Hashem’s Cop by Rabbi Lazer Brody

Hashem’s Cop by Rabbi Lazer Brody

Reprinted from Breslev.co.il

The 350 Mehadrin bus from Bnei Brak to Ashdod is normally jammed, but at 3 PM more than half the seats were still vacant. Four young women in slacks, obviously not from the Haredi or religious neighborhoods along the route, boarded the bus at the stop adjacent to the Coca Cola factory in Bnei Brak.

Rather than moving to the rear of the bus, they sat down demonstratively in the front two rows seats on the right side of the bus. Some of the male passengers were baffled; two others decided to get off the bus.

A Breslever Chassid, sitting across the young ladies on the left side of the bus, simply closed his eyes and smiled. This was not a reaction that the headline-seeking heroines were looking for, having so boldly entered the mobile Haredi lion’s den.

No one yelled at the fearless four, women’s-rights or democracy activists in their late twenties. No one even spoke to them. There was nothing to document on their cell-phone videos. What a waste! Well, at least they might be able to take a nice walk on the beach in Ashdod…

If there’s no news, then make the news! One of the young woman got out of her seat (while the three others were poised with their cell-phone video cameras, waiting to pounce on the action they hoped would come) and stood next to the Breslever, whose toothy smile would have done justice to any Crest or Colgate commercial.

“Hey, why can’t you look at me?” the young lady asked abrasively, obviously itching for a conflict.

“Do you want your husband looking at other young women?” the Breslever responded.

“I’m not married,” she said.

“I bless you that you should find your soul-mate this year!”

The activist wasn’t ready for this turn in the conversation. She needed to steer things differently. “What are you so happy about with that imbecilic grin of yours?”

“In Torah 282 of Likutei Moharan, Rebbe Nachman teaches us to appreciate our good points and to be happy with every little mitzvah we do; and in Torah 17, first part, Rebbe Nachman says that the slightest good deed that a person does makes a tremendous impression in the upper spiritual realms…”

The activist was getting more and more impatient. This was not the action she was looking for, wasting half a day on a bus ride going someplace where she didn’t need to go. “So what,” she snapped.

“You asked me why I’m smiling. I’m answering you. I never thought that riding a Mehadrin bus was a big deal; I mean, it didn’t seem to be such a great mitzvah. But if the Yetzer Hara [2] is going to such lengths to bother me on this bus ride, then it must be really significant in shamayim that men and women don’t mix. This morning, when I was learning Tosefot on Baba Kama, the Yetzer wasn’t bothering me as much as he is now. Thank You, Hashem, for giving the mitzva of riding this bus.” With eyes shut, he turned at the activist and added, “and thank you, cherished sister, for adding to my rewards in the World to Come.”

The young lady’s antagonism was melting into frustration. She was obviously the ring-leader, and her three sisters-in-arms were eagerly awaiting to see how she’d react. Their game plan (or battle plan) to wave the flag of women’s rights on the Mehadrin bus didn’t anticipate a frontal confrontation with a Breslever…

“What do you people smoke that gets you so spaced out?” she chided.

“I’ll admit that I’m high, dearest sister, but that comes from tallit, tefillin, Torah, and an hour of talking to Hashem every day.”

“What’s with this ‘dearest’ and ‘cherished sister’ garbage?”

“You see,” explained the Breslever, “your soul and mine both are a tiny part of Godliness. We have the same Father; you don’t need a PhD in genealogy from Hebrew University to know that we’re brother and sister. Besides, the Torah says so explicitly…”

“Are you the real deal or are you just putting on a good show?”

“If I invite you and your girlfriends for Shabbat…,” meanwhile removing his kosher cellphone from his shirt pocket, about to dial his wife’s number, “will you come? When you taste Shabbat and my wife’s cooking, you’ll understand how much Hashem loves you, and so do we.”

Squirming and completely off guard, the activist snarled, “You’re wife is probably an illiterate cook and bottle washer pregnant with her twelfth – what would she and I have in common?”

