When someone who isn’t Jewish looks at you, what does he or she see? Is it anything like this classic movie scene?
Woody Allen has been criticized severely for his ambivalent Jewish identity, but in that classic clip from Annie Hall, he may have been on to something. No, we don’t all have black hats and payes, but one way to read that scene is a parallel to the following teaching from the Talmud:
“What does ‘they shall not gird themselves with [anything that causes] sweat’ mean? Said Abbaye: they shall not gird themselves in the place where they sweat, as was taught: ‘When they gird themselves, they must not do so either below their loins nor above their elbows, but rather at the elbow.’
“Said Rav Ashi: Huna bar Natan told me, ‘Once I was standing before King Izdegar, and my belt lay up high. He pulled it down, and said to me, ‘A kingdom of priests and a holy nation is written about you!'” (Bavli Zevahim 18b-19a)
What was the king trying to tell Huna bar Natan?
How do we, as Jews, feel about non-Jews setting standards for us?
What modern expressions of Jewish identity would leave a positive impression on King Izdegar?
We’ll discuss these questions further on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise