THE MARKET© Ares, Best of Latin America

Century Marks

Down in the gutter: David Novak, a Jewish theologian, recalls walking in a southern town one morning in 1963, on his way to a synagogue where he was going to lead Yom Kippur services. The night before there was heavy rain, and the gutters along the side of the road were full of mud. As he approached an older black woman, she stepped into the gutter to let him pass. Novak thought to himself that he was the one who should have stepped into the muddy gutter, for the Talmud says, “Before the old you shall stand.” “So, on the holiest day of the year, when I was supposed to feel that I was being cleansed before God, I felt profoundly dirty,” says Novak, “not for what I had done, but for what I represented” to this woman “who had so debased herself because of my very presence before her” (First Things, February).


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