“Hey, would you like these books?” One of my dear co-workers asked me this one day, while we were both working. He articulated to me that he had moved, and when he went to his garage, he discovered something. It was a box. A box full of books! What type of books, you may ask? You always propound the best questions. Jewish books. Specifically, Chasidic (or Hasidic) literature, or literature that deals with, interrogates, expounds, and champions Chasidic Judaism. Wherever I have worked, ever since January 2013, when my God Yahweh healed me of my identity crisis, and helped me lovingly and wholly embrace my Israelite identity, I have worn tassels. This is in harmony with Numbers 15:37–41. Many people associate this with Judaism. I don’t blame them. If we play a word association game, and someone says picture a Torah observant Jew wearing tassels, is the first image that pops into your mind a man of color, who looks brown like me?
My God Yahweh is teaching me to extend grace, in the same manner my Rabbi Yahshua does so perfectly. Some people just genuinely don’t know. I was in that same boat in times past. So perhaps my beloved co-worker presupposed that I was a Chasidic Jew, practicing Chasidic Judaism. Innocuous, honest mistake, no? Should I have been deeply offended by this presupposition, whether his intentions were good or…Chabad?
Thank you, Youtube. Please tip your waiters. Due to Covid-19, it’s probably wiser to Cash App them.
I agreed to have the Chasidic books. Even though I am, not a Chasidic Jew, but a Messianic Jew, perhaps I can leverage this insightful information in an advantageous way, sharing and helping practitioners of Chasidic Judaism see that Rabbi Yahshua is The Messiah. Attempting to win souls to the Lamb of God, per 1st Corinthians 9:22,23. So during his lunch break, my hard working co-worker gave me the box of Chasidic literature. There were a lot of books! Out of the panoply of books, I only kept two. The idea of donating these Chasidic books to Chasidic synagogues, or at least to Orthodox bookstores that showcase literature explaining different sects of Judaism, crossed my mind. With this in mind, I drove to an Orthodox Jewish bookstore.
Since it’s just you and I, I’ll be vulnerable here. Sometimes I get nervous going into Jewish spaces. It’s 99.99% just me, overthinking the situation. Will they be offended if I don’t kiss the mezuzah on my way in, and when I exit? Will the shade of blue in my tassels be questioned, by the tassel police? Will I receive icy stares or glances of curiosity, since I am a brown-skinned Hebrew? Will they think I converted like Sammy Davis, Jr.? Thankfully, Yah quiets the what-ifs. I grabbed a couple of books, and began to walk toward the bookstore.
I opened the door. I didn’t kiss the mezuzah. In fact, I don’t remember actively looking for it. At the cash register checking out was a woman. A Hebrew woman, brown like me! This brought me comfort, and I was able to breathe a light sigh of relief. After she exchanged pleasantries with the Jewish cashier, who was wearing a yarmulke, and paid for her item, she gracefully walked out of store. I was next. So I walked forward a little, and with a nervous stutter, I asked if their respective store accepted book donations. The Jewish gentleman said no. I said okay, picked up the books, then I extended my hand. “No, I am sorry, I can’t shake your hand.” I said okay, and walked out of the respective Jewish bookstore. Walking back to my vehicle, I opened the door, and sat in the driver’s seat. Thinking. Pondering.
“That was interesting. Why didn’t he shake my hand?”, I thought. Was that a microaggression? Did the rejection of a polite formality known as the handshake, have racist undertones to it? As I sit here typing this, maybe this gentleman saw Covid-19 coming. Perhaps this Jewish gentleman, was simply ahead of his time. I sat in my car for a smooth minute. Mind you, this is the same store that I purchased my first shophar from. I love this store. The people are friendly. Occasionally the prices make me do a double take, but that’s neither here nor there. I drove home.
As any millennial would do, I went to Google. After researching, I found something interesting. I went to a Jewish website, and came across the N word. That’s right. Negiah. I was wonder-struck. Taken aback, if you will. I scrolled the page and saw the more complete phrase. Specifically, shomer negiah. Shomer negiah is a Hebrew phrase that means “observant of touch”, predicated on Leviticus 18:6,19. Basically, an observant Jewish person who practices shomer negiah, refrains from physical contact with members of the opposite sex. Wait. The cashier was a man. I too, am a man. To this day, the question of why he didn’t shake my hand goes unanswered. However, Yahweh my God has extended His Hand to me, and I am more than happy to humble myself, under His Omnipotent Hand. And who knows? Maybe post Covid-19, we all may be just a little more observant of touch.