Not fifteen minutes ago, I heard the way you browbeat your son in public. I wasn’t the only one. The whole street heard it. I’m sure none of us wanted to. But we couldn’t help it – you were so loud, so strident, so angry... at your young son. And you went on for so very long. And for what? The way you were yelling at him, we might have thought that he’d surrendered Jerusalem to the enemy in wartime, God forbid.
“Where’s your tzitzis? Where’d you get that sweatshirt? Did you get it from A.? Answer me! You’re lying! Don’t you lie to me!”
Let me get this straight. You were berating your son in public – a serious offense in Jewish law – over a sweatshirt that he presumably borrowed from a friend? Over a pair of missing tzitzit that cost just a few shekels to replace?
Sir, I saw the car you were driving when you stopped by the side of the road to scold and browbeat your son. Since it was dark, I didn’t catch the exact make and model – but it looked to be a pretty new, and fancy, mid-size family van. And with New York license plates, too, so if you are the owner of the car, you must be pretty well off to be able to own a van like that and ship it overseas. And there you were, sitting in the driver’s seat, screaming at your child who was on foot, humiliating him in front of dozens of people, shouting at him for minutes on end, so loudly that the entire street could hear you, over – let me get this straight – a sweatshirt and a set of tzitzit?
But it wasn’t only that. You didn’t just yell at your son for a few moments and then stop. You went on and on and on for minutes on end, not even giving the kid a chance to explain, or to get a word in edgewise. On and on you went with your repeated accusations and questions, your shouting, your cruel, chilling tone of voice.
Yes, sir, that was me you saw heading toward your car. Actually, I don’t know whether you saw me or not. I don’t know whether you suddenly recollected that you were in public, that you had just done a very ugly thing – a hillul ha-Shem, in fact – and were suddenly ashamed and drove away, or perhaps you had simply finished your tirade and drove off in a huff, leaving your son walking on the sidewalk in the opposite direction.
I wasn’t going to yell at you, sir. I promise. I had no intention of stooping to the level that you had just stooped to in front of who-knows-how-many dozens of people. All I intended to do was quote you, Mr. Religious Jew, Psalm 130, verse 3, which most religious Jews know by heart:
אם-עוונות תשמור, י-ה ה', מי יעמוד?
If You kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
... and then ask you how you had the hutzpah – the nerve – to ask God for mercy in your prayers after the way you had just treated your son.