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December 19, 2003 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SAAB OF T ROY

How To Mess Up A Mitzvah

e were leav-
ing a house
of shivah
and the street was
jammed. It was for a
man who had died
young and much
loved, and the house
was filled with
GEORGE
mourners.
CANTOR
Cars were parked
Reality Check
along both sides of
the narrow street and
there was just room, barely, for one
vehicle to get through.
We were inching our way along
when the car ahead of us came to a
dead halt. Since it was a police car, it
didn't seem wise to complain.
The driver had stopped
because someone wanted to talk
to him. A man headed for the
shivah house had spotted the
cop at the wheel and decided
this would be an excellent time
to hold a long conversation.
It must have been incredibly
important because it went on for
a minute, two minutes, then
three. Cars were immobilized up
and down the street and on the
side streets branching off from
it. The man chatted on, appar-
ently oblivious to the havoc he
was causing. Or indifferent to it.
His wife would glance at me
occasionally and make helpless little
gestures with her hands. As if to say,
"I know, I know, but what can I do?"
It is a basic tenet of survival not to
blow your horn at police cars. They
are supposed to stop road rage, not
inspire it. But this wasn't really road
rage.. This was street seething.
Finally, a good five minutes after it
began, the conversation ended and
the man, with barely a glance at the
mess he had caused, continued into
the house.
It puzzled me. Here was a person
on his way to perform one of the
primary mitzvot, comforting the
bereaved. And on the way, he was
telling others, by his actions, that
they didn't matter to a big shot like
him who had an in with the cops.
It seems to happen that way so
often. Life gets compartmentalized
and in trying to do lots of good over

George Cantor, a West Bloomfield

resident, is a native Detroiter and
longtime Detroit journalist. His e-mail
address is gcantor@thejewishnews.corn •

here, we manage to spread hurt over
there.
Parents who get so caught up in
their causes-that they leave no time
for their children. Businessmen who
raise big money for charity and then
dance on the far edge of legality to
avoid paying taxes that support such
programs. Journalists who dedicate
themselves to expose wrongdoing
and then plagiarize from the
Internet.
Sure, the episode at the shivah .
house was trivial. Still it seems to me
that much aggravation in the world
is caused by people who are simply
oblivious. Not through malice. Not
even by intent. Just in a self-absorp-

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tion that does not yield to penetra-
tion.
People who stop in the aisle to talk
just as a crowded theater is letting
out. Drivers at a short-cycle light
who are more interested in tending
to their toilette than watching for
the green. Readers who mark up
library books or tear out pages from
hotel phone directories.
My guess is that if the cop car con-
versationalist had been in my place
and someone else held him up, he
would have been apoplectic. It also
did not strike me as an especially
encouraging sign that a police officer
would be so unconscious to what
was developing around him.
It all boils down to this, I guess.
When running to do mitzvot, try to
avoid doing unto others that which
is hateful to yourself.
The rest, as the rabbis tell us, is
commentary. El

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e

12/19
i 2003

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