Sunday, May 20, 2007

"We know the answer"

So I was making use of some very well-earned time off a while back, by going into a bookstore to look for a book that had been recommended to me, and while I didn't find the book that I was looking for, I did see Richard Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible?

Well - I thought to myself - there's a question that's always interested me, so dog-on-leash in one hand, book in other, I made my way to the check out desk, in order to make my purchase.

The sales assistant looked at me, looked at my dog, smiled, looked at the book, smiled some more and said to me "well, we know the answer to that".

I looked at her quizzically - "Excuse me?"

"We know the answer to that," she repeated, this time pointing to the book I was attempting to buy from her. "We remember it, because we were there," she concluded.

"I don't remember being there," I replied. It's true. I don't.

"No, well, of course we weren't there personally," she clarified, helpfully I might add, "but we have a collective memory of the events."

"Ok," I said. I didn't really know how I was supposed to respond to that. On the one hand, I am very interested in this topic, but on the other hand, I didn't really see any need to start debating it with the shop assistant who was supposed to be selling me the book in question. Added to that was the fact that my dog had cottoned on to the fact that I was paying for something, which is always his cue to start doing the whole 'can we go, already!' whine that he is so infuriatingly good at. I just wanted my book.

She smiled, as she rang the sale up.

"You know," she said, "there's a Rabbi who gives classes just down the road [yes, she managed to say it in italics]. He teaches all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, including from the field of Biblical criticism," she nodded knowingly, and somewhat disdainfully in the general direction of the book. "I used to go and it was fascinating. He presented a very convincing case. You should go and hear him."

"I'm always interested in hearing and learning new ideas," I replied through a smile, trying to extricate myself and my dog from the bookstore politely, having managed finally to pay for the book.

"Then really, you should go and hear him, if you want to hear new ideas," she was relentless.

"Actually," I replied, "I'm buying this book in order to learn new ideas."

She looked confused.

"I come from a religious background," I announced, somewhat reluctantly, not having really wanted to wave my past in her face.

"Oh," she said. Apparently, that surprised her.

"This," I said, indicating the book, "represents the new ideas that I'm hoping to learn about. When I want to hear the old ideas again, I'll go and listen to the Rabbi."

She looked almost apologetic as I left.