Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bite Your Tongue

"Hi!" he smiled sweetly, turning to face me with the air of a man who just bumped into a really pretty girl (which, just to be clear, I most definitely am not) at a bar (which, just to be clear, it most definitely wasn't) and has great hopes for the conversation that might ensue. I fix him with a quizzical look -- the look that silently expresses 'do I know you from somewhere? Can't you see I'm busy? Do you know where the nearest bathroom might be, or my ten year old might pee his pants soon? Where did the oldest wander off to? Oops, the little one is kicking the display that says 'Do Not Touch!' again. Why is it so dark in here? There you go, just throw up. I'll get a tissue. Hey, how did the baby get THAT?!?! Yes, I'm enjoying myself -- aren't we all? Why do you ask?'

"Are you from around here?" he continued cheerfully, seemingly oblivious to my thoughts.

"Yes. You?"

"No. From France -- Marseilles."

"Oh." Apparently, there aren't that many Jews in Marseilles, and this typical French tourist decided that now is a good time to talk to the Jew right here in the museum. Great.

"You know, this is really tough," he continues, vaguely motioning in the direction of the huge flat screen modeling the big bang and the formation of our planet over and over and over again in an endless loop, like the movie Groundhog Day writ large. "After all, we KNOW Hakadosh Baruch-Hu created the world out of nothing, less than six thousand years ago. It says so explicitly in the Torah. Right? What are we supposed to think?"

Oops. I do a quick double take, adjusting my mental image from 'typical French tourist' to 'bare-headed, bare-shouldered, Chareidi French Jew' as fast and with as little facial expression as I could muster. What tipped him off that I might help him with his predicament? Was it the long payos? The big black velvet yarmulke? Damn. Now this is really great. He traveled all the way from France to New York so he could discuss theology with........ me! The irony is delicious. Dark thoughts start forming in my head. I'll explain to him the stupidity of what he just said. I'll laugh in his face. Or maybe I should tell him he can be a believing Jew and still believe in the big bang? It's possible -- many pull that off. Or should I tell him I don't believe in his ridiculous God?

"I know," I shrug, "it's tough."

"But........ it's really tough, isn't it?" He sighed a long drawn-out sigh.

Oh man. This is too much. I shrug again, smile the sweetest smile possible under the circumstances, bite my tongue, and hurry off to find a bathroom.


"Look, there are so many goyim in here" I vaguely hear my oldest saying to my second-oldest. I wasn't really listening up to this point, so much as being happy they are entertaining each other instead of arguing or fighting. But now my interest is piqued. "I know what we should do," she continues. "Lets refrain from looking at some of them and then we can pray for whatever we want and our prayers will be answered. My teacher said if you keep holy and stop yourself from looking at a goy, you can pray for whatever you want."

What an excellent education she's getting! And I'm paying for it, even. How proud that makes me! But my second is unconvinced. "Yeah? I'll refrain from looking at the next one and then pray for Moshiach. And when he doesn't come, I'll know it isn't true!" A budding scientist, I think to myself. I wonder how long it'll take until he applies the scientific method to everything she's taught. Oh well. Anyway, I need to say something. I can't let the 'dirty goyim' bromide pass without a comment, lest my own children turn into the very people I cannot stand with a worldview I cannot stomach. But as soon as I open my mouth, my wife shoots me a dirty look. She knows my views on this particular subject and we have agreed to disagree. But of course, I better not confuse the children with my poisonous opinions. I understand that look well. It says 'you better bite your tongue, or I'll do it for you, and not in the good way.' So I do as told, and bite my tongue -- again.


"A food stand!" I exclaim enthusiastically. I need to get something to eat, or at least a drink. Maybe even for the children as well. "Everything has an OU" I add helpfully, with faux enthusiasm. It has an OU-D, but does it really matter? But my poor wife is horror-stricken.

"Not in front of the children!" she hisses. "You know we have to be careful with their chinuch -- their upbringing!" Yeah, I know. Start them off on OU-D and soon they'll think there might be nothing wrong with looking at goyim! Next thing you know, they're dancing with a shiksa while balancing a pig on their heads. I bite my tongue yet again -- really hard this time. It hurts (no, not the tongue), but is still better than the alternative. Or is it?