Tuesday, January 1, 2008

"Marit Ayin"

Taking a look over some of the recent comments, I am beginning to wonder if it might be possible that certain speculations on the part of the goyim might be considered inexcusably offensive by the Jewish community due to the Jewish concept of "Marit Ayin".

"Marit Ayin" literally translates as "the appearance of the eye" and refers to doing something that is technically kosher that, nonetheless, from a distance looks treife as hell.

The first example of this concept that was ever explained to me was that, although shrimp is as treife as the day is long, there are companies who have gone through the trouble to take something like processed whitefish, add certain spices and then put it in a shrimp-shaped mold to make, essentially, technically kosher simulated shrimp.

However, as Rabbi Yitzchok Preis of the Cincinnati Community Kollel explained to me, why would someone want to do this? Were someone who otherwise keeps kosher to be seen eating this simulated shrimp, it would appear for all the world that the person were doing something staggeringly bad.

Similarly, in 1996, when the then-owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Marge Schott was quoted as saying, "... when [Hitler] came in [to power] he was good ...", refering apparently to the highway and industrial development at that time, even though this technically may be correct, there is no way to separate such a statement from the APPEARANCE of attempting to say that what Hitler did INCLUDING the Holocaust, was good.

Now, perhaps Will Smith was doing other things in 1996 and didn't see the Marge Schott story. Perhaps he was doing other things a few months back when Halle Berry came within a stone's throw of destroying her career with the "Jewish nose" comment on Jay Leno.

Based upon the context of the original article, I'm wondering if what Will Smith was somehow trying to say that he was a Unitarian-Universalist - that he cannot imagine that any mortal human was 100% pure evil incarnate.

Even the Lubavicher Jewish community has a story of an insufferable anti-Semite who never once had anything good to say about the Jews - with the exception of one Friday afternoon during a horrible snowstorm when he found a group of Jews in a ditch on the side of the road on their way to shul. Cussing and swearing during the whole process, he climbs down into the ditch and pushes the car back onto the road. When the anti-Semite later died and was being judged, the sum of his life indicated a quick and speedy trip to the Fiery Furnace, but the defending angel pointed out that, on the good side, you not only had to weigh this act of pushing the Jews' car back onto the road, but you also had to weigh all the mitzvahs the Jews did when they got to shul and then you had to weigh the SNOW the anti-semite had climbed into, and then it would just balance out and the anti-Semite would have a place in the World To Come.

This particular anti-Semite character the Lubavichers would NOT have in mind when thinking of Hitler. I'm thinking the thought process might go something like this - something like in the Star Trek episode Doomsday Machine - "They say there's no devil Jim, but there is - right out of hell I saw it."

Summarizing the comments of a great many Jewish people I have talked to on the subject, I think they tend to think something along the lines, "Yes, we believed for the longest time there was no such thing as a human being with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. But there was something DIFFERENT about Hitler. Yes, there have been wars before. Yes, there have even been genocides before. But never before, or since, has there been such an act of organized, mechanized human destruction."

The word "Holocaust" is not just a proper noun - it's a word from the Torah that refers to the utter consumption of a sacrificial animal by fire. What is most difficult to comprehend upon more careful examination of the events of those years is that, in some respectes, Hitler was successful. There are certainly thriving Jewish communities in the United States, Israel, and several other parts of the world, but the ranking institutions of Jewish thought prior to the Second World War were in Poland. It's a little as if there were a nuclear war or something of the sort and Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Cornell, Princeton, MIT, Dartmouth, Duke, UCLA, Berkeley, and Rutgers were UTTERLY obliterated. Now, we might still have the University of Cincinnati, Wright State, Cincinnati State and NKU, but we would have lost, permanently, schools of thought rich beyond measure.

No, no matter how hard you might try, you very simply can't use "Hitler" and "good" in the same sentence unless you want to make ALOT of people REALLY mad ...



At January 1, 2008 at 5:37 AM, Blogger Crankshaft said...

No, no matter how hard you might try, you very simply can't use "Hitler" and "good" in the same sentence unless you want to make ALOT of people REALLY mad ...

Right. And you don't think you're an extremist?

At January 1, 2008 at 4:07 PM, Blogger Axinar said...

"Extremist" is so harsh ...

I prefer "kook". :)

At January 2, 2008 at 9:25 PM, Blogger Crankshaft said...

Right. Kook. :)

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