When A Culture Fails To Adapt & You Fail To Understand Culture

"I'm sorry if this sounds stupid."

"No, what?"

"What is a hookah?"

"Excuse me?"

"In South Beach they show something called 'hookah' all over the place. It looks illegal."

"Oh, HOOKAH. Pass the peace pipe."

"Come again?"

"Muslims can't drink so they smoke together. Cherry flavor, vanilla..."

"Do they change the tip?"

"Here in the West they do. But authentic hookah, no. They share."

I have been going for years thinking that hookah is marijuana. Not understanding why they don't arrest all those people who sell it and use it.

I thought hookah was like a "bong." Where did I get that?

Don't laugh - from watching "Greg Brady" who had one on "The Brady Bunch."

How I think reflects my upbringing, psychology, class, gender, education, geography, religion, family history, and so on. Everyone's "recipe" is unique.

My perspective is tiny, limited. It is helpful therefore to be purposely "stupid" so that I can learn about others'.

If you don't know and do not ask you assume things wrongly. This makes you handicapped. Unable to relate. Prejudiced. Alone.

In New York ultra-Orthodox Jews are currently struggling to cope with several long-swept-under-the-rug cases of pedophiles protected by the community.

There are cultural forces at play. One is fear of non-Jewish authorities. Another is shame. We are not in Nazi Germany anymore however - and there is increasing social endorsement of honesty over the "smiling and perfect face."

The culture is dysfunctional because its survival mechanisms belong to a different time and place. Understanding that is key to reaching formerly religious Jews who have walked away disengaged and disillusioned.

I am currently watching Season I of "Homeland." It challenges every concept about who is a terrorist and who isn't. Who is mentally ill versus "normal." What family and friendship mean. What is loyalty? Because the characters are authentic, and carefully rooted in multiple cultures--military, national, religious.

Before you say anything about a thing--before you draw conclusions--you have to understand it well. They say that the more you study Torah the more you realize you don't know. That is very true, and it applies to people and culture too.