18.             Orthodox Jews in the Road

When I left the campus en route to my Passover meal, I discovered, walking in the middle of the road rather than on the sidewalk, pairs after groups after pairs of ultra-Orthodox Jews. For those unfamiliar with the reason why that would be so, ultra-Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath. Hence, in communities consisting entirely of ultra-Orthodox Jews, one custom, on a Sabbath or a holiday such as Passover, is to walk on the road rather than on the sidewalk. With no cars, one can safely utilize the more spacious street either to push a baby carriage with greater ease or to walk not in mere single-file or pairs of two, but surrounded by a gaggle of one’s family and friends. (Orthodox Jews, also, do not drive on the Sabbath. However, in America, I have not seen Orthodox Jews walk in the road as I have seen the ultra-Orthodox.)

For some perverse reason that I find unnerving, there are some ultra-Orthodox Jews who, on the Sabbath and holidays, walk in the road even in a community that—due to it not being entirely religious or Jewish—has some vehicles on the roads during those days. Lakewood is one such not-100%-Sabbath-observing community. Therefore, both (1) because I strongly believe that one should not walk in the road when not in a fully-Sabbath-observant neighborhood (doing so is obviously dangerous and an irritant to drivers); and (2) because I am a rabbi with a mind to sermonize even to random Jews (or non-Jews) whom I do not know, when I was passing these ultra-Orthodox Jews walking in the street, I said that they should, rather, use the sidewalk. Relaying the equivalent Jewish version of the Christian, body-is-the-Temple verse, I said that it was a danger to walk in the street. (In fact, one car, driving the twisty lake road, had to swerve out of the way in its passing!) Moreover, their walking in the road could irritate Gentile drivers, and thereby, give Jews a bad name.

However, no one readily came onto the sidewalk despite my exhortations! Therefore, I mustered theological ammunition weightier; and, because an identical overlap exists between Jewish theology regarding the notion that the Moshiach (the Messiah), who comes to judge, is kept away because humanity does not want to be told what or what not to do, I exuded verbal barbs to let them know that they all had the types of overly large egos that kept Moshiach at bay. Sadly, however, my secondary verbal offensive, also, achieved little to no success!

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