What to do at a stop sign? A Jewish perspective.

December 4, 2008 at 2:26 pm (Amusement, Judaism)

Suppose you’re traveling to work and you see a Stop sign. What do you do?
(Source unknown: see also “The Meaning of a STOP Sign” on February 25, 2008, by Izzy of Techno Yid)

An average Jew doesn’t bother to read the sign but will stop if the car in front of him does.

A fundamentalist stops at the sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

An Orthodox Jew does one of two things:
Stops at the sign, says “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop”, waits 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceeds.
Takes another route to work that doesn’t have a Stop sign so that he doesn’t run the risk of disobeying the halakhah.

A Haredi does the same thing as the Orthodox Jew, except that he waits 10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces his brake lights with 1000-watt searchlights and connects his horn so that it is activated whenever he touches the brake pedal.

An Orthodox woman concludes that she is not allowed to observe the mitzvah of stopping because she is niddah [menstruant]. This is a dilemma, because the Stop sign is located on her way to the mikvah.

A Talmudic scholar consults his holy books and finds these comments on the Stop sign:
R. Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long.
R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding.
R. Shimon ben Yehudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be God, who gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
R. ben Yitzhak says: Because of the three patriarchs.
R. Yehudah says: Why bless the Lord at a Stop sign? Because it says: ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’
R. Yehezkel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites, the Holy One, blessed be God, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and overtake his daughter; but Jephthah did not stop at the Stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out. For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus was he judged for his transgression at the Stop sign.
R. Gamaliel says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out, ‘Stop, father!’ In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same time. Thus it is written: ‘Out of the mouths of babes.’
R. ben Natan says: When were Stop signs created? On the fourth day, as it is written: ‘Let them serve as signs.’
But R. Yehoshua says: …” [continues for three more pages…]

A Breslover Hasid sees the sign and prays, saying: “Ribbono shel Olam, here I am, traveling on the road in Your service, and I am about to face who knows what danger at this intersection in my life. So please watch over me and help me to get through this Stop sign safely.” Then, “looking neither to left nor right” as Rebbe Nachman advises, he joyfully accepts the challenge, remains focused on his goal, even as the car rolls backward for a moment, then hits the accelerator and forges bravely forward, overcoming all obstacles which the yetzer hara [evil inclination] might put in his path.

A Lubavitcher Hasid stops at the sign and reads it very carefully in the light of the Rebbe’s teachings. Next, he gets out of the car and sets up a roadside mitzvah-mobile, taking this opportunity to ask other Jewish drivers who stop at the sign whether they have put on tefillin today (males) or whether they light Shabbos candles (females). Having now settled there, he steadfastly refuses to give up a single inch of the land he occupies until Moshiach comes.

A Conservative Jew calls his rabbi and asks whether stopping at this sign is required by unanimous ruling of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards or if there is a minority position. While waiting for the rabbi’s answer, he is ticketed by a policeman for obstructing traffic.

A secular Jew rejects the sign as a vestige of an archaic and outmoded value system with no relevance to the modern world, and ignores it completely.

A Reform Jew coasts up to the sign while contemplating the question, “Do I personally feel commanded to stop?” During his deliberation he edges into the intersection and is hit from behind by the secular Jew.

A Reconstructionist Jew reasons: First, this sign is a legacy of our historic civilization and therefore I must honor it. On the other hand, since “the past has a vote and not a veto,” I must study the issue and decide whether the argument in favor of stopping is spiritually, intellectually, and culturally compelling enough to be worth perpetuating. If so, I will vote with the past; if not, I will veto it. Finally, is there any way that I can revalue the Stop sign’s message so as to remain valid for our own time?

A Renewal Movement Jew meditates on whether the stop sign applies in all of the kabbalistic Four Worlds [Body-Emotion-Mind- Spirit] or only in some of them, and if so, which ones? Must he stop feeling? thinking? being? driving? Since he has stopped to breathe and meditate on this question, he is quite safe while he does so, Barukh HaShem.

A biblical scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second halves of the passage “STOP.” For example, “ST” contains no enclosed areas and five line endings, whereas “OP” contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the first and second parts are the work of different authors who probably lived several centuries apart. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the “O” and the “P.”

Because of difficulties in interpretation, another biblical scholar amends the text, changing “T” to “H.” “SHOP” is much easier to understand in this context than “STOP” because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because “SHOP” is so similar to “STOP” on the sign several streets back that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a commercial district.

Yet another biblical scholar notes that the stop sign would fit better into another intersection three streets back. Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus interprets the present intersection as though the stop sign were not there.

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