The Breslever chuckled, “No, my wife is only pregnant with our eighth. But you’ll like her – she has a MBA in Finance from the University of Tel Aviv. Besides, she was a sergeant in the Artillery Corps of the IDF, an army medic and a training-base instructor in first aid. She even served in Lebanon for two months…”

“What?! Don’t tell me you were in the army too?”

“Yeh, I admit it. I was a tank commander. Then I did a degree in Communication from UTA. That’s where my wife and I met…”

All the stereotypes were crumbling. The four activists were disarmed. No fight, no arguments, no protests – only an invitation for Shabbat…

The activist tried one last effort. She sat down next to the Breslever. This will surely get his goat and make him lose his cool, she thought.

He still smiled, but a tear trickled down his cheek.

“Why are you crying?” she asked, jolted by this additional surprise. Her compassion was a sign of the Jewish soul that shined from deep within her.

“I’m not really the prude that you think. But I love my wife and want her face to be the only female image in my brain. You, dear sister, are a Bat Yisroel, a Jewish daughter. Every Bat Yisroel is beautiful. Please, I wouldn’t embarrass you by getting up. But I’m not a holy man – I wish I were. You’re really testing me. You are a moral young lady; would you steal something from a pregnant woman with seven children? By making me look at you, you’d be stealing some of my affection for my wife. I’m sure that’s not your intention.”

Gently, as if walking on eggs, the young lady stood up. “I’m so sorry,” she said, showing her true delicate and considerate inner self. “I never thought of it that way. Besides, if all the Haredim were like you, things would be different. Tell me, are you the ones that go to Uman every Rosh Hashana?”

“Yes, I’m one of them.”

“Are all of you this nice? I mean, you don’t try to act like Hashem’s cop.” She surprised herself by saying “Hashem”. Since when do such words come out of an ultra-liberal libertarian feminist’s mouth?

“I only try to police myself.” The bus arrived at the Breslever’s station in Ashdod’s Rova Gimel. The Breslever got up but added, “Let us know if you’re coming for Shabbat…”

[1] Bus run by the Egged company especially for the religious neighborhoods, where men and women sit separately

[2] The Evil Inclination

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27 comments

  1. As she said – if all the chareidim behaved like that – everything would be different!

  2. I think the major attacks on women came in the past ten years from Ger and recently from Satmer.
    Breslov is in general trying as usually to remain loyal to the general Chasidic direction and also loyal to Rebbi Nachman. This creates a certain tension in the movement. But by no means is Breslov immune from general Chasidic insanity. Every years there is the Vaad Hazniut in Uman preventing women from walking on the streets and a few years ago they got permission from the government to invade homes of people they suspected of being not “zniut” . Though all this is clearly against the teachings of Rebbi Nachman himself yet these types of crazies do exist in Breslov also.and the vaad hazniut is not a fringe movement in breslov but part of the official organization.

    • And what does this have to do with the article?

      • I’m checking this out. Like you said, crazies are everywhere, no group is immune. That’s not the point. The point is to seek out the GOOD in everything, as Rabbi Nachman teaches, as his chassid in the story showed by example, and to learn from it and grow.

        How sad that you feel the need to not only ignore the good in this, but also to drag in muck from a totally unrelated subject.

        • The “va’ad” or council for modesty, is nothing of the sort, since they have not been appointed nor voted by any consensus in Breslev. They are self-appointed, and self-involved. They are exactly like the “sikrikim” in that they are a small group that took upon themselves what they consider to be a cause for the greater good.

          Ironically, my husband (who goes to Uman every year) reported that since they have begun their activities, there are more women than ever in Uman on Rosh Hashana.

          Furthermore, Rav Levi Yitzhak Bender tells the story in his book “Life of a Breslever” about the chazan of Uman, who, on Rosh Hashana after ma’ariv, would make a special effort to walk by the women’s section and wish them a gut yomtov.

          Don’t let anyone try to spread the vicious rumour that Breslevers are anti-women!!!!! Rabbi Nachman advises us to simply stay within the confines of Halacha, since it is difficult enough for most of us, and to leave the chumras well alone.

  3. This story should make the same impact and get publicized as much as the story of people spitting on a girl for whatever ridiculous reason. Somehow, these positive types of stories get buried. The response of kindness and warmth wins out but doesn’t make headlines too bad.

