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Godliness Comes Down to Earth
By Eliezer CohenIn a village in medieval Europe, a group of men were gathered. They were the landowners, the wealthy and educated class. Also present and were the cleric. Absent were the lower classes - the serf or peasant, who lived a uneducated life, working the landowners land, a life of hard work and near poverty. This lower classes was light years away from the society of the land owners. The land owners understood culture, literature, art, and music. The serfs understood little of intelligent thought and could neither read nor write. They and the animals, to which they tended, were a more fitting company for each other.
At this particular gathering, the men were discussing philosophy and religion, a common topic of that period. Amongst the assembled was a Jew, who seeking greater wealth at the expense of his religious traditions and observances, had converted to the local religion. Whilst the aristocratic noblemen were certainly no Jew lovers, still, their dislike of the stereotype Jew did little to reach the level of hatred that this renegade Jew exposed against his former brethren. Having become callous to his fellow Jewish brethren, he now became the local vocal Jew hater, voicing on many occasions his disdain of the local religious Jews and their customs. All this, of course, was in order to ingrain himself with the local land owners, with the purpose of securing more business from them.
"Ha!" exclaimed this Jew-hating Jew, "You really don't know how disgusting the Jews really are." He glowed and gloated from the special attention the clerics, the priests, and the land owners were giving him. "You only think the Jews are crazy from what you see from the outside, but I know them from the inside. They are warped! Mad, from their stupid laws which bind them and blind them at every phase of their lives.
"Do you want to hear something really stupid?" He could feel their attention fixed upon him. He drew a deep breath, apparently enjoying the spotlight. "Do you know that they have a law that governs which hand they must use to wipe their bottoms when they are in the toilet!!"
A young cleric-in-training, who had been silent, drew up to the inner circle. "Pardon me, are you certain that there is such a law? Do they really do such things? I find it rather hard to believe."
The Jew-hating Jew turned to this young cleric and smiled. "My dear young man, What can you know of the Jews? I lived with them, I learned with them and that is why I left them. I left them because of silly rules like this. Who can live such a life and not be insane. It is written in their law books that one must use his left hand to wipe his bottom, but not his right hand."
The noblemen and older clerics laughed at the odd tidbit of Jewish law. The young cleric slowly retreated from the inner circle and was not noticed leaving and the men continued their drinking and talking.
Several years passed after that gathering transpired. One day when the Jew-hating Jew was walking down the mud street of his small village. He looked up and saw a face that made him stop and stare. A Jew, a young religious Jew, with a scraggly beard and sidelocks was walking towards him and smiling at him. This young Jew was wearing the traditional four cornered garment, the talit, with the stringy fringes blowing in the wind. Yet his face aroused suspicion in his mind. He certainly did not possess the traditional Jewish face. He looked like a non Jew, but yet, there was something strange yet vaguely familiar about him.
His curiosity was aroused. "Pardon me, Reb Yid, but you look familiar. Tell me who are you?"
The young man responded with a friendly smile, "You don't know my name, but you knew me once as a cleric-in-training. I used to study at the local monastery here. I wanted to become a priest. But you changed my mind and I became a Jew instead. I really must thank you. You have been the one who was instrumental in giving me the insight to become Jewish."
"Who me? Are you completely crazy? Nothing can be farther from the truth. I have never influenced anyone to become Jewish. Bah!"
"Please allow me to remind you that we once attended a gathering at the local landowners residence. You spoke about the laws of the Jews and how they even have laws to govern them in the toilet, which hand to wipe their bottoms. I was there, and I heard you speak and I was very impressed."
"What are you saying? How could that influence you to become Jewish?"
"Well, it is simple enough. I entered the monastery because I wanted to become close to G-d. I saw that the influence of G-d on one's live was sorely limited. Beside church, the average person has no connection to G-d. He can either enter a monastery and live the rest of his life in seclusion, forfeiting life in the world that G-d gave to man to live in or he can have a limited connection. A connection of going once a week to church plus a few other small things. Basically, I saw that there existed much of man's life to which G-d and His being had no relevance. There seemed to me a void, a part of life where G-d had no relevance to man.
"I could never understand that. It was as if G-d created this world and then retreated from it. When you said that the Jews have a law that governs behavior even in the toilet, I realized that I might be on the wrong path. I checked out what you said, and you were certainly correct. G-d is in all parts of the Jewish life, not just once a day or once a week, but rather every place, at every time with no exception. I saw that his concern was even for what we might consider the mundane. I took leave of the monastery and began studying Torah. I have since converted, married and you should know that you are responsible for helping me find the true path in life. Sometimes in the lowest, you can find the loftiest"
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