Tell me if you've
heard this one before?
Four guys are standing on a street corner...an American, a Russian, a Chinese man, and an Israeli...
A news reporter comes up to the group and says to them:
"Excuse me...What's your opinion on the meat shortage?"
The American says: What's a shortage?
The Russian says: What's meat?
The Chinese man says: What's an opinion?
The Israeli says: What's "Excuse me"?.....
If you have ever been to Israel you probably really "grok" that joke. In Israel being offered a "slicha" is often followed by being pushed and shoved on the bus. Israelis live in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the world, so we might excuse them for being a little pushy.
This joke came up in a discussion about the use of language, following an incident similar to the cartoon I posted. My wife, my daughter and I were with friends at a very lovely Indian restaurant. The waitress refilled my water glass. I said "thank you", to which she replied "No problem."
Is it just me that finds this irksome? I like when people say "you're welcome" in response to my "thank you". I know I know, it's a generational thing, and besides, it's her job, so it really IS no problem because that's what she is supposed to be doing. There was disagreement around our dinner table, and not just from my 17 year old.
As I see it, everything has become so casual - dress, conversation, behavior - resulting in the disappearance of common courtesy. When our daughter was born, my wife Renée and I decided that we'd have her refer to our friends with appropriate titles, such as Aunt Julia (not a real Aunt, just a friend) or Mr. Dov. We had neighbors that had their kids behave as such and we really liked it. But our friends were unwilling to go along, and after a while we gave up and our daughter started calling our friends by their first names.
Imagine if I'd done that when I was a kid? I would have gotten such a zetz I wouldn't have known what hit me.
Maybe I'm just getting old, and perhaps the language I grew up with and still prefer is simply out of date. Emily Post's great-grandaughter Cindy Senning writes the following:
"The principles of respect, consideration and honesty are universal and timeless, but "manners change over time and from culture to culture."
I take this to mean that the language through which our manners are articulated are subject to change, but that the priciples are universal. In Hebrew those principles are called "derech eretz".
I am curious what you think about this. Do you long as I do for the days of "please' and "thank you"?
If you have a comment please post it on the website at
http://www.rebmarko.com/blog.html because it makes it easier to have a conversation rather than writing to me on the FB page.
And if you liked this blog post.....ein b'aya.
Mark Novak is a "free-range" rabbi who lives in Washington DC and works, well, just about everywhere. In 2012 he founded Minyan Oneg Shabbat, home to MOSH (Minyan Oneg Shabbat), MindfulMOSH (Jewish mindfulness gathering), and