the schmooze

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

*The Yiddish word for classroom is "klastsimer"; the Yiddish word meaning to hug is "haldzn."

I taught in "di mitlshul" (the high school) for 35 years, so the topic of hugging doesn't come up nearly as often as with elementary school teachers.

HUGGING has no unpleasant side effects and is all natural. There are no batteries to replace, it's inflation- proof and non-fattening with no monthly payments. It's non-taxable, non-polluting, and is, of course, fully refundable. Author unknown

So why is it that hugging is not permissable in schools? Why are teachers now giving the "church hug" --side to side rather than chest to chest? This is also sometimes referred to as a "teacher hug."

At orientation, new teachers are told to behave as though there's a camera ("aparat") pointed at you. Use the high 5 or first bump.

Physical contact with students is something that is very tricky. There is always the threat that someone will view an interaction that is totally "umshuldik" (innocent) and make it into something very "shreklekh" (terrible).

Years ago, teachers received hugs from elementary school children on a daily basis. Students were patted on the back, the arm, and the hand. Pats and hugs were "sign langauge" and had different meanings. Sometimes they were nearly tackled-- affectionately.

Recently someone wrote about a private school where the children are not allowed to touch each other, and to ensure this, they must pass from "klas" to "klas", the "lontsh" (lunch) room and the playground, walking in single file with their hands clasped behind their backs.

What happened to the long-distance service that had a jingle that said, "Reach out and touch someone"?

While researching the topic of hugging, I came across a sermon given by Rabbi Charles Savenor titled, "Moses and the Missing Hug"), Parashat Yitro. (2009/5769)

Rabbi Savenor says that "This Shabbat Moses teaches us about the magnitude of simple gestures, such as hugs. Hugs come in many shapes and sizes: physical hugs take the form of an embrace; verbal hugs are expressed through words or confirmation and appreciation; and silent hugs occur when we listen....

In Parashat Yitro, according to Rabbi Savenor, "we witness the return of Moses' family. Moses has not seen his wife and children for one year ("yor). He departed for Egypt to serve as God's agent in the Exodus; his wife and sons went back to his father-in-law's house ("der shver"), the house of Yitro."

The scene, according to Rabbi Savenor, is as follows: "Yitro, Zipporah, Gershon, and Eliezer wait for Moses to meet them. We can imagine that his sons cannot wait to hear about their father's adventures in Egypt and how their father split the Red Sea."

The actual reunion is described as follows: "Moshe went out to meet his father-in-law; he bowed and kissed him; each asked about the other's welfare, and they went into a tent."

He left his wife and children standing right there. Moses only greets his Yitro, his father-in-law. And the men go off on their own. What about the reunion with his "froy" (wife) and sons?

Some people would say, "Makh nit keyn tsimes fun dem" (Don't make a fuss about it.). How important is a hug for his wife and sons?

So, I sent an e-mail to "Ask A Rabbi" questioning why Moshe did NOT interact with his wife and children.

Malkie Janowitz,, replied:
Dear Malka,
One thought is as you wrote - we can assume that Moshe would embrace his immediate family and it's not necessary to tell us that. It's also likely that Moshe would not have embraced his wife publicly, as it's a long standing custom for husbands and wives not to show physical affection in public.

Let me know if this helps.
Ibn Ezra, a medieval Bible commentator, gives this explanation: Ibn Ezra holds that Moses goes out specifically to meet Yitro because he is a respected leader in his own right, not because he is his father-in-law. Ibn Ezra concludes that no record exists of Moshe greeting his wife and hugging his sons because it simply did not happen!

"Ver vaist?" (Who knows?)
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe says, "Never wait until tomorrow to hug someone you could hug today, because when you give one, you get one right back your way."

Marjorie will be speaking on "The Bintel Brief" at the mid-Westchester JCC, 999 Wilmot Rd., Scarsdale, New York, on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 1 p.m. For details, call 914-472-3300.


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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