"Would you carry this?" she asks.
We’re outside the Santa Monica Co-Op on Broadway, a few blocks from where I had a passionate one-year fling with a gorgeous shiksa who was ten years my junior, five times more flexible, one-quarter Jewish and zero interested in Judaism.
But the sex was good.
Today Jane* — the daughter of a minister — extends a non-kosher cookie and non-kosher sushi for me to carry back to our Gentile Alexander Technique teacher.
I refuse to touch them.
We had this discussion a month ago. I had asked the teacher that morning if there was anything at the co-op Jane could get him. He proceeded to give me a $20 bill and charged me with bringing him non-kosher tea and non-kosher sushi.
I picked up the stuff without thinking and was standing in line when I saw someone from my shul wearing a kipa. I was wearing a kipa, my tzitzit flowing in the air conditioning.
"Oy vey!" I thought. "I’m sinning. This is really bad. I’ve grown sloppy because I’m hanging out too much with non-Torah Jews and goyim. This is a bloke who gave me a hard time about my blog not living up to Judaism’s ideals of pure speech. if he looks carefully at what I’m buying, he’ll give up on me. Oy, this is such a shanda. What will the goyim say?"
Back at the Institute, I announced I would no longer buy non-kosher foods for either Jews or goyim. My religion forbade me.
"The big problem is doing it in public," I explained. "It’s maris ayin. It might cause a Jew to think that the food I was carrying was kosher because I had a yarmulke on and it might lead him to sin. It is important to maintain public proprieties. I personally see nothing wrong with buying non-kosher stuff for goyim but my religion forbids it and I definitely can’t do it publicly. And there’s nothing wrong with goyim buying non-kosher food. It’s fine for goyim. Judaism only requires the bare minimum of human decency from goyim — the seven laws of the sons of Noah."
"Oh, so it’s fine to sin privately?" I’m challenged.
"It’s never fine to sin, but sinning publicly is usually a far more serious sin than doing the same thing privately. When you do it in public, you are challenging the established moral order. You are challenging the rules. When you sin privately, you are not challenging the rules. You’re simply not living up to them."
"That’s hypocritical," I’m told.
Today I stand firm. "I can’t carry that," I say. "It’s not kosher."
"Luke, I need to open my yoghurt," says Jane, her yoghurt half-opened and hanging precariously in her other hand. "Here, take this."
"No! I can’t carry something in public that’s not kosher."
"Oh, but you can touch girls?" says my friend Alex*. Earlier he had complained about people seeing him as a bandito — as I once described him — because he was a long-haired Latino "while everyone treats you like a holy man because of how you dress and you’re not holy at all. You’re a fake Jew. You’re always talking about hot chicks. You act like the rules don’t apply to you."
Jane is pissed off. She’s had a bad day and she now has instant access to the Gospels. They’ve prepared her for dealing with Pharisees like me, white-washed sepulchres who pray in the Synagogue of Satan.
"It’s just like the Parable of the Good Samaritan," she says, her voice rising. "The Jews wouldn’t touch a Samaritan by the side of the road who was hurt and needed help. They thought it was a sin to touch non-Jews."
I yearn to show Jane that I don’t think it is a sin to touch certain non-Jews, but it has to be done quietly and privately so the proprieties are maintained and the Torah is not desecrated.
Jane’s in full cry: "But one Jew didn’t care. He came along and helped the guy. Jesus taught that we didn’t need to get so caught up in laws that we forget to help our fellow."
Alex: "It’s because it’s in public? But you’re not supposed to touch women either and you touch them all the time. It’s OK because it’s in private?"
Alex turns to Jane. "Here, I’ll carry your stuff."
She’s almost in tears. "I’m sorry for yelling at you," she says, "but I’m in a bad mood and I feel like beating up on someone."
"That’s OK," I say. "That’s what Jews are for. People have been beating up on us for 3,000 years. We’re used to it."
"Yeah," says Alex, "like you’ve really suffered."
We walk back to the Institute.
"Who are some of your author heroes?" Alex asks.
His face is blank.
"He was one of the founders of the New Journalism along with people such as Hunter S. Thompson. They used novelistic techniques in writing journalism. They’d get inside someone’s head and say what they were thinking when they did something. For instance, if we writing up what happened at the Co-Op a few minutes ago, you might ask me what I was thinking about and I might say, ‘The Book of Leviticus,’ and then you’d write, ‘Luke Ford, standing outside the Co-op, was thinking about the book of Leviticus when…’
"The problem is, I may be lying. I may not have been thinking about Leviticus. How do you know what someone is thinking about unless they tell you and then how do you trust them? But if you trust them, then you can use that information to write a character from an interior point of view and it makes the writing more interesting.
"Tom Wolfe said there were four keys to writing well. (1) Scene-by-scene construction. (2) Liberal use of realistic dialogue. (3) Multiple points of view. (4) Close attention to status details.
"Status details reveal how people strive to avoid humiliation and elevate themselves in the social circle. For instance, by pronouning it STATE-us, I am aspiring to a higher social strata — notice my pronounciation STRAY-tuh — than if I pronounced it STAT-us."
"So when you come into class and say, ‘At ease! Please don’t get up!’ you are aspiring to a higher social status?" Jane asks me.
"Yeah, I guess," I say.
We walk into class.
"I apologize for yelling at you," she says.
"No problem," I say. "It was fine."
Then I let my neck be free, my head go forward and up, my shoulders widen and my back lengthen.
Surely I possess man’s supreme inheritance!
Check out my stimulus package!
Haha! Both Jews and goyim should look upon me now and weep.
My name is Luke Ford, Your Moral Leader:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Bite me, baby!