A melamed with children in Bukhara, 1910
They say in the name of C.N. Bialik that he hated the Arabs because "they're similar to the Sefaradim..." say what you want about CNB; but I doubt that feeling had anything to do with his beliefs on Torah and Zionism, and whether or not he put on Rabbeinu Tam's Tefillin... I do not claim to know the answer as to why Jews were so adverse - to use a light term - to anybody that wasn't exactly like them. That goes for their fellow Jews as well, even if they were from the next town over, or right over the border. עאכו"כ if they spoke and looked differently! I would assume that it was like that with all the Gentiles as well, and maybe that's where we picked it up, much like lots of other ideas we have and things we do. Most of us brought this with us to America and to E. Yisroel, just like we brought our clothing and minhogim, although, to our credit, we don't harp as much on the backgrounds as we used to. Polish and Hungarian are known to mix and marry, which was unheard of a century ago, and in some circles you might even see an Eastern Jew marry a Western Jewess, and vice versa, and I don't speak of the newly religious crowd when I say that.
I attended a wedding of Bukharian Jews last week. It was my first time. There was lots to enjoy there - more food than you'd see at an Ashkenazi wedding that had 5 times as many people attend. Non-stop food. Both at the smorgasbord, and then later, at the meal. The music was outstanding, mostly Bukharian "songs" with a great singer and GREAT music. These guys REALLY know how to handle the instruments, especially those drums that they play, both the big bongo-like drum, and the smaller drum, the one that looks like something a baker would use to mold pies. You hold it in both hands and use mostly your left hand to drum. You need to be really quick with that thing in order for it to work properly and give you the desired sound, and these guys were just that! And you also have these long drum solos, which makes doing your job twice as difficult, sice you're holding a heavy drum in your hand and going on and on and on - all without the help of "banned substances." Sorry for boring you there, but this was the first wedding in a long time where I was actually interested in what was going on, so I thought I'd share, especially since it "inspired" this blog post.
I bring you that Bialik (ptoo!) pearl of wisdom because that's what ocurred to me at the wedding, G-d forgive me for that blasphemous thought. I have become somewhat less tolerant lately, almost as if it was against my will, as if it was a new Yetzer HoRah that I never really experienced before. So I looked around and I began to make Bialik's comparison - basically that these B'nei Avrohom Yitzchok VeYaakov were just like the Arabs, r"l. The strange customs, the style of brachot and at maariv, it all sounded so Arabic to me! I closed my eyes and saw the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer! I know, I know, this kind of thinking is terrible, but what could I do? Mind you, I love the culture, the music, the piyutim, and lots of other things about it. The Rabbi pictured below was at the wedding, as well as a younger Rov, who other than his dark complexion looked like a regular Yeshivaman, Ashkenazi, he even had peyos behind his ears, which is rare for Bukharians, yet when he said the brachot under the chuppah and later davened maariv he sounded like that muezzin (ptoo!) again! This inherent Racism that I harbor is to be understood, I guess, since old habits die hard, they say. I would imagine that the old time shuls with the "cathedral" ceilings and with the chazzonim and their outfits would sound like a Timeh, leHavdil, to an Eastern Jew.
Reuters PhotoThis is where Asher Bochar Bonu comes in. In cheder many of us are/were taught that a Yid is only as good as what he does. We're better than the Goyim since we don't eat pork and shrimp. We're better because we don't go to the bar and blow the rent money every day. We don't kill and maim and harm other people. We were also taught that a Yid has to look and sound like us. EXACTLY so. Otherwise he's תת רמה and maybe worse. [I may have told you about being called "א גוי" by a 2-year old kid in a shopping cart in Swan Lake a few summers ago. The reason? I had my peyos behind my ears, or maybe because I was talking English on my cellphone. I forget.] But the truth is that an adult like myself having such thoughts is a lot worse than what the 2-year old was thinking. After all, what's he seen and heard already? only his daled amos, everything else is a goy. At times like that we need to remember (or maybe only I need to, since I was the one that brought this up...] that the Eybershter chose our GUFIM, we're special because of who we are, not just what we do.
Where do I stand on this subject? Iz azoi. I have a very strong sense of identity. I have a strong love for my background and for all things Hungarian. Jewish Hungarian, that is. Blue Danube and the Csárdás are not my thing. All these years in Lubavitch have not changed that, despite the fact that I've also added a love for all things Lubavitch. But at the same time I love to learn about other Jewish cultures as well, that way when I poke fun at least I know what I'm laughing about. Just kidding. I even pride my self that I'm sort of at home in many different cultures, which is not so common these days, with people afraid to peek elsewhere for fear of maybe seeing something they like there and feeling uncomfortable where they currently are. I apologize. I completely lost my train of thought on this one. I started it 2 weeks and have no idea what I was trying to say in this paragraph. Hopefully, by me putting this back to Monday, despite finishing it on Thursday, most of won't notice and won't ask for an explanation. Stuff like this happens in this line of work. Oh, and the name of the Rabbi in the second picture is Rabbi Yehoshua, he's the "Chief Rabbi" of the Bukharian Community in Queens, or maybe even in the entire USA!