And Now For Something Completely Different

This is worth posting just because of the “conventional wisdom” that the Charedim are an overwhelmingly serious bunch. That, and the guy’s name is Yankel.

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15 Responses

  1. Mordechai says:

    Sorry, but such antics are improper. We should not be proud of them.

    We are taught by our tradition, the Torah and our sages, to give kavod to the malchus, respect to the ruling authorities, as well as praying for the peace of the government. Although the guard in this case is thought of by many as a ceremonial relic, he is still part of the government and should be respected, not toyed with.

    If the young fellow wants to practice a comedic act, he can do it elsewhere, perhaps with a local acquaintance.

    Even humor, comedy, or, more accurately in this case, leitzanus, is subject to Torah law and guidance and is not a free-for-all Torah-free zone, G-d forbid. The raucous laughter that followed, showed that the act was not in the realm of wholesome behavior, but rather in the category of inappropriate scoffing that Orthodox Jews should refrain from.

  2. Esther says:

    As they say in the vernacular, c’mon, lighten up! I followed some comments after the video, and apparently it is very common-place for people to try to get the guards to laugh, to the extent that they anticipate it and are trained to try not to crack a smile. They didn’t appear to be scoffing, but just seemed as if they were amused that they’d actually gotten him to smile. These were just (granted, a bit overgrown) kids trying to have a good time. They said nothing disrespectful. Orthodox Jews are also human beings, not automatons, and needn’t have to pull out their handy Kitzurs every time they want to have a harmless good time to see what it says on page such-and-such about having fun, as long as it isn’t at the expense of others, and in this case I don’t believe they were trying to embarrass him. I’d go so far as to say that while this wasn’t a kiddush Hashem, it wasn’t a chilul Hashem either, and it puts us in a more approachable light, rather than a holier-than-thou (until we mess up and make headlines) image. I do, however, wish they’d gone over to him afterwards and apologized if they’d made him uncomfortable. That might have been a kiddush Hashem.

  3. E. Fink says:

    the “conventional wisdom” that the Charedim are an overwhelmingly serious bunch

    Which conventional wisdom is that? And how does one letz upend this supposed conventional wisdom?

    And is this really the kind of behavior that Cross-Currents is endorsing?!

    [Which conventional wisdom is that, and how does he upend it? If you ask, you need to get out more. See Esther’s comment. No one is endorsing his behavior, but he is a natural comic. — YM]

  4. Andrew says:

    This discussion seems absurd.

    The fact that one haredi guy may be funny/not serious/rude is no more interesting or relevant than the fact that one modern orthodox guy may be funny/not serious/rude, or that one reform jewish guy may be funny/not serious/rude. Unless there’s actually someone out there who thinks that all haredim are always serious, then I’m not sure what purpose this serves.

    In fact, I wonder if this post doesn’t just further entrench the troubling idea (embraced at different times and for different purposes by haredim and haredi critics alike) that we can look at one haredi person and explicate from him something relevant about the haredi hashkafah or the haredi community as a whole.

  5. G. Gold says:

    I agree with Esther’s last point. I found the comedy routine funny, and it was heartwarming to see the guard crack a smile. But to make it a real Kiddush Hashem I think the boys (men?) should have included the guard in their laughter afterwards. When they walked away laughing it seemed like they were making fun of the guard, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

  6. Daniel Weltman says:

    Youth can be forgiven for rudeness, idiocy and antics. An adult who, rather than condemn or (at least) ignore it, publicizes this behavior, casts his taste and judgement into serious question.

  7. Yaakov Menken says:

    Let’s try for a bit more sober analysis. Daniel, I have little doubt that were the person in question not Charedi, you would not apply the same standard, and that is the point. What Esther and G. Gold have said is entirely true — what was inappropriate is the way they just danced off after making him smile.

    The duties of the family guard in England are entirely ceremonial. He is protecting nothing, deterring nothing, it is entirely pomp and circumstance. Let’s be honest — the guard looks pretty ridiculous. And the job of human hood ornament for the royal family isn’t all that interesting if the tourists just take photos. [Ever see anything like this in Israel, where the IDF is protecting against real dangers? You won’t find them at 10 Downing St. either, of course.]

    This being the case, it is actually pretty common for tourists to try to get them to smile. Because youtube likes to suggest similar videos, you can see easily enough that there are quite a few videos of this kind, including ones in which it’s obvious the soldier appreciated the diversion that got him to break character.

    Andrew, I would say the same that I said to E. Fink, but I think you’ve just indicated you’re not Charedi. Yes, one or two examples are all that are needed to bust a stereotype, and it’s obvious that while they may have been impolite, this group of five teenagers bust the stereotype. There’s nothing at all absurd about dismantling pejorative stereotypes about others.

    The Mishpacha survey of which Dov Lipman seems so enamored showed a tremendous disconnect between the imagined fears of secular Israelis who do not have Charedi neighbors and the feelings of those who do. I’d be very surprised if any reader who has been the first Charedi Jew that others have met has not gotten the feeling, often verbalized, that we were much more personable (and yes, funny) than the stereotypes indicated. To me it’s no surprise, as my first “education” about Charedi Jews was in a Conservative Hebrew School.

  8. sarah shapiro says:

    A friend sent me this video a few months ago, and whenever it comes to mind, I am ashamed.

    A religious Jew has compelled a non-Jew to betray his own beliefs, against the latter’s will.

    The guard takes the prescribed behavior of his role seriously, as he should. Perhaps he takes loyalty and pride in his ideals as seriously as do we when standing still, and silent, while dovening.

