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Shomer Negiah again

We moved into our new house today. By coincidence, the geographic area that met our location requirements (walking distance to the park, the grocery store, the library, major bus routes) is coterminous with the area that is walking distance to Squirrel Hill's various Orthodox synagogues, so we seem to have become the token Gentiles on the block.

There's something kind of funny to me about leaving a land of modestly dressed women and men who won't shake my hand, only to move into a neighborhood full of modestly dressed women and men who won't shake my hand.

Today's interesting cultural interaction occurred when our movers, who are Israeli, arrived at the new house. Bringing in the first load of boxes, one of them noticed the mezuzah on our front doorway and said, "Oh! You're Jewish?"

"No," I said, "The former owners left that there."

The next time I walked through the doorway, I noticed the mezuzah was gone.

I was somewhat relieved, since I didn't know what I was supposed to do with it -- I think it's supposed to be buried, like an old Torah, but I wasn't sure.

However, then the former owners called to say they'd come by to collect their mezuzot today. So, awkwardly, we had to ask the mover if he'd taken it. He replied that it was obligatory to remove the mezuzah if the new houseowners weren't Jewish, and did not offer to give it back to us. So, I hope the former owners were just coming by to make sure the mezuzot were correctly disposed of, and not because they had any particular sentimental value!


Jul. 30th, 2010 11:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, that aspect was a little unnerving. (Our realtor thought it was extremely weird, and she's Jewish.)

On the other hand, I think the mover understood what happened, which I didn't at the time: when they vacated the house, the house sellers didn't yet know whether we were Jewish, and if we had been, apparently the right thing to do would have been for for them to leave their mezuzot in place until we'd had a chance to put OUR mezuzot up. So it definitely wasn't like a chair or something; he knew it had been left there for a specific purpose, and that purpose turned out not to obtain in this situation.

The weirder part for me is that he obviously didn't trust us not to desecrate it in the 12 hours before the former owners showed up to reclaim it. Or else he didn't trust them to actually show up, I guess.

I refrained from telling him that I grew up in a non-Jewish household with a mezuzah on the door. I don't think he would have approved. :-p

(I also refrained from telling him he missed the one on the cellar door.)

Edited at 2010-07-30 11:53 am (UTC)
Jul. 30th, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, I only brought up the chair to point in the direction the slippery slope went :)

I did think of the fact that, because of what you said, it was quite a reasonable likelihood that the next family to move into a house in that neighborhood would be jewish --- but then again, I would expect the leaving family to determine this, and then decide whether to leave the mezuzah or not.

Maybe, like you said, there exist families that aren't Jewish, but want to keep mezuzot arond for some reason anyway. It sounds like you're possibly "not allowed" to do this, but that's verging on really legal-philosophically uncomfortable. It reminds me very directly of Peter Suber's comments:

Similarly, most other games do not embrace non-play and do not become paradoxical by seeming to do so. Children often invent games that provide game-penalties for declining invitations to play, or that extend game-jurisdiction to all of "real life" and end only when the children tire or forget. ("Daddy, Daddy, come play a new game we invented!" "No, sweetheart, I'm reading." "That's 10 points!")
(from http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/writing/nomic.htm)
Jul. 30th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
This, of course, reminds me of the Jews in front of the Giant Eagle (Noahides) who, upon learning that I wasn't Jewish, told me my duties as a non-Jew.

See http://gustavolacerda.livejournal.com/413306.html
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
Those same people looked very uncomfortable hearing that I'm not Jewish but some people in my family are and would not take my word for it that I understand Halakah enough to know that I am not considered Jewish by custom even if I have some Hebrew blood.

I have learned that they are still keen to give me Latkes and Dreidls but won't give me Tefillin. Some of my Orthodox friends won't give me Chometz and others are eager to give it to me. Hooray for confusion!

Edited at 2010-07-30 09:19 pm (UTC)
Jul. 30th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
I guess it makes sense that the movers, who work for the outgoing family, understand their customs, especially since it's Squirrel Hill.

But I find this very weird and somewhat imposing.
Jul. 30th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
No, those were our movers. That they were also Orthodox Jewish is a total coincidence.

In the end, the sellers came over today for their mezuzot and were quite content that the movers did what they did, so it all works out OK.