I thought it was just me.
But once in a while, I discover a revitalizing “kindred spirit.”
The distinguishing symptoms originally presented themselves at the Toronto Hebrew Day School, more specifically in, as we Canadians, in accordance with the English education system call it, Grade Four.
AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: “Fie on ‘Grade Four’! We shall call it… “Fourth Grade.” And dare King George and his vaunted army to compel us the change it back.”
We were studying the Torah. You do not see that sentence that often, unless you are reading a Chabad blog. In Grade Three, every student received a six-inch replica of the full-sized, see-it-in-synagogue Torah. We did not study that one; its print was illegible even to people without bifocals. We studied a book containing the same words, printed more readably. (If you could read Hebrew. If you couldn’t, the increased print size was not going to help you.) (Similar to talking loudly to a person who doesn’t speak English.)
We worked our way through the Pentateuch, starting with B’raysheet, “In the beginning…”, finishing up with “Book Five”, which was a long way from naked people eating an apple. (An insidious “bait and switch”, I believed, from “… a book you kids are really going to enjoy.” Though those words were delivered in Hebrew, in which I was barely conversant, so the translation may have actually been, “… a book you better study hard, or you will struck down by God’s terrible swift sword.” It was one of those. I am not exactly sure which. (Though I can hazard a guess.)
Anyway, by Grade Four we had slogged ahead to “Book Two”, the ever-popular Exodus. We were studying the miraculous climax of the “get-out-of-Egypt” story – which, if you missed it the first time you can catch on the Universal Studios tour – in which the Red Sea parted, the Israelites passed safely through, and then, when the Egyptian cavalry pursued them, the sea immediately closed up…
And here’s where I got in trouble.
I was with them to that point. Through an unusual behavior of water, my team was getting away. Which was fair and just, as they had been mercilessly enslaved, building the pyramids and were past due for a break.
(Although even before that, they’d play insidious tricks on their oppressors: SLAVE JEW PYRAMID LABORER: “You know the Sphinx? I rigged it so, by and by, his nose falls off. Nyeh nyeh n’ n’yeah nyeh.”)
Anyway, back to the miracle.
When we left off, the Bible says, about the pursuing Egyptians, trapped in the rejoining waters, and I quote,
Wait, I’ll do it in English. (After some transliterational grandstanding.)
“Horse and rider drowned in the water.”
I sat there, in my uncomfortable, bolted-to-my-desk wooden seat, genuinely perplexed. Then I raised my age-appropriate, nine year-old hand. “Mar” (Hebrew for “Mister”) whatever-his-name-was recognized me.
“What did the horses do?” I inquired, my voice, half way between righteous indignation and “Don’t hit me with that ruler.”
“Mar” Grade Four Hebrew school teacher did not understand my question. So I explained.
“It says, “Horse and rider drowned in the water.” I understand about the riders. They probably deserved it. But the horses never hurt anybody. Why did they have to drown too?”
The teacher’s reaction, though thankfully tempered, was instantly dismissive, and we went on with our lesson. Or recess. I no longer recall which. There was no mention of my equinal concern in the schoolyard.
The foregoing anecdote? That’s me – or a composite element of me – in a nutshell. Take a poll. How many people’s response to that famous Bible tale would be, “Hurray! We are free of our oppressors!” and how many would home in on, “Why are they punishing the horses?”
Compassion for animals, or inexplicably missing the “Big Picture”?
My vote? It is just the way my mind works.
It’s a minority perspective, I will grant you that. That’s why I always perk up when I spot this atypical behavior in others. It’s uncommon, but it happens. Which is reassuring.
Otherwise, I’m just crazy.
Three recent examples of this aberrant phenomenon: (You may not agree with all of these. But stay with me.)
First, the easy one. (Although in his state, an unpopular one):
The GOP Senator from Arizona, saying (essentially):
“I know he’s a Republican. But he’s nuts!”
(An outspokenness, giving him no chance whatsoever of re-election.)
The Robert E. Lee defender who said,
“He was a man who gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than his country.”
(Say what you will about Lee, but that’s true.)
The female journalist, encouraging calibrated distinctions between “… abuse, minor bad behavior and innocent miscommunication” in workplace interactions.
(“Innocent till proven guilty” – hardly an outlandish proposal. But check out the female journalist’s subsequent e-mails.)
The message is this:
Minority opinions are people’s opinions.
(Including this one, and my concern about the horses.)
Something valuable is lost when they are pressured to disappear.