Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Sheikh of Bet El

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Yesterday, after meeting with a prominent Rabbi in Brooklyn on matters of Eretz Yisrael, I entered an adjacent pharmacy. Upon leaving the pharmacy, I sensed that my head was bare. A quick rub of the head confirmed my worst sensation: I was walking around bare-headed.

I always wear a kipah (yarmlukah). I identify with it. Without it, I feel as though I am promenading the streets in my underwear.

Retracing my steps, it quickly became clear that my kipah had disappeared. The prominent Rabbi confirmed to me that I had my kipah on my head when speaking with him. So I spent the next 30 minutes looking all over for my kipah. The results: nada (Russian for "nothing ").

I asked 5 people on the street where I can buy a baseball cap or any hat. They all answered, "Nada" or "no, aqui."

What's a Jew to do?
The only immediate solution that I had was to take my tshirt and wrap it around my head like a Shiekh, the Sheikh of Bet El.
The Shiekh of Bet El (Rolls Royce on right, just outside the photo)
Though it looked a bit funny, I remembered that the Mishna Berura commentary says in the first clause of the Code of Jewish Law that even if people laugh at you when you perform the commandments, just keep moving forward, ignore their barbs, and trust in Hashem. And so it was.

My next stop was the nearby offices of prominent Israel activist, philanthropist, and real estate tycoon Rubin Margules. As I parked outside his office, I saw his partner and son-in-law Eli Verschleiser and greeted him. He looked a bit startled at how some Sheikh knew his name, at which point I identified myself, trying to figure out how to explain this one.

Eli welcomed the Sheikh of Bet El into his office, and introduced me to the office staff who all hoped that I might be in pass-out-gold-watch-gift mode. 
Feeling my discomfort in my out-of-season Purim costume, Eli conducted an office-wide search for a suede kipah that he knew was on premises, and sent me on my way, now looking like an American Modern Orthodox businessman.
A Typical Modern Orthodox New York Jew
Eli directed me to a Judaica store where I purchased a big knit yarmulke (not exactly what I am used to wearing, but the closest they had).

Packing the oversized yarn knit kipah, the salesman asked, "Oh, so you're headed to Uman [the site of the tomb of Rebbe Nachman from Breslov] for Rosh HaShana?"
"Not exactly," I answered, "but I am entangled in a tiny identity crisis and this kipah is the answer." I smiled and left the the Sheikh of Bet El behind in Brooklyn along with his modern orthodox counterpart, now heading for Manhattan as the new Rebbe Baruch of Breslov.

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