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August 09, 1985 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-08-09

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Start Worrying:
Details To Follow

That old definition of a Jewish telegram still holds
true. For Jews, good news is to be treated with suspi-
cion, and worrying is a way of life.


Contributing Editor

Every family transmits to
its constituents a special
wisdom of its own. Growing
up in my home, the wisdom
imparted warned against
good news. Good news was to
be treated with suspicion.
Praises, compliments, aug-
uries of goad times were
rarely expressed and those
that escaped the censor were
quickly repressed. Discus-
sions around anticipated joys
threatened to unleash dan-
gerous demons, and were ap-
propriately countered by kein
ayin hara (against the evil
eye), expressed verbally with
an aspirated "tu, tu, tu. " We
were taught not to rejoice too
soon or over much. Without
articulating any formed the-
ology, we children sensed
that there was something
hovering about that sought
to disturb the joy (farshtern
di simchah). In joys there
dwelt an uncanny premoni-
tion of danger. A glass shat-
tered was greeted by a "ma-
zer tov" as if to satisfy the

Friday, August 9, 1985 25

uncanny disturber who looks
for fragile objects.
In my home, worrying was
a lifestyle. If things were
good today, tomorrow they
would likely be worse. Even
in the ordinary responses to
the conventional greeting
"how are you?" tentativeness
and caution were felt. One
answered, nisht shlect (not
bad), not "good" or "fine" or
"excellent." My father's
answer, however his condi-
tion, was invariably ex-
pressed in global terms: A yid
mutshet zich (a Jew suffers)
or shyer zu zein a yid (hard to
be a Jew).
At first I thought this at-
titude was a family idiosyn-
crasy, but later I discovered
that it was far from uncom-
mon. Kein ayin hara was a
folk theology centered around
two implicit beliefs: A) The
world is a dangerous place to
live, especially for Jews, and
B) However fortunate the
Jewish condition, sooner or

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