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Monday, November 19, 2007

Following Up on Thoughts

As a semi-follow-up to a few ideas raised in some of the posts the past week or so, here are a few ideas mentioned to me or that I noticed over the weekend.

Regarding the man in the pharmacy who wouldn't check out a woman whom he felt was buying non-kosher despite her assertions that she had a psak to do so, a family member suggested that one would have to be dan l'kaf z'chut on the man anyway: That he simply is an ignoramus and doesn't know any better regarding a) that there are other psakim; b) that those other psakim are ones which he would have to let the person abide by; and c) that lifnei iveir wouldn't apply here. An interesting aside was whether the man was Bukharian; the person felt that if he was [and he was], it is even less surprising as that is how they generally approach matters of halacha, as they were forced to do so to survive for many generations.

Regarding labels, Special Ed had suggested
that a lot of the use of labels is to cover up for the fact the they don't know the person you're asking them about all that well.

Labels are just an easy way to describe someone, and the lack of detail is a convenient cover for lack of knowledge.
I thought this might be correct, and was interested in testing that hypothesis over the weekend. I found that a few people were described or described themselves or what they were looking for to me; almost none used any labels whatsoever. The more closely they knew the person, the less likely they were to use any labels at all. For example, a person describing their sister used zero labels to describe their sister, but when it came to talking about what their sister was looking for, they were able to explain a lot of it without... but the parts they were vague on they resorted to labels. As another note, our friends who describe what they mean without falling back on labels give a much better sense of what they are and want than those who do not. I seriously question if a lot of the labeling stems from the advent of semi-professional shadchanim, who as a practical matter are forced to rely on categories because they often do not really know the people involved.

Regarding impacts and responsibilities, a discussion with Erachet, a post by SJ, and just thinking through a few things a bit more reinforced to me the idea that it's the little things that matter. A friend was concerned recently that as much as they'd like to have an impact, they simply feel that they can't possibly match up to so many others in any regard. Others were so much more talented, worked harder, etc. - how could they possibly have an impact? But I think that's exactly the point: People who aren't so naturally talented, who aren't workaholics, can impact so many more people through simply living their lives as they do - not by carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, but by picking up their own little pieces. Others see them and say "Hey, you know what? I can do that, too" instead of "Well, I can't do that" or "I'm just not a workaholic like that." I'm always brought back to the same wise quote of R' Israel Lipkin Salanter:
"I wanted to change the world, but I realized it was too large of a task for one person, so I tried to change my community. That was also too hard, so I tried to change my family. That was also too hard, so I decided to try and change myself. And though it was very hard, I finally changed myself. And once I changed myself, I discovered my family changed, the community changed, and the entire world changed."

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