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A Chinaman, A Hassidic Wedding, and Our Missile Defense

By Tzvi Fishman
2/26/2007, 12:00 AM

It is not enough for a non-Jewish person to feel Jewish, or to love Israel, in order to be Jewish.
The Chinese Man In America
Perhaps you have heard the story about the Chinese man who came to America. Arriving at Kennedy Airport in New York, he entered the U.S. Customs line for citizens of the United States. When the Customs official asked to see the Chinese man’s passport, he showed him his passport from China.

  • “I’m sorry,” the official said. “You are in the wrong line. This line is for Americans.”
  • “I am an American,” the Chinese man answered.
  • “Then show me your American passport.”
  • “I don’t have an American passport, but I’m an American. I have always felt like an American. I love America,” the Chinese man said.
  • “It isn’t enough to love America,” the official answered. “You have to be an official citizen to enter through this line. The line for visitors with visas is over there.”
  • “I don’t have a visa,” the Chinese man answered. “Why should I? Americans don’t need a visa to enter into America.”
  • “You don’t seem to understand,” the official answered patiently. “You are not an American.”
  • “But I feel like an American. Isn’t that enough?”
  • “I’m sorry. There are laws. That’s the way it is,” the official said with a shrug. “Next please,” he concluded, turning to the next passenger in line.

The moral of the story is that it is not enough for a non-Jewish person to feel Jewish, or to love Israel, in order to be Jewish. Just as there are laws for foreigners who want to become American, there are laws for people who want to become Jewish. Since this subject is a “bombshell” as one reader said, and since several people sent in very emotional comments, we will try to deal with it in greater depth after the Purim holiday.

A Match Made In Heaven
Last night I went to the wonderful wedding of my wife’s cousin from the Hasidic side of her family. All of the men wore furry Streimmel hats. Many of the young boys wore those cute, box-like caps from the old country. Yiddish was the main language. Of course, the men and women guests were separated, seated in different rooms of the wedding hall. The happy, bashful, nineteen-year-old Hatan (groom) looked like he was still in grade school. He had met the Kallah, my wife’s eighteen-year-old cousin, only one time before, on their one and only shidduch (date). Until meeting once again under the chuppah (wedding canopy), they had not exchanged a look, and certainly not a kiss for months. What purity! What holiness! What faith and trust in G-d!

Hassidic Wedding
Everyone is very friendly to me at these family affairs. After all, as a baal t’shuva from Hollyood, I am a curiosity for them. What struck me at the wedding was the beauty of a boy and girl getting married out of a great love and reverence for G-d. And out of a great love and reverence for their parents, who arranged the match. What a healthy, holy arrangement! What exquisite trust that, with G-d’s help, it will work out to be a match made in heaven. Where can you find such wholesomeness in our so-called “modern” world? While there is divorce in the world of Ultra-Orthodox, it is far far less than the frightening rate of divorce in every other sector of society. We could all benefit by heeding the advice of our Sages – to encourage our children to get married at young age, without excessive and unnecessary dating and contact, with the goal of building together a life based on Torah, and not out of feelings of lust, selfish pleasure, dependency, or gain.
Chetz, Shmetz
During the wedding, I had a chance to talk with my wife’s brother-in-law. He has a classified job in one of Israel’s military industries.
  • “Happy with the success of the success of the “Chetz,” I asked him, referring to the recent launch of Israel’s highly-flaunted defense missile, which is designed to knock down Hizballah katushah rockets, and warheads from Teheran – may they rain down upon our enemies instead.
  • “The pickles are pretty good,” he answered, evasively.
  • “Can it be used as an offensive missile also?” I asked.
  • “I like these olives too,” he answered.
  • “I am not going to leak what you say to the press,” I told him.
  • “Pass me some of those potatoes, will you?”

The truth is, Chetz, shmetz. That isn’t what is going to save us when the missiles, G-d forbid, come raining down again. Last week, the Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, told a crowd at the Kotel that, “Now is the time to cry out to Hashem. Not when the enemy’s missiles are on their way. Then it will be too late. We have to wake up now and return to the Torah. That’s the only thing that can save us.”

At the very beginning of the recent fiasco in Lebanon, Rabbi Levy issued a poster. “All of our jet fighters, and tanks, and artillery canons, and warships won’t help,” he proclaimed. “Only when the Nation of Israel returns to the Torah for the Sake of Heaven, and only when our Torah leaders sit together in unity, without warring with one another, will our soldiers be victorious over the enemies of G-d and Israel in all of their battles, for all of Israel’s might and strength comes from our holy Torah!”