We assume there's a huge stain on our shirt, that even if we don't talk about it, they know. Like we're the only ones who ever did it, whatever it is we did.
Add to this our Judeo-Christian-Moslem-Confuscian--who knows what upbringing-- the sense that we imbue from our parents, teachers, or other significant care-takers, that we're horrible if we stray from the tenets of goodness, all in the interest of raising us right, you know, and we're toast. It isn't unusual that parents and teachers will over-dramatize the wrongfulness of experimenting, acting out, and as kids we're vulnerable to drama and blame.
Spare us young and we can take it when we're old.
Survivors of childhood shame can get the sense of okayness from someone, if they're lucky, some angel, the one who gives us the nod that we're actually good. It's okay, says our angel. You're human. To err is human.
We could talk about this all day, but there's a story I want to tell, a story in a story about embarrassment. Embarrassment has to be a sister of shame, I'm thinking, and if at all possible, if we're talking about functional behavior, we do our best to avoid doing this, embarrassing people, because we know how that sense of shame might stick, like the effects of most relatives.
One night FD and I are at a party for a bride and groom, not the kind that you stand around and drink and talk, but the kind specifically designed to bless the newly married couple during the celebratory week following their marriage. This means these parties are food-centric.
Nobody runs off to Hawaii right after the wedding, not in my crowd. Following the expensive (usually) gala event, the couple celebrates with friends and family for an entire week, then maybe takes off, maybe not. They may not because they haven't lived together before marriage (not in my hood), so staying home and getting used to one another tends to feel pretty good.
You would think people would leave a young couple alone, but no. That's not how we operate. We have to lavish them with good wishes, because basically we assume that if we lavish these on the couple, that the odds are better that our well-wishes will come true. We send them off to independent living with an insurance policy.
Would that it were that simple, but in any case, we don't change traditions that are really, really old just because they're inconvenient or seem fattening. And the Jewish tradition is that wherever the bride and groom sit down and break bread that first week, they're entitled to seven blessings, assuming they can gather the crowd of people necessary to say them. If there's food, you see, you increase your odds.
Jews basically eat because inherent in eating are food related blessings, and since praising Her is an inherently Jewish thing (although some mix it up, refer to Him), if old fashioned perhaps, whenever observant Jews have an opportunity to do this, eat and praise, they jump to it, praise before eating, praise after eating, praise the carrot, the bread, the wine, everything but the tablecloth. You name it, we praise it and are thankful for it. You would think we're starving. Oh yes, in our history, there was starvation. So this makes sense. But as long as we're eating, we'll add a few extra praises for the divine idea of coupling, for the newly married couple.
Enough said. This particular party happened to be a dessert party. I made two strawberry pies, for the record, and they turned out well enough, although between you and me, were lame excuses for pies, compared to my mother-in-law's, for she's from the south, and they know how to pie in the south, like nobody else; not even my mother, although as a yankee, her blueberry is incomparable; as is my machetainista's* apple. So my pies are generally not as good, not as rich, not as sweet, but if you cook for people you love, your odds are better that whatever it is you are making will turn out well, despite your fallibility. This is the thinking of my mother-in-law and I think she's right.
So we're sitting around a very, very long table, just the thirty of us, the hosts and the families of the young couple, and a lot of little kids. There's no alcohol, for the record, but enough sweets to put anyone into a coma.
The speeches begin, and it is thanks to the speeches that you get this post.
Rabbi Azose, the Sephardic rabbi of Chicago, perhaps the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of the Midwest, tells this story, one that dates back to 180 AD, I imagine, and the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. Forgive my interpretation, the rabbi did not use the word "idiot" in his speech.
Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, or Judah the Prince, a descendant of King David, had a serious revulsion to garlic.As a therapist this takes me to people who take off their shoes, and sometimes I must politely ask, Would you mind. . .put 'em back on . . .the ventilation in this place just isn't good enough and I am cursed with a sensitive nose. But this is not about me, who could do not even share the same room with the good Rebbe, certainly not when it comes to manners, although perhaps have some of those queasy genetics, it's true.
Sensitive to the smell, he started a class one day and had to stop teaching. Sensing the garlic on a student, the rabbi asked politely that whoever had been eating garlic please leave, because he didn't feel well, he had this allergy.
Anyway, Reb Yehuda asked the class in a generic way, "Would whoever had garlic for lunch kindly leave, I'm so sorry, I feel dizzy. . ."Good lesson, right? These are the kinds of stories they tell after you quit Hebrew school.
And a group of men got up to leave.
After they had vacated the classroom together, the guilty student, the one who had spiced up his chicken salad, asked the others, for they did not smell of garlic,
"Why did you guys leave? I'm clearly the idiot who didn't know about the Rebbe's sensitivity!"
They told him that they had learned it is better to embarrass yourself than to let someone else be embarrassed, and you should do whatever you can do to prevent your fellow's embarrassment. The men had learned this from their rabbis.
Most likely they had learned it from Reb Yehuda who knew that they would do this, get up to leave with their fellow, therefore enabling him to make the request.
A machetainista is the mother of your daughter-in-law or son-in-law. Machetainista rhymes with Bach-eh-rain-vista