    For anyone who imagines, or hopes, that the guard’s smile was a sign that he didn’t mind what a Jew has done to him, take another look at what his face conveys.

    Sarah Shapiro

  9. Yaakov Menken says:

    Mrs. Shapiro, on the contrary! If someone were to tell jokes implying it was somewhat silly to daven like that, would you laugh after five minutes, or still have a straight face after five hours? If the guard were so offended, he would have been red with anger, not embarrassment at having slipped out of character.

    He does take his role seriously, but not too seriously, or he wouldn’t have laughed. I don’t see offense or anger on his face at all, just a little red for having slipped.

  10. Shira says:

    I found the clip offensive. The religious man was using the guard as a prop in his comedic routine. After he got the guard to laugh, he walked away laughing without acknowledging the man’s humanity by saying “Good day” or “thank You.” The guard is not a monkey in a zoo and shouldn’t have been treated as such.

    True, some chareidim are viewed as too serious. That is a characterization that I could live with. Worse, is that most chareidim are viewed as lacking empathy for anyone who is different and non-chareidi. Did this clip show compassion, refined middos, laughing with instead of laughing at? I wouldn’t show this clip to my children since I don’t want to learn that it is okay to objectify another human being for the sake of my entertainment.

  11. Raymond says:

    Whatever issues that I may have with Chareidim, I nevertheless have to wonder, since when it is a bad thing to laugh? Why would anybody object to this video? If anything, it helps illustrate that the Chareidim are as human as anybody else, with the same sort of emotions and thoughts as the rest of us have. Or are the divisions within the religious Jewish world so sharp, so tense, so irreconcilable, that even laughter is no longer permitted? As for me, I do not think it should be a crime to find some good even with those with whom we sometimes disagree. Besides, the Chareidim do not have a monopoly on what is wrong with Judaism, and may even get some things right. Each group, even within Orthodox Judaism, has both its strengths and weaknesses.

  12. DF says:

    From my informal surveys, and I saw it a few months ago and read about it then too, the response to this video breaks down in two camps:

    Frum From Birth (FFB) – the clip is offensive
    Baal Teshuvah (BT) – the clip is just good fun.

    And from my FFB perspective, this is why I think the breakdown falls out this way: Because the BTs do not have the sensitivity towards anti-semitism that orthodox Jews do. Not having grown up as a vulnerable kid wearing a yarmulke, it’s not ingrained deep DEEP in their blood that beneath the smile of the non-Jew often lies a snarl. Indeed, it may not be an FFB v. BT divide, but rather a European v. American divide, which often co-incides with the BT’s and FFBs. (As a general but nonetheless true observation, most FFB’s today are European, mainly Hungarian. By contrast, the grandparents of most BT’s were already in America before the war.) Americans, lacking the thousand year history of internal bloodshed and conflict, just don’t have the same sensitivities as those more closely connected to Europe.

    The different perspective of the BT is positive in many ways. For one thing, too often the healthy sensitivity of the FFB borders on an unhealthy fear. And too often the FFB is OVERLY aware of his Jewish identity, to the extent that any attempt at change at all is hopeless. The golus mentality, in other words. It took the state of Israel, followed by the six day war, and the 1960s, to make some inroads into that mentality. Having acknowledged all that, it is still very possible to err on the other side of the ledger. In this case, looking at the issue on balance, it was a Chillul Hashem, for all the reasons the commenters have said. He could have mitigated it partially by laughing with the guard afterwards, instead of walking away from him, or good-naturedly saying “no hard feelings, it was all in fun”, but he didn’t even do that. There’s very little positive one can say about this.

  13. Monty says:

    When I saw this originally, I laughed, taking it as good, yeshiva-bachurish fun. I still think it’s funny. But championing it on website geared for an intellectual, thoughtful people–for whom kavod habrios is paramaount–is taking things a bit too far, in my opinion.

    [I’m not “championing” it. I think people could afford to lighten up and take it as “yeshiva-bachurish fun” and note that yeshiva bachurim have lively senses of humor. –YM]

  14. Raymond says:

    Wow, so much is being made over nothing. But since it is anyway, I want to throw the following into the mix. Just about every effective Orthodox Jewish speaker that I am aware of, characteristically starts off their talks with a joke. Nobody in any such audience I have ever been in, has ever taken the least bit offense to it, because they recognize that the purpose of the joke is to help get the audience into a more relaxed and receptive mood. And I must say, that it works very well. There is even a Rabbi fairly well known in at least Ba’al Teshiva circles, whose lectures often consist half the time of very funny jokes. The effect that it has on me at least, is to keep me sharply focused on his words, which is exactly why he is telling those jokes. Honestly speaking, if a lecturer is too serious, as if it is almost torture to be on this Earth, that only makes his lifestyle have less credibility with me. It also makes my mind wander. My point is, that people, even religious ones, really need to stop taking themselves so seriously. While it is true that too many gentiles are sadly antisemitc, not everybody is, and certainly not the majority of the gentiles here in America, at least not yet. Meanwhile, if religious Jews cannot get themselves to laugh, I see little appeal in ever adopting their lifestyle.

    [Raymond, to begin with a joke — for the reason you describe — comes from the Gemara. That’s why it’s so common! –YM]

  15. Yaakov Menken says:

    I think the referenced video below has to be the last word on this topic. Note that none of the Brits pulled in to be videographers stopped shooting, much less remonstrated the tourist for what he was doing. Tourists doing this is commonplace. Parents send their kids up (in costume) to mimic the guards’ behavior, and the guards frequently play along.

    Again, these boys were not showing particular decorum, but neither were they uncommon for tourists there. [Imagine someone trying something like this at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier…]

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