Bumper Stickers, T-Shirts and the Daf
Just when I thought we were ready to move on beyond all the Siyum stuff, I’ve found something new to complain about.
Some of the observers of the Garden event who hailed from beyond the borders of our community remarked how eerie it was to sit there without the hawkers of pennants and peanuts. They may have spoken too soon.
Some enterprising entrepreneurs waited till after the event to capitalize on the enthusiasm for the Daf, and are now pushing the pop-culture accoutrements of Daf participation: bumper stickers and t-shirts that proclaim “I do the Daf!” for all the world to hear. What better way to proudly announce one’s joining the local team of long-distance learners?
Actually, the better way might be to not announce at all.
Living in laid-back LA, I’m usually pretty tolerant (i.e. too tolerant) of such vacuous but well-intentioned displays. The ads, though, jarringly reminded me of something I heard from Rav Bulman z”l many years ago.
Today, no self-respecting family concerned for the shidduchim of their kids would admit to eating anything but glatt. It was not always so. Rav Bulman cited the Tzelemer Rov, z”l, who claimed that in Tzelem itself there were only two people who insisted upon glatt – and no one knew their identities, other than the shochet who provided them with meat!
Many of us have forgotten that part of tzniyus/modesty is to be modest about any accomplishment that is out of the ordinary, in even spiritual matters. Especially in spiritual matters, because that which is precious to us in Judaism is kept under wraps, not displayed openly and turned into the commonplace. (Another gadol once remarked that the difference between Europe and America is that here, people announce how much tzedaka they give, but hide from others how much they earn; in Europe the bottom line was open for inspection, but people hid the special mitzvos they performed. People are private about what means the most to them.. In Europe it was ruchniyus; in Ameica, it is money.)