"Those Who Know, Don't Tell. And Those Who Tell, Don't Know."

In yeshiva there was this one teacher, Mrs. Kaisman, who really shaped my hashkafa, meaning my framework of thinking as a Jew. (Check out some of her lectures, online.)

You have to know that in Bruriah I was a smart-mouth and delighted in asking smart-mouth questions. Mainly because I was bored, but also because I was just, generally angry at having to sit in class for so many hours a day, when I didn't feel like I was really learning anything.

Yes, a typical kid.

I remember saying to Mrs. Kaisman something like, "How do we know the Torah is valid?" Which is of course an impossible question, it's one of those questions where you ask it and the teacher has license to smack you across the face for your impunity.

And she smiled at me, with that Lakewood-teacher-smile she had (and I mean this in a good way - there was no question she wouldn't field) and said:
"Look, Dossy. It's a 50-50 chance. You can keep the Torah and you'll go up there (at this she motioned to heaven, meaning she was referring to what happens after you die) and everything will be fine for you with HaShem. Or (and here she gestured broadly) you can do the opposite, and see what happens. See how HaShem takes His hands off the steering wheel."
What a brilliant way to keep me in line. It's up to you if you want to go to hell, Dossy.

Over the more than 30 years since my high school graduation, I've thought of Mrs. Kaisman a lot. I know that in somebody else's mouth, those words would have been manipulative, mindf--ing, brain control. But in hers -- and I've always known this -- the words were only intended to help a rebellious teenager step back from the rebellion and really think about the deeper consequences of her words.

Mrs. Kaisman taught me other things, too. It may have been her who said this, but it really doesn't matter, because the words are so true:
"Those who know, don't tell. And those who tell, don't know."
After fifteen years of working in government, I can attest to that.

The public has all kinds of ideas about what is going on in "the swamp." And what they don't know, pundits are only too happy to tell them on TV.

But the truth is, you can only understand the civil service by...actually being a civil servant, or spending a significant amount of time among us.

And as far as I know, most civil servants take it for granted that what happens at work, really stays there.

In much the same way, some people seem to think they know a lot about Jews and Judaism. And the funny thing is, they not only aren't Jewish, but they don't even know any Jews! The evidence of that is that they will bring a lot of "proofs" of Jewish bad behavior from newspaper articles, or extremist types of books, or the one scholar who says X while everybody else says Y, or even -- God help us -- the omnipresent picture of Neturai Karta chasidim rallying against Israel.

And then if pressed, they will say: "Well that isn't anti-Semitic. I had a boss once who was Jewish and he was very nice."

As a Jew myself, raised among Jews, fully immersed in the world of Jews, I can confidently say we have enough genuine problems without people making stuff up that they don't know anything about. And how I wish we would hear more from religious Jews who do know something about yiddishkeit, and can speak to both the good and the bad things that happen among us. (Fortunately, this does seem to be happening.)

Sometimes I hear people say things like: "Am I the only person who goes through this type of thing?"

And each time I have to smile. I am getting older and each smile adds three wrinkles to my face.

Each time, I think to myself: "No, you're not the only one at all. Not at all."

For every single thing you're going through, a million other people have been through some variation of the same. It's just that as a rule, people who go through stuff choose not to talk about it.

Take everything you hear with a large grain of salt.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Creative Commons photo via Pixabay.

Popular posts from this blog

Examining Claims That Are Hard To Hear: Sarah Ruth Ashcraft

An Open Letter To Chairman Grassley Regarding the Confirmation to the Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Updated With Correction)