"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

Over Sukkos, as we took the arba minim in hand, I was reminded of of a teaching of the Ba’al Shem Tov, which in turn reminded me of an old joke they tell. To which I added a little something of my own at the end.

A man knocks on the door of his friend the Rabbi.

I’ve come to you because I wish to study Talmud/Gemara.”

“Do you know Aramaic?” the rabbi asks.

“No.”

“Hebrew?”

“No.”

“Have you studied Torah?”

“No, Rabbi. But don’t worry. I graduated Berkeley summa cum laude in philosophy, and just finished my doctoral dissertation at Harvard on Socratic logic. So now, I would just like to round out my education with a little study of the Talmud.”

Ah! “you seem like quite the intelligent young man,” the rabbi says, “but I seriously doubt that you are ready to study Talmud. For to study Torah it is not enough to be intelligent, to understand Torah you need to have a Yiddishe kup, or at least a Gemara kup. And I doubt that you have either! If you wish, however, I am willing to examine if you have a Gemara kup, and if you pass the test I will teach you Talmud.”

“Go ahead” said the man.

The rabbi begins his questioning, “If two men come down a chimney and one emerges dirty and the other clean, which one will wash himself?” Confused by the simplicity of the question, the man answered, “That’s obvious, the dirty man will wash himself.”

“See, I told you” said the Rabbi, “you just don’t have a the Gemara kup necessary to understand Torah. Why would the one with the dirty face wash his face if he looks at his friend with the clean face and thinks his face is clean as well so he doesn’t bother washing his face. On the other hand, the one with the clean face looks at his friend with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So the one with the clean face goes to wash his face.”

The man says with excitement “that exactly why I want to learn Torah! Such intelligence is what I’m missing! Please teach me Torah!

“Well” says the Rabbi wearily, “let’s try again”. “Go ahead Rabbi” says the man, “this time I’m ready.”

So the Rabbi asks: “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face, the other come out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

The man smiles and says, “I know that! You just told me! The man who is clean sees his friend who is dirty, thinking that he is dirty too, he washes his face because he thinks he is dirty, while the man with the dirty face sees his friend with the clean face, so he doesn’t bother, because he assumes that his face is clean.”

“Oy!” says the Rabbi. I told you that you don’t have a Gemara kup! How can I teach you Torah? “Huh! What are you talking about?” says the man.

“Don’t you realize” says the Rabbi, “that the one with the dirty face looks at his friend with the clean face and thinks his face is clean so at first he doesn’t wash his face. While the one with the clean face looks at his friend with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So the one with the clean face washes his face. When the one with the dirty face sees the one with the clean face washing his face, he asks what he’s doing, to which his friend answers that he saw the dirty mans face and assumed that his face was dirty as well, at which point the friend with the dirty face realizes that his face is dirty, so he also washes his face. So each one ends up washing his face.”

“Wow! Says the man, “that’s what I’m saying. The Torah is amazing in its logic. I’m begging you Rabbi, please teach me Torah!”

The Rabbi sighs and says “it doesn’t seem to me that you have a Gemara kup to understand torah, but I’ll give you one more shot”.

“Great!” says the man. “I’m ready”.

The Rabbi smiles and asks, “If two men come down a chimney and one emerges dirty and the other clean, which one will wash his face?”

“That’s easy, Rabbi.” Said the man with a smirk, and even puts on a gemara tune while twisting his thumb in the air like a real lamdan, and says: “The one with the dirty face looks at his friend with the clean face and thinks his face is clean so at first he doesn’t wash his face. While the one with the clean face looks at his friend with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So the one with the clean face washes his face. When the one with the dirty face sees the one with the clean face washing his face, he asks why he is doing so, to which his friend answers that he saw that his friends face was dirty and assumed that his face was dirty as well, at which point the one with the dirty face realizes that his face is dirty, so he also washes his face. So in the end, they BOTH wash their faces.”

“Oy”! Says the Rabbi. “I told you that you don’t have a Gemara kup! How can you expect to understand Torah? “What did I say wrong now, Rabbi?” cries the man. “I repeated exactly what you taught me!”

The Rabbi smiled and said, “if you had a Gemara kup, you would have immediately asked, how is it possible for two men to come down the same chimney, and for ones face to get dirty, while the others face stayed clean.

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov taught us. “Your fellow is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look upon your fellow man and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering — you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself.”

To which I add: “There are many types of Yidden in the world. Every time we meet a Yid that isn’t exactly the same as we are, or believe they should be – be it a sibling, spouse, maybe even one of our own children, a friend, a neighbor, and especially a stranger – we have a tendency to criticize their way of life, perhaps their level of observance. But ya gotta figure that if after two thousand years of golus you bump into another Yid, and for whatever reason, their face seems dirty to you, go wash your face! Because It isn’t possible that we both spent the last two thousand years on a painful journey through golus and only one of us got our face dirty, while the other stayed clean.

http://unclechaim.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/the-chimney-sweeps/

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