The yeshiva I attended went out of its way to limit the bochurim’s interaction with goyim. The terror of what a little goyishe influence would do to our pure souls was so hysterical that they went out of their way to only hire kitchen and janitorial help that didn’t speak English so that we wouldn’t be able to shmooze with the help.
The yeshiva similarly had strict rules as to which stores we could shop at, which cleaners we could use – in fact they were perfectly aware of how onerous and ridiculous their rules were, when the menahel announced the rules at the start of one year he said “you can go to X cleaners and, just so that you can’t say that you can only go to one cleaners, you can also go to Y cleaners” – which pharmacy we could go to etc. etc. (By the way, the “etc.” doesn’t mean that there were more stores or places we could go to, there weren’t, it’s just a manner of speaking).
One day, while walking with a friend to one of the allowed shopping havens we were accosted by a pleasant looking and sounding individual who “wanted to ask us a few questions”.
What ensued was a typical conversation with a Christian missionary: “ask your rabbis why you’re not allowed to read certain passages of the bible such as Isaiah 53 in the temple” we had never heard that there were any parts of the bible that we weren’t allowed to read in the temple and we told him so. We had never heard of Peter of Paul or any of the other greats and so the conversation was more of a lecture, yeshiva style with lots of interruptions by the listeners, than a give and take that missionaries are probably used to.
The conversation came to an abrupt end when the street preacher educated us on the history of Paul and how he came to know Jesus. Paul was originally not a believer, in fact he was among those haters who persecuted Jesus’ early followers, but, on a trip from Jerusalem to Damascus Paul bumped into a resurrected Jesus and was won over to the cause. To this my friend asked the good Christian, why, if Jesus has already been resurrected lo these 2,000 years why hasn’t he revealed himself? The answer was a familiar one: we are not yet worthy of the redemption therefore he cannot show himself.
“Did Paul ever meet Jesus before this dessert tryst”? My friend innocently asked.
After some thought the answer turned out to be, “No, they probably never met”.
My friend immediately offered his hand to the good fellow and said “Shalom aleichem, I’m Jesus”
The man laughed.
My friend moved his hand closer to the man and repeated himself “Shalom aleichem I’m Jesus”
He then ended the conversation with this parting thought: “I know who the Messiah is; the Lubavitcher Rebbe”.
“But he died”! protested the preacher.
“Oh no, he’s alive, he just can’t reveal himself because we’re not yet worthy of redemption”.
We were back in yeshiva before long and I had lots to think about. There’s so much shtussim in this world and we have to educate ourselves against it, why don’t they teach us anything here so that we’re armed for battle?
I still have the same question.