Thursday, 22 March 2012

Return to Walmart

by Ben Moshe (See all authors)

Your phone rings. It's your wife. "Can you stop off at Walmart to pick up some groceries?" "Sure." You take down the details, then draw a deep breath. Your delightfully clueless wife is sending you into the Gaza Strip, into Afghanistan, because Walmart on a hot and humid summer afternoon, will be full with unwanted stimuli and slippery distraction, not ben-Torah friendly, certainly not recovering ben-Torah friendly. However, you don't panic. You remind yourself that you know the drill, you have learned neat tricks, and have even learned to turn the tables to your advantage...

You are fortunately blessed with near-sightedness so, before you leave your car, you deliberately remove your glasses, then leave them in your car. You think back fondly to the first time you tried this. You remember the thrill you felt, as you trod those aisles, ten-feet tall, empowered by an enveloping haze which acted like a spiritual buffer. You had felt insulated and protected. You had felt holy, racking up points like a rapidly clacking Geiger counter. "Good work," you had said to yourself when you had completed your mission. You had given yourself a pat on your back.

This time you are even better prepared. You enter the store with your mp3-player nestled in your shirt pocket, earpieces comfortably in your ears. You head over to the canned vegetable aisle. Rabbi Reisman is giving a blatt shiur. A fascinating Ketzos. Is shavya naphsha a din in ne'emonus, or is it mita'am neder? You peer (shortsightedly) at the canned corn. Sixty-eight cents a can? A metzia. You take a half dozen cans. Kesubos is too heavy to focus on the moment, despite your insulating fog, so you switch to something a little lighter. You switch to Rabbi Yisroel Brog analyzing the Steipler's letters on how to guide people with OCD affecting their performance of Halacha. Geshmak! You drool over the hortatory smorgasbord at your fingertips. You give your player a surreptitious kiss, then return it to your pocket. You are now in the cereal aisle, but notice that Krispies have just been reformulated with an OUD. Chalav Stam? You can't have that. That's metamtem es halev! Then you laugh at yourself: the foolish hypocrite that you are! Is there any part of your lev that is not metumtem? But you are thoroughly enjoying yourself. By the time you reach the checkout lane you have downed a Reb Simcha Bunim Cohen's Thursday night Chovas Halevovos shiur, and just begun a Kehilas HaGra shiur on copyright laws as applied to ripping CDs...

The magazines at checkout inform and inspire. The cover of one magazine tells you that Britney's ex says that Britney is cheating during rehab. You remove your ear-pieces. You now hear the store's music system. Synthesized Britney is belting out an important message. Britney says that she loves you. Just Britney and you. You feel romance in the air. Then, you think back to your forebears. Volozhin. Slabodka. In those days people had "manly" Yetzer Horas; Haskala. Socialism. Secular Zionism. You remember once reading how the Alter of Slabodka asked Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky to keep an eye on mail arriving for the young Reb Aaaron Kotler (zecher tzaddikim ukedoshim livracha). The Alter wanted to make sure that Reb Aaron's relatives would not prevail upon him with their alien ideas. You giggled as you tried to imagine the Alter keeping tabs on what Reb Aaron was downloading to his cell phone. Oy! What yeridas hadoros!

You arrive home.

"Successful?" your wife asks.


She appears to be excited.

"Guess what," she says, "I have a new chicken recipe."

Bless her. The lovable, delightful, clueless fuzzball. She is blissfully unaware of the battles you have fought and the monsters you have slain. She proceeds to give you blow by blow details of her new idea for chicken and you smile at here warmly. But your mind is far away. There is something bothering you: How can shavya nafsha be a din in ne'emanus if ein odom mesim atzmo rosho?!