Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Discard the peel; eat the fruit; throw out the pip!

 Recently, someone criticised me for socializing with skateboarders. 'They will have a bad influence on you!', he cautioned...'Be careful Dovid!', he continued, 'If you associate with hooligans you will become a hooligan!'  

Do I agree? Yes and No.  

On the one hand, it is clear that skateboarding culture is 'rough on the edges' and rebellious. Many skaters are disrespectful of private property, sit around and smoke Marijuana or get drunk, use vulgar language, treat woman as objects, cover themselves in tattoos, behave wildly on public transport, and sit around and waste precious time. These are undeniable facts which I have observed first hand on several occasions.

On the other hand, the extent of their 'hooliganism' is often exaggerated and blinds people to their many positive elements. On one occasion, I invited a Jewish orthodox friend of mine to accompany me to a skate park. When we arrived there, he initially felt intimidated by the appearance of those skating there. Yet, in no time, he entered into conversations with a small group of them and discovered them to be very polite and respectful, non-judgemental and accepting. He also observed how a few skaters - which I'd never met before - kindly helped me learn a certain trick. On our drive home from the skate park he initiated a discussion about 'not judging a book by its cover.'     

The Talmud describes Rabbi Meir, who continued to learn from his teacher, Acher, even after Acher became a heretic. The Talmud relates that he would, 'eat the dates and throw out the pips', and 'eat the pomegranate seeds and discard the peel.' This means that Rabbi Meir separated the truth from the falsehood in Acher’s teachings in two distinct ways: when Acher would teach a truth with an admixture of falsehood, Rabbi Meir would accept the truth and reject the falsehood hidden within it; he would ‘eat the date and discard the pip.’ And, when Acher taught a falsehood with some truth contained within it, Rabbi Meir would pierce through the layer of falsehood and extract the elements of truth contained within it; he would 'eat the pomegranate seeds and discard the peel.'

Hence though skate culture has a significant amount of 'peel and pips', I needn't eat them. I can discard them and consume only the edible delicious fruit, of which there is certainly plenty to enjoy. I have much to learn and gain from skateboarding and my encounters with skateboarders - as my blog demonstrates.
Furthermore, many of these young people have never been exposed to spiritual teachings and their life enriching properties. Nor have they been brought to realize the tremendous potential that they contain to improve the world. And how will they ever be exposed to them - and more so, find them engaging - except through a medium which they already find consummately interesting: skateboarding.
Hence, since I'm definitely not sagacious like Rabbi Meir, and dismally lack his level of discernment, I'm still not afraid of imbibing some 'pips and peel' - if only I can assist a few younger people discover and tap their spiritual potential...           


  1. If your sole agenda was to influence these young people for the better, without actually getting involved in skateboarding yourself, it would be an admirable pursuit. You could even allow yourself the liberty of enjoying the fruit. However, considering that, by your own admission, you actually revel in the sport, then, for a person of your calibre, it is akin to eating the peels and pips with relish. To bring the analogy into bold relief, it would be more like eating a worm-infested fruit without discerning. You obviously can't risk swallowing even one of those. And the 'few pips' that you ingest could eventually grow into full-blown trees, full of more worm-infested produce.

    As for the claim that you can only influence these youngsters if you both have some common reference point, people respect someone more if he sticks fast to his principles than if he attempts to curry favour with them by stooping to their level.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Black Holes,
      Firstly, there is an enormous difference between reveling in the sport and reveling in its culture. I have only admitted to the former, not the latter.

      Concerning respect: if I didn't express Torah through the skateboarding medium, I'd have no respect from these individuals at all - they'd never even hear about me!

      Additionally, Skateboarding in no way contradicts my principles. On the contrary, when I go skateboarding in the evening I am careful not to skate near residentials, I refuse to skate on property that I may damage, and I make this obvious to whoever I skate with.

      Also, the condescension and abhorence with which you refer to skateboarders (especially in previous comments) is truly repulsive - I'd rather eat worm infested fruit than imbibe such insensitive arrogance! G-d states of the impure, I will dwell with them in their impurity..'. But of the arrogant He says,'He and I cannot dwell in one place!'

    2. Although in theory it's possible to differentiate between the sport and the culture, how can you guarantee that you won't eventually slide helplessly from the former to the latter?

      And even the sport itself isn't beyond reproach. It is a risk to life and health and, as such, I wouldn't recommend it for anybody. But for someone of your stature, it is even more reprehensible. From a rabbi, I would expect to see an entirely superior mode of conduct, and being passionate about skateboarding is certainly beneath that standard. To say that your principles consist of not waking people up at night and not damaging property is laughable.

      You are supposed to be an EXAMPLE for all the uninitiated people out there. Your effectiveness in influencing them doesn't depend on how YOU define your principles, but on what kind of lifestyle THEY expect you to lead. Thus, although they may give you the time of day because you are involved in something that interests them, you won't really be able to change them in any way. But if, when you approach them, they see that you are an entirely different sort of person, THAT is what will inspire them to better their lives.

      A way of guaging your real motives woluld be to ask yourself this question: Do I engage in skateboarding ONLY so that I am able to influence others, or am I in it for its own sake, and use influencing others as an excuse to justify my actions?