From The Other Side Of The Bench
By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
Some might call my tendencies an anomaly. Others might term me a freak of nature. In a world where 90 percent of the people are righties, less than 10 percent are termed lefties, and less than 1 percent are defined as ambidextrous, I defy the odds. I write exclusively with my left hand, throw exclusively with my right hand, bat equally ineffectively from both the left side and right side of the plate, hold my fork with my left hand, and hold scissors in my right hand. I play drums and guitar as a righty but place my tefillin on my right arm as lefties do. I brush my teeth with my right hand and my hair with my left hand. I need help.
Lefties suffer mercilessly, as this is definitely a right-handed-man’s world. Left-handed scissors are hard to find, and zippers are made to accommodate righties. Imagine the difficulty a lefty would have if the zipper of his jacket breaks and he is tasked with cutting himself out of it with right-handed scissors!
I know that politically I am a righty, although Obama, Clinton, and the senior Bush are all lefties, as was Gerald Ford. They say that lefties possess higher IQs than your traditional righties, although the aforementioned list might call that conclusion into question. And while we lefties might test more intelligent, research shows that lefties suffer from more mental diseases.
But like all humans, my right kidney, the human filter, is slightly lower in my abdominal cavity and slightly smaller than my left kidney, to accommodate the liver, which is on the right side of the body and which is larger than the spleen, which is under my left kidney. Confused? Wait till you discover that each of my eyes is a different color.
Despite all of the research, no scientist has been able to explain why a particular person is left-handed or right-handed, or why most of the world is right-handed. I am guessing that is because the scientists trying to figure it out are all right-handed. Throw a few of us lefties into the lab and we will come up with a cogent explanation.
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This Sunday night, we begin to light the eight-branched menorah, lighting one flame the first night and one additional flame on each successive night of the holiday. And just because we are a confusing and confused bunch, we set up the menorah wicks from right to left, but light the flames from left to right.
In the Talmud (Shabbos 22b), our rabbis instruct us to place the mezuzah on the right side of our doorpost and the Chanukah menorah on the left side of the doorpost, opposite the mezuzah. In our tradition, the right side is considered the dominant and more important one, which raises the following question: Why is the menorah relegated to the “weaker” left side of our doorposts? Why not place both the mezuzah and the menorah on the right side of our doorposts to indicate that both are our symbols of strength?
Rabbi Yehuda Tzadkah, ob’m, explains that in reality, both the mezuzah and the menorah are on the right side of the doorpost, but that the mezuzah is on the right side as we enter the home and the menorah is on the right side as we leave the home. This is appropriate if we understand the divergent purposes of these religious symbols. The mezuzah acts as a protection from outside dangers. We need the mezuzah, with all of its right-powered strength, to block the outside from coming in.
The menorah, conversely, acts as a barrier to keep the Jewish lessons and values we impart to our children inside the home, inside their hearts. Like a mezuzah, it is a shield. The mezuzah prevents infiltration. The menorah prevents dissipation. And therefore both are on the right when viewed from the perspective of what they are attempting to accomplish. Both are operating from a position of strength.
The lessons we impart from within our homes have this impact on our children if we make sure that the fullness and the integrity with which they are practiced within our homes remain that way, with no dilution, with nothing seeping out and becoming weakened over the passage of time. And it’s not just our children who are affected; it’s every guest we have in our home. If the experience is authentic, the results are extraordinary.
There have been many articles recently about the Chai Lifeline Shabbaton food glitch, and how the community members and our rabbi, Rabbi Orlian, went door to door collecting food to bring to our shul, Shaaray Tefila, where 150 hungry guests were awaiting lunch. Not as well covered was the Shabbat program for Russian immigrants that took place in our community on the same weekend. Many of those participants had never experienced a traditional Shabbos before.
My family was privileged to host two young men who belong to an organization named RAJE which serves to educate those Jews who grew up where Jewish religious life was a well-kept secret.
We sat around the table for hours and we explained each of the rituals of the Friday-night experience. It was nothing new for us, as we have guests almost every Friday night, some educated in our tradition and others not.
I want to share with you the letter we received from one of the young men just a few days ago. I will end with the power of that young man’s words.
Dear Seidemann family,
Thank you so much for having Jonathan and myself over for Shabbat last week. Although I normally do not participate in Shabbat, every time a family so graciously takes in two strangers, feeds and houses them without asking for anything, I feel blessed to call myself a Jew. I plan to follow in your footsteps and host Shabbat with my future family.
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.