Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bag man

Some are congratulating the bag man pictured at right for putting his commitment to halacha ahead of any desire to fit in, but I am not sure that's justified. It all comes down to framing. I'd be embarrassed to walk around town in knee-socks and a full beard, but plenty of Jews have convinced themselves that its the absence of the knee-socks and full beard that should embarrass me.

Or consider the yarmulka. Isn't the bag sort of the same thing, a difference of degree but not kind? Wearing a yarmulka doesn't embarrass me, because I've become conditioned to it, and because all the nonJews I encounter are used to it, but suppose I lived in Mongolia. Would I still go around in a yarmulka? Would it embarrass me? Probably not, but only because I think wearing a kippa is important and I don't really care what the Mongolians think. 

So that guy in the picture is in the same situation. He's wearing an ultra yarmulka. The other people on the plane are the Mongolians, and he doesn't care what they think. 

Some of you might say that I'm selling the fellow short, by not recognizing his courage, but where's the courage in doing something you're dead certain God wants you to do? Courage only comes into play if you're not sure about what God wants, but take the leap anyway. Besides, I think I've given bag man  a great deal of credit by suggesting that he's managed to frame the problem in such a way that by his lights WE'RE the ones who should be embarrassed  not him.

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