him again without question.

  7. leslie friedman says:

    Are Pacific Jewish Center people an anomaly? Across the board everyone there has been so kind and considerate, at least in my experience.

  8. sharona says:

    I agree, we should always be aware and be careful. We need to go back and re-learn what Pirkei Avos and Messilas Yesharim says about working on having good middos.

    I also agree that sometimes people just notice the negative behaviors from others and not the positive things like the chesed some do.

    In general though, we should work on ourselves continuously, and by doing so we’ll make a kiddush Hashem

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June 2009

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