  4. may we be inspired by this special bresslover chossid to increase shalom between all types of jews and to always try to add ahavas yisroel wherever we go. yashar koach!!!

  5. Something I’d love to see: A news channel like CNN that broadcasts ‘good news’ 24/6. Content would include miracle stories, acts of chessed, triumphs over tests – that sort of thing. Unfortunately, though, human nature is drawn to life’s negative drama — hence, the ‘bad news’ we need to suffer through.

  6. what i meant to say about the article is this. The article is implying that Breslov Chasidim are different than types that spit on women. This should be true in theory because Rebbi Nachman’s path was higher. But from what I have seen the official Breslov is the same as the other chasidic groups.

  7. bikores.blogspot.com

    Thanks for bringing this terrific article to our attention.

    As to its veracity, here is what Lazer Brody said:

    The story is actually a composite of three stories, all of which happened. The activists on the 350 bus, with the Breslever’s comment about the value of riding a mehadrin bus was one incident that occurred 2 weeks ago. A Breslever’s invitation of egalitarian activist for Shabbat and the revelation that many Haredi men and women are university graduates and army veterans was a second incident. The explanation about the rationale of shmirat eynayim to a hostile feminist was a third incident that happened to me personally in Manhattan. I turned all three into one incident to show how Rabbi Shalom Arush teaches his students to react in such a situation – ahavat Yisrael and Kiddush Hashem.

    Blessings always,
    LB

  8. I really dislike this phrase/sentiment: “But I’m not a holy man – I wish I were. You’re really testing me. You are a moral young lady; would you steal something from a pregnant woman with seven children? By making me look at you, you’d be stealing some of my affection for my wife. I’m sure that’s not your intention.”

    The buck stops with him – not with the rude activist demanding to be looked at.

  9. I’m actually pretty offended by this story, even more so because it didn’t really happen. My wife (a fine frum woman, not that that should matter) happens to be one those horrible “activists” who rides the segregated buses. She doesn’t look for fights, doesn’t carry a video camera, and is quite happy that she’s never actually been started up with. The people in this story are cartoons.

    The last bit was particularly offensive- to the author. If seeing any other woman diminishes his love for his wife or his feelings for her, he (and his marriage) is the one with the problem. Furthermore, I doubt any “activist” would be mollified by being told she’s an object in his eyes.

    • nachum, totally not related to your post, but was so thrilled to hear that you got married. Mazal tov!!!

    • I agree. I think this story is exaggerated on many counts and is not going to speak at all to a secular person.

    • I agree with Nachum.

      Thumbs up to the hasid who didn’t yell, scream, or bully the women on the bus. But not opening his eyes to even look at her during the entire conversation?!

      Once, I was in a shiur given by a rabbi for an all-female audience who kept his eyes closed the entire time–even afterwards when he offered to answer general questions from the attendees. I found the closed-eye thing even more offensive than the eye-aversion thing that happens when I, as a woman, walk through a hareidi area.

      I am Orthodox. I dress very conservatively and do not behave in a way that would draw attention. But just like cat-calling objectifies women, so, too do closed/averted eyes send a similar message, although perhaps even more so. The message is this: It does not matter who you are inside. It does not matter if you behave or dress in a discrete/modest manner. You are a walking sex object. If I so much as set eyes on you, my yetzer hara will lead me down the wrong path.

      Why are women to be feared so? The world is co-ed, folks, and we need to learn how to live in it and greet each person “b’sever panim yafot” – with a cheerful countenance – as Pirkei Avot says.
      It is, in fact, possible to do this regardless of one’s gender, regardless of the gender of the person walking in the other direction, AND be faithful to one’s spouse!!

      • Here’s a great article from the New York Times, written by an Orthodox rabbi, about this issue:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/20/opinion/ultra-orthodox-jews-and-the-modesty-fight.html?_r=1

        • my husband agrees with you (he’s a breslever chassid). He says that if the man on the bus had his eyes open to start with he would not have had such a nisayon. The girl would not have felt the need to go the whole hog and sit down, or even get insulted that he wouldnt look at her.

