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Mr. Know-It-All

I am a pretty calm person when it comes to dealing with other people. I have a pretty thick skin and I can take it better than I can dish it out. But there are some things that people say and do that just rile me.

Like know-it-alls. Know-it-alls come in all types. There’s the child know-it-all, one part wunderkind, two parts annoying; the best friend know-it-all, which can be comforting at times but grating at others; the sibling know-it-all, known to be the cause of rivalry (but deny it to the death), and then there’s the worst type of know-it-all.

Yes, I’m talking about the know-it-all religious figure.

They’re the type of people who give your religion a bad name. For all the wonderful people I’ve encountered in my religious circle, unfortunately it’s the ones who act like bigshots who often have the most visibility. Not to say that others are shrinking violets, but the outspoken nature of the religious know-it-all overshadows all but the most bold of their compatriots.

Today, I had Shabbat lunch and third-meal at the home of a local rabbi, whose name I am not going to say, mostly because I can never remember what it is (one of the good things about rabbis – they all respond to the same name: rabbis). He’s a good guy, as most guys are, but sometimes there’s this smarmy aura about him, as if he imagines himself as the center of the universe. I’m not knocking his religious education, but one of the things about rabbis is that they shouldn’t put you down, or speak to you in a way that is a direct judgment on your character.

Lunch was fine, but at dinner, the topic of religiosity and religious parenting came up. I know I was kind of setting myself up here, but someone else at the table mentioned that her parents came from two very different religious backgrounds, neither of which were Orthodox, and I added in that my parents also came from two very different religious backgrounds, with one Orthodox and one not so much, causing Rabbi Know-it-all to say:

“It’s impossible to raise a kid with one Orthodox parent and one non-Orthodox parent. It doesn’t work. It’s too confusing.”

Oh boy…

“Mine raised me Orthodox,” said I.

“Tell me more,” says the rabbi.

Me:

<Regret>

So, I go through the basics of how my parents met, how they raised us, and how I am today vs. how I lived when I was in their house, ending with “…my parents taught me that Shabbat was important but that my studies were as well, and if that meant doing homework on holidays/Shabbat, so be it. ”

</Regret>

His response?

“Well, that’s a mixed message, you could just as easily go to a club on Shabbos and they’d never know. It’s like a gateway into breaking Shabbos ::smarmy smile::”

Um, wha?

First of all, you don’t know me. Okay, that’s more of a gut reaction and a copout. But seriously, second of all, you have never met parents, lived in my house, or experienced my childhood. Third, and the most hurtful of all, is that you’re basically telling me that I have no self-control and that my religious views/my parents’ are based on lies. Is that something a religious figure and role model should be saying? No. That’s what a petulant, nose-picking moron on the playground or in the hallway would say. Everyone judges and gets judged by others over the course of his/her life, and that’s fine, but keep it to yourself unless you’re certain that the person might have a serious problem, in which case talk to them privately about it, if it matters that much to you. Also, you don’t have a say in how religious I am, and when you put it out there like that, I’m less likely to believe things that you say in the future. And when you jump to conclusions, bring a parachute; you might knock yourself into a hole in the ground.

I thought I would have more to say on this topic, but I think I’ve said my piece for now.

There is one kind of know-it-all that I can tolerate, and that is my parents. Don’t mess with them; when you insult them, you insult me.

15 Life Lessons Learned From "As Told By Ginger"

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Putting Chabad Houses in Proportion

Since I didn’t have any work to do today, I decided to spend my Shabbat relaxing. It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision as I was asleep until about noon, but it was as relaxing as it could be, I guess. I did something that I don’t normally do on Saturdays, but should more often: go to the Chabad House for Shabbat lunch.

I got there, and I didn’t even know anyone was there – that is, until I heard children’s voices, then Rabbi’s head poking around the corner, saying “come join us!” I stepped in, and to my astonishment, instead of the normal four or five tables, they only had one set up, with 13 seats around it – exactly enough for everyone, once I was there. As the semester has ended as well as finals, just about everyone who can leave the frozen tundra of Madison (even if it’s for the frozen tundra of Milwaukee or Minneapolis) has done so. The diners assembled consisted of myself, the rabbi, his wife and three kids, four workers at Epic (who apparently never have vacation time, ever), and two other students who have chosen/were forced to stay in town until next week. Every time a new conversation started, so did a new round of screaming started, either by oldest boy who should know better, the middle boy who doesn’t know better, or the baby who’s a baby. And a sick baby (yeah, I don’t know either…). Usually once one started, another would join in yelling and screaming for no apparent reason and usually in a dissonant manner, and right behind my head. And of course, the rabbi’s response is timid laughter, unlike what I would say, which would not be appropriate to say in front of children that age, which is why I am not their father.

He also said, “Isn’t it funny, that the smaller the crowd, the louder the children?” Well, rabbi, you and I have different concepts of “funny,” but it’s actually kind of true. Back in Houston, I knew that whenever the children outnumbered the adults, it meant we were in for six more weeks of whining, and I was out of there.

Which brings me to the topic of today’s post:

Putting Chabad Houses In Proportion

The older the rabbi, the more awesome he is.

The younger the rabbi, the more he thinks he’s a college student.

The greasier the food, the better the cooking.

The sugarier the desserts, the colder the climate.

The prettier the sheitl, the more adult children of the rebbetzin.

The more the children, the higher the likelihood you’ll leave with a runny nose, a cough, pinkeye, or streptococci.

The nicer the silverware, the more the donors.

The more plastic on the table, the more drunk college students.

The more the alcohol…yeah, that doesn’t mean much.

The more decrepit the house, the more like home away from home it actually is, regardless of what you’re used to at home.