Friday, September 29, 2006


Come Yom Kippur, everyone is friends. People who hate each other's guts, would normally rub their hands with glee at each other's hardship, might even deliberately advise visitors to double-park in front of the others' vehicle and watch with understated amusement their baffled attempts at figuring out whom the mini-van -- out-of-state plates, spilled bag of kosher chips on the front seat, soiled diaper on the back seat, worn Tehilim (book of Psalms) on the dashboard -- belongs to, even those try hard to squelch these feeling on Yom Kippur.

On this Day of Atonement, when we implore Hashem to forgive our grave sins against His royal highness, few have the nerve to harbor feelings of resentment against their fellow man -- at least audibly. How will we face the ultimate judge if we cannot even forget a perceived slight against us in this temporal realm? Surely, that must be as nothing against the terrible affront our sins have caused the One-who-cannot-be-caused-for-He-is-the-ultimate-cause in the sacred realm. And so, we plead, and pledge, forgiveness, and all are friends for a blessed day.

Did I say all? I didn't mean that, of course. Being a Hasidic man in good standing means there's a certain class of people you can never be friends with. No, not lepers, criminals, or creeps. Rather, you can never (on pain of ostracization) be friends with the class of people perceived as less frum (pious). That includes those slightly less Hasidic, not Hasidic at all, less Orthodox, not Orthodox at all, and certainly secular folk and Goyim!

Oh, you certainly can be friendly towards them. Business acquaintances, government officials, and your janitor, all might be included in that category. But you can never be friends. Not someone you enjoy spending time with, ask advice of, share your troubles with, or with whom you just go out to shoot the breeze. The negative influence they will exert might have wide-ranging and unforeseeable consequences. A risk nobody should take, in the considered opinion of the community.

This encompasses almost all of humanity, you say? Why, yes, it does! Glad you noticed. Indeed, the pool out of which you can choose your friends is quite shallow. As ever, you can try the bend the rules a bit. Claim a business interest. Confer some professional title on an individual and explain how being friends with such a professional helps you in your daily endeavors. Or just ignore the naysayers.

Do that too often, however, and your life is liable to get very uncomfortable. People will whisper, malicious rumors will materialize, and your spouse, children, and the rest of the family will start looking with a jaundiced eye at all your activities. And what if you find yourself surrounded by, excuse me, a bunch of doofuses (doofii)? Well, that's just too bad. You cannot, under any circumstance, compromise your piety. You are trapped.


There's another class of people you can never be friends with. You can never be enemies with them, either, for they simply don't (or shouldn't) exist from your point of view. For a Hasidic man, that would be those with an extra 'x' in a certain chromosome pair. The differently gendered. Besides very close family members, those of that persuasion should remain invisible and unnoticed to any Hasidic male. Perhaps meriting a murmured greeting and request for information when necessary, or maybe even an expression of gratitude when it would be particularly impolite to omit that. But certainly not anything more, and definitely not friends. Heaven forefend!

Apparently, two x's in a chromosome pair in proximity to an individual with a single 'x' is a triple-X state of affairs by default. There's no such thing as friends, not even in the company of other people. There's no such thing as mixed company. The mere hint of the presence of a woman in your circle of friends is enough to get the highly efficient well-honed community rumor mill going in high gear. And once that gets going, the going gets tough. The town gossip will have a field day. "Of course he is [censored]ing her!" he'll exclaim with all the dramatic flair and absurd ostentation of a streetwalker hawking her wares on Lexington Avenue. Everyone will nod their sorry little heads in agreement and leave with a self-satisfied smirk on their face. And on Yom Kippur, they'll even be your friends.

P.S. To those readers of this blog I'd like to say, consider this: perhaps we are friends. Good friends. Even close friends. But as Freud might have said in a post-Lewinsky world: Close, but no cigar. Just... perhaps.