Tuesday, February 12, 2013


(from I Discuss My Brother With Four Beverly Hills Rabbis)

1. Seducers

- Who gave you my phone number?
- Liz. You don't know her?
- No. What did she say?
- That like the rest of the people here in Beverly Hills she was too busy making money to be a human. Being human apparently is a rabbi's business so she gave me your number.
- She should give me the money to help people she sends to me.
- I'm not asking you for money.
- What are you asking?
- For you to be human, and be concerned about another human being.
- A lot of people are in difficulty.
- My difficulty is easily removed, and with mutual benefit.
- How?
- Making friends.
- The families I know all have children.
- And I am a potential child molester. I heard that already from the last rabbi. Not every stranger develops into a child molester.
- Bad things can happen.
- And no one should take any chances with strangers. No one who hasn't given his life over as hostage to the community will ever be trusted. Do you know what this reminds me of?
- No.
- Nabokov's "Lolita". Of course it does. With all this talk of wondering if I am a child molester, and the book on my mind anyway because I've got a first edition copy of it in my bag I'm going to try to sell.  But it's you guys, you rabbis, I see in the role of seducer, not me. You rabbis claim to know what is good, but don't hold yourselves to practicing good with strangers. The narrator of Nabokov's novel, an English Professor, knows how to speak and see clearly, but uses his knowledge to seduce a young girl. Talking with you rabbis is like reading that book: I can't help liking your clarity and accomplishment, but your ability obviously is being used to bad purpose. It's like a train wreck you see coming and can't help watching. You don't care about me, though you are willing to practice your rituals on me, proclaim your intention to live, learn, love, improve, exactly as Nabokov's character pretends to care for the little girl he seduces and ruins.
- You said you teach English. Can you teach me?
- Yes.
- Come back tomorrow at 10.

2. The Rabbi's First Lesson

- So, tomorrow at 10. I'll get you to read "Lolita" out loud. Here it is, the first Israeli Edition, copy number 586, the 1958 Jerusalem printing. And here is the memory book from a teen-aged girl in Budapest, entries from 1937-1941. She was sent to the Dachau concentration camp in 1944.
- How do you know that?
- The Holocaust Archive Vad Vashem in Jerusalem sent me a copy of the entrance questionnaire she had to fill out at the camp. The signature is the same as on the first page of the book, here, see?
- What are you doing with the book? Have you looked for the girl? She might pay a lot to get it back.
- I couldn't find her. I found the book on the street in Budapest a few years ago. I looked into how it got there and what happened to its owner, and learned a lot of history. I learned something particularly nasty about the Jewish leadership in Hungary.
- What?
- The head of the Jewish Agency, together with the head rabbi in Budapest made a deal with the Nazi Adolf Eichmann sent to Hungary to organize the transportation to the death camps: if they could save a chosen thousand of their people, they'd pay Eichmann a thousand dollars per person, and would not disclose to the Jews boarding boxcars at a rate of more than 10,000 a day they would be executed upon arrival at in Poland, were not going for "relocation" as they were being told. Had you heard of this?
- No.
- It's not a nice story. It's just about the worst story I've every heard. I've thought a lot about it. I came to the conclusion that the Jewish leaders dismissed the poor Jews boarding the box cars to their deaths just like you rabbis here in L.A. dismiss me. I'm not really on your team. The head rabbi and head of the Jewish agency in Budapest told themselves they couldn't help the majority, they should save those they could. But deciding to save those they could, they relied on a judgement of probable outcome should informed people attempt resistance, and probable outcome of their own campaign of lying to the people. They were most likely wrong about the possibility of resistance, the probability the people they refused to help also could have lied their way to some partial escape if they'd know the true situation. The leaders saw themselves as professional liars and managers, and other people as the lied to and managed. I think you rabbis do the same with me. The words of your rituals say you care, but you don't. You say you can't help me because you don't let yourselves feel the normal urge to pull a stranger to his feet stumbling beside you on the stairs. Instead of feeling the normal urge to save, you feel the urge to act in role as liars and managers, managers of others who are not professional liars. Like the Budapest leaders you tell yourself helping me means risking harm to those closer to you. Your reasoning about probabilities is just as faulty, is a direct consequence of isolating yourself in your own group of professional liars. It's just my opinion, you understand. I'm a child molester to you, you're a hypocrite and liar to me. Fair is fair. See you tomorrow for your English lesson.