I’m concerned that someone might be left with the false impression that I think that the biggest problem facing Balale’ Teshuva is that we most often don’t get the punch lines for Yiddish jokes. It’s a little deeper than that. I can remember as a Yeshiva student singing with the other guys on Friday Night over and over again the refrain, “Libi Libi U’ B’sari” and not knowing what the words meant and imagining they mean, “Leiby (that’s me) I’m sorry!” I never told a soul about it! I just laughed and sometimes cried with those silly thoughts. Till today when my boys sing this same Zemer, even though I know what the words mean, I still occasionally flash back and chuckle quietly in a place no one would ever know. Silly! Huh? When the more than occasional speaker would shout out the words, “Yiras Shemaim”, I thought about it whimsically, “A Year in Shemaim” and still do!
The real matter is, it took more than years and loads of effort to install some images to flash when the words, “Yiras Shemaim” are used. There was no such thing in my or many of our youth experience. We grew up with Saturday Night Live. Nothing was sacred! Even images of Chessed or Gevurah fail to register or conjure healthy images. I suppose in the affirmative sense there is an inherent lack of Shimush…real life exposure to living Torah action and actors to color in the many intangibles that are woven between the words of books, stuff that could never be gotten or recovered from books alone. So many of us, I suppose have had to work harder than usual to fill in whatever we certainly missed. Even if we catch up, 1) It leaves us with a sinking sense of insecurity as we enter marriage and raise families of are own….2) We are in a position that we have to keep on consciously trying to prop up those ideas, ideals and images…there is no default mode or automatic pilot which may be good, because the drive has to always be there. On the other hand there is little margin of error and the edge is always there to be crossed. The worst should be not getting jokes or misunderstanding holy phrases but other stuff still stalks us all of our days and it either drives us to become great or crazy.
A friend of mine, at the Bris of his oldest son, some 20 years ago, turned over the tape in the middle of the speeches he was recording for posterity and accidentally pressed the play button and not the record and suddenly; The Allman Brothers or the Grateful Dead started to play and he recovered quickly and quipped, “That’s the old recording!” He proceeded to tape over it! There’s a lot of old tape there and it’s hard to erase it all. I’m resigned to the notion that I will always know more commercial jingles than Mishnayos and Sport Stats than Halachos. No matter how much we do learn that clutter stays. That one of the big challenges facing BT’s …As the poet sang… “I am leaving I am leaving but the fighter still remains oy oy oy…”
Am I the only one?