      • I have heard similar sentiment from others, but I don’t understand it. If a man is shomer eynayim it is his business and has nothing to do with me. I don’t feel objectified in any way and it doesn’t affect my life. This is in no way comparable to catcalls and the like. Some of my friends are shomer eynayim and are completely respectful of me. Why isn’t a man free to be shomer eynayim as long as he is not impinging on another person’s freedoms. It’s not about you, it’s about him, so why is that so hard to respect?

  10. actually, i love this post and keep reading it over and over. it gives me much chizuk and hope. as we are instructed to believe in Baal Shem Tov stories–whether they really happened “like that” or not–in order to learn an important lesson in hashkafa, i find that this story has the same purpose.

    in my 20 years plus of my Baal Teshuva journey, i have had to deal with the Liberated Woman Questions for myself and my family/associates. this story gives great “answers” to those annoying challengers. i suggest that all jewishMom.com readers try using these answers when confronted by similar questions.

    as for those who took offense about the breslover’s fear of loss of affection for his wife, as a former women’s libber, now frum wife and mother, i think this is the MOST convincing argument against women’s lib. becausen deep down, all those libbers really want to be cherished and adored by their one and only…

    • You can be for women’s lib and be cherished and adored by your husband. The two are not mutually excluded from each other.

      • that was my point. if we stop dividing ourselves into groups/subgroups/subsubgroups/etc we would be able to focus on our common humanity.
        when i want to explain something to someone who has a different point of view from me, i try to reach past our differences and focus on what we have in common: our basic human-ness. in this story, the breslover tried to reach the woman’s essence, that of wanting to be someone’s one-and-only. by bypassing the things that divide and focus on what we share, then we can find common understanding.

        common understanding does not mean that we will all agree, it just means we will find a place where different opinions can co-exist while we still can get along.
        true Ahavas Yisrael does NOT mean that we get along only with those we agree with. It means that we love each other WITH our different points of view. this can be achieved by focusing on our common human-ness or neshama elokis.

  11. Please forgive my ignorance, but I see a bit of contradiction between the man closing his eyes on the bus and inviting the young woman for Shabbat dinner. Let’s say she accepts the invitation – will he keep his eyes closed during the dinner? or will he be talking to her and looking?

    • Diana, as I mentioned in my comment above, some of my friend’s husbands are shomer eynayim and I regularly go to their homes. They don’t have to keep their eyes closed, it’s just that they don’t look at me directly. But they talk to me and just as they are respectful of me, I respect their way of life. I know people are offended by it, and that is the bit I don’t get. Why should I need anything from a man who is not my husband? I respect the way they keep themselves totally for their wives. Unfortunately, on the other hand, quite a few times I have been a guest where the husband has come on to me in one way or another. I know that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, but if I have to choose I prefer the former. And anyway in answer to your question, it is not a contradiction. When the young woman goes to his house, it will be primarily his wife who will be engaged with her.

  12. I accept the criticism that i should not spread the idea that breslov is anti women. I am sorry.
    And certainly Rebbi nachman is very much better than that.

  13. I would love to share a story that just happened to a Breslever we are very close to (who has a long beard and peyos, wears black and white) while travelling:

    While waiting for security behind a woman who appeared to be a supermodel, another queue opened up. It ended up taking longer and she asked our friend if she could get back in line. He graciously accepted and then she asked him: Is that a Jewish skullcap on your head? He answered that it was.

    She then proceeded to tell him that she loved Jews, her great-grandmother had been Jewish but that she was Christian, had a degree in theology and LOVED the Old Testament.
    One statement led to another, with some pointed questions from our friend.
    Turns out her bloodline is continually Jewish on her mother’s side: Her mother is Jewish. Our friend informed her that she is, in fact JEWISH. She was stunned to find out this fact and then at that point had to leave for her security check (sorry to leave you hanging).

    Now, Rebbe Nachman teaches that if a man has to travel for business then he should, since it is clear that he has holy “sparks” to release in those places (as long as he does business in emuna and holiness)
    SO: had our friend refused to talk to, or perhaps even look at (or worse, close his eyes upon) this woman, she may never have found out that she was a lost Jewish soul….

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