Sunday, August 24, 2008

State Fair Reds

On Friday I went to the Minnesota State Fair, with my trusty Tefillin in one hand and a couple of hamburgers for lunch in the other. We chanced upon the GOP booth, and after getting my Norm Coleman campaign button I began to chat with an elderly volunteer. She told me about he son-in-law who's convinced he's Jewish, and her daughter who's a good Catholic, pushing out babies every couple of years and supporting her family to boot. I asked the volunteer if her son-in-law's mother was Jewish? Turns out that they're good Episcopalians. I told her that she should tell her son-in-law to visit a Rabbi in Tucson, where he lives, and get this whole thing cleared up.
After watching a pig give birth it was time for lunch, and the hamburgers were quite good. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring any mustard, but I survived the experience. I'm sure that you're all quite proud of me.
One of the great things about the State Fair is all the free shtuff you can get. Sure, it's nothing too exciting, but it's always nice to come away with thirty free pencils, fifteen yard sticks, innumerable fans, and a toy football or cup sleeve. One year we even got free t-shirts from the local communist paper! The best place for consistently excellent freebies is the education building, where all the local universities try to get you with various thingies. This year it seemed like everyone at the fair had a purple tote (decent quality too) from St. Thomas University in S. Paul. I assume that these promotions are a bit expensive, but the exposure that is gained is tremendous.
Anyway, this year was a bit shvach, because I spent most of my time with my nieces and very little of it finding shtuff.
While in the education building I came upon the JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) booth while pushing one of my nieces. I assumed that the elderly gentleman who was volunteering there was Jewish, and I went over and asked him if he wanted to put on Tefillin. He said that he didn't, and that he didn't even put them on by his Bar Mitzvah. He seemed to sense that he was being a bit harsh, and realized that he was after all supposed to be representing Jewish Relations. We began to chat, his name is Yaakov, and he told me that the booth is taken over by Christians on Friday afternoons and on Saturdays, which is nice.

Last night I discussed this with some Rabbi-type people at a Shalom Zochor here in beautiful S. Paul. First of all, I must point out, a big Mazel Tov to the Weiss and Knoblauch families, who happen to be related (R. W. and Mrs. K. are brother and sister), which made the double Shalom Zochor so much easier for everyone. My only slight quibble was that it's perhaps a little unfortunate that a town which sees one Shalom Zochor every six months or so, if that, got two in one week. Still, I'm not complaining, and the garbanzo beans made the usual fine finger food.
Getting back to the aborted Tefillin attempt, it seems that my efforts were appreciated, if not applauded. People seem to think that everyone is capable of slapping Tefillin on reluctant arms, and that the recipients of such gestures will think it an endearing and uplifting experience. I'm not denying that some people do this quite well; Rabbi Feller here and Rabbi Samuels in Milwaukee come to mind, but not everyone is cut out for this role. Well, maybe they should be. I don't know.

16 comments:

wundering o.l. said...

Why is it that Jews kvell to get free stuff?

Cheerio said...

one of the great debates of my life concerned whether mustard, as well as ketchup, was essential to the hamburger eating process. it's good to know you'd be on my side!

Anonymous said...

HAMburgers?????? not BEEFburgers?

e said...

FRANKfurters??? nor ASHKENAZIfurters???

Nemo said...

Commenting on inconsistencies:

1. S. Paul and St. Thomas

2. Ketchup for hamburgers, mustard for hot dogs.

The Real Shliach said...

Wundering ol: Everyone loves free shtuff, not only Jews. We're just not as ashamed to admit it.

Cheerio: Ketchup is reserved for french fries, mustard is for everything else

Nemo: You poor, demented boy...ketchup on hamburgers? Will wonders never cease?

EndOfWorld said...

I'm always impressed with people who admit how harrowing it really is to go over to a total stranger and ask them to put on tefillin/take shabbos candles. It makes the rest of us who feel this way feel normal

The Real Shliach said...

End Of World, it's not as simple as you think. Sometimes, I get in "the mood", and the words flow off my tongue like silver (Honestly, how does silver flow off tongues? How did it get there in the first place? Wouldn't one rather keep it? But I digress...), and success is mine. A couple of years ago I did Mivtzoyim in Williamsburg (the trendy part) on Chanuka, and managed to give out over 150 Menoras in about five nights. I was, if I say so myself, brilliant.
Other times, it's a drag. But that's life.

EndOfWorld said...

Wow. 150. Not to stroke your blazing ego, but that's pretty impressive....

Oh, this is bringing back memories of the times we were forced to go on mivtzoyim in High School. Like you say: some days you get in the mood and some days you just come home and want to curl up in bed. At least we were smart enough to work in packs-that way the rejection was never focused totally on you.

e said...

I think y'all got it easy. It's much easier to ask a random stranger if she wants to light a candle than to ask him to roll up sleeves and put black leather boxes on his arm and head.

On one foot it's easier to explain neshek than to explain tefillin.

The Real Shliach said...

End Of World: The story gets better. I was standing on a street corner, right next to a french-canadian selling x-mas trees. He was of course Jewish, and lit a Menora next to the trees. Heck, a shikse even fell in love with me! All right, I exaggerate a bit, but you understand what I'm saying.
I think I can safely say that it was the awesomest Mivtzoyim of all time and space.

EndOfWorld said...

e it is never easy to break social norms. And social norms of our society dictate that one doesn't approach random strangers.

Candle may seem less intruding (excuse me, ma'am, could I show you how to wear these? I mean, light these), but it's just as hard.

Shliach: I hope you bought a tree from him

e said...

Ma'am, it's a matter of degree.

The Real Shliach said...

He offered me a tree, and I would have taken it, but I'm not sure if Rabbi Wilshansky would have liked me to have it in the dorm.

Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. R.S.
The other side of the coin can be rewarding. Even though I may have already donned my Tefillin that day, there is tremendous satisfaction in agreeing to put on Tefillin when approached by a really nervous bochur - his incredible smile of relief as he slips them on is well worth the few minutes. Aggressive approaches are rejected, by the way. (Is there an issue putting Tefillin on twice in the same day with the appropriate blessing? It occurs to me I may have to forgoe this opportunity to make a bochur happy.)
Looking forward to my next Chabad encounter,
L de Toot.

P.S. Nice to see that Captain Nemo has resurfaced - hope you are enjoying contracts, torts etc.

The Real Shliach said...

LdT: It's probably better not to, though I can't really think of a real reason. I suppose that the reason might be, "It's not done", which in Halacha is a surprisingly useful argument. Instead, ask the Bochurim to tell you a Dvar Torah, and see if they know one. It would be even better if you could correct them on it, though this would take a lot of prep on your part, which might not be worth it.