Tuesday, May 10, 2005

If you're American and around my age, you probably remember a TV show called Andy of Mayberry (or its gilgul, The Andy Griffith Show). Andy ran the little town of Mayberry with calm assurance, always had wise advice and a kind word for little Opie and Aunt Bea, and patiently suffered his bug-eyed deputy, Barney Fife.

The town of Mayberry was no more and no less real to me than The Land of Oz. Patriotism, marching bands, girlfriends, that sense of belonging that all the denizens of Mayberry exuded, well, it didn't have much to do with the life of a frum Jew in New York. I was alienated by their lack of alienation.

Why do I mention this? Because every Yom HaAtzmaut I awaken to the startling realization that I now live in Mayberry. Or, if I might phrase it a bit less delicately, in Israel we are the goyim. Yes, in My Little Town people actually gather in the main drag for a display of schoolkids doing funny waving stuff with flags, the mayor bashfully reads all the right cliches, youthful entrepeneurs sell cotton candy, and it's all topped off with, you guessed it, a dazzling display of fireworks. (In past years, myobiterdicta even patrolled in uniform, dutifully diverting traffic a la Barney Fife.) Given the fact that I pretty much learned everything I know about goyim from TV, to me it just doesn't get more goyish than that.

I am completely agnostic on the question of whether Medinat Yisrael is indeed reishis tzmichas geulosainu. I can be persuaded to read the gemara in Kesubos like Rav Kalisher or like the Satmarer Rov. Yishuv Eretz Yisrael might be a mitzvah de'oraisa or not. I'll either say hallel or I won't. Those arguments don't resonate with me at all. I don't think they really resonate that deeply with anybody (though, I'm sure if you're a counterexample, you'll let me know).

I think all the ideological arguments are post facto rationalizations for a decision that is made at the gut level about one fundamental question: are we prepared to be the goyim? I grew up in chutz la'aretz on a steady diet of alienation and so am very ambivalent about that. My Israeli children far less so.

Those who glibly answer that they wish to continue to play the role of the passive, persecuted and alienated Jew even in Israel would do well to remember that they are casting their fellow Jews in a role they may neither want nor (always) deserve. And those who glibly answer that life as a full-fledged comfortable-in-my-own-skin citizen of Mayberry suits them just fine would do well to consider that they might be sacrificing more qualities of character that follow from outsidership than they can anticipate or afford.

Finally, know that -- whatever you think about it -- life in Mayberry also means this: when you drive home on Yom HaZikaron with the radio on, every word will tear at your heart until tears fog your vision. This too is yours.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully said!

5:39 AM  
Blogger treppenwitz said...

As a fellow resident of Mayberry RFD, I couldn't more in agreement with you if I had ghost written this post. What's more, I couldn't be happier here (although you're right about the radio today making you cry).

See you at the fireworks. I'll be the one buying cotton candy for my kids.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

That was very nice.

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment will take matters in a different direction from your original post, but I'd like to point out that many Jews were involved in the making of The Andy Griffith Show. For example, Aaron Ruben was the producer and Everett Greenbaum was one of the chief writers. If those Jews could enter so easily into the world of Mayberry, perhaps that world wasn't so alien from the American Jewish experience as you indicate.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Oysvurf said...

I strongly recommend reading

"Eliezer Berkovits, Theologian of Zionism" by DAVID HAZONY in the Spring 5764 / 2004, No. 17 issue of Azure. found at

a relevant quote from the article:

Exile is a tragedy not only for Jews deprived of a homeland, but also for a Judaism deprived of the conditions for the fulfillment of its purpose. Exile for Berkovits represents not an improvement that should be balanced against the human suffering it entails, not an “exemplification of the theodicy of history,” as Cohen put it. Rather, it represents nothing less than the derailment of Judaism itself, which no amount of congregational action or individual piety can make good. “The great spiritual tragedy of the exile,” Berkovits wrote in 1943, “consists in the breach between Tora and life, for exile means the loss of a Jewish-controlled environment.” Without sovereignty, Judaism itself is deprived of its creative capacity, its original inner vitality, and is doomed to paralysis and, ultimately, decline.

4:38 PM  

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