June 10, 2024
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Are you a mieskeit?

That likely is a question for others to answer because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and mieskeit is in the eye of the shunner.

The word “mieskeit” is Yiddish for “ugly person” and obviously is not a term of endearment. If someone calls you a mieskeit, you should feel highly insulted because it is as pejorative as being called malodorous, oafish or creepy. In Yiddish, the antonym of “meiskeit” is “sheyna panim,” i.e, pretty face, which is an above-the-neck compliment like having a yiddishe kop.

But how do you know if you have mieskeit panim? Unfortunately, your parents might just come right out and tell you:

Mother: Sweety, I’m so sorry that I have to tell you this, but you’re a mieskeit.

Child: Who said that you “have to” tell me that?

Mother: Better that you should hear it from me.

Child: Actually, it’s much more hurtful coming from you.

Parent: I’m sure that being a mieskeit is something you realized on your own.

Child: No and ignorance is bliss, so thanks for bursting my bubble.

Mother: It’s not your fault that you’re a mieskeit, so don’t blame yourself.

Child: I don’t. I blame you and dad.

Mother: And please don’t worry. We know plenty of mieskeits who are married and lead productive lives. Some of them are even happy.

Child: O.K., now you’re starting to freak me out.

Mother: Just remember, love is blind.

Child: At this moment, I wish I was deaf.

It actually is unfair to call someone a mieskeit.

Nobody chooses to become a mieskeit; it is nature, not nurture. Is there a mieskeit gene? Possibly. If two mieskeits procreate, will they produce miesket offspring? Probably. If a mieskeit and a non-mieskeit procreate, will the miesket gene prevail? Is it dominant or recessive? Can you use a Punnett Square to predict mieskeit-ness? Perhaps.

Strangely, it seems that being a mieskeit is not the only negative trait that is hereditary. If both of your parents are schmegegge, then you likely will be a schmegegge too. The same applies to being a schlemiel or shmendrik. Of course, a strong argument could be made that all of these involve learned behavior that has little to do with ancestral bloodwork. Even if that is true, until scientists definitively prove the non-existence of a schmegegge gene, you should proliferate with extreme caution. That said, if you are a true schmegegge, then by definition you will foolishly pair up with another schmegegge of equal or greater schmegegge-ness because that’s what schmeggeges do.

Such inevitable entropy is the same fate that awaits many mieskeits because it is very difficult for them to break the chain by finding a willing non-mieskeit mate. To overcome this hurdle of hideousness, meiskeits often must distract better-looking prey with fortune and fame, all to avoid facial focus. In that way, some mieskeits are like master magicians, employing smoke and mirrors (or maybe just smoke) to trick their targets, at least until the chuppah is over. Unfortunately, that can make for an extremely awkward Yichud Room.

The good news for mieskeits is the old and enduring adage that “beauty is only skin deep.” Chances are that this expression was conveniently and self-servingly coined by a mieskeit, but the message still resonates. People should be judged by their actions and loved for who they are on the inside. In other words, the key question is whether you have a mieskeit heart.

The Talmud, in Taanit 7(a), includes a story that illustrates this point. It involves the daughter of a Roman emperor and a rabbi who apparently was a meiskeit. The daughter took one look at the unattractive rabbi and remarked: “Woe to glorious wisdom such as yours, which is contained in an ugly vessel.” The unsightly rabbi, using an analogy of a fine wine kept in a plain bottle, explained that “fine material is best preserved in the least of vessels.” The Emperor stepped in and responded: “But there are handsome people who are learned.” The visually unappealing rabbi replied: “Had they been ugly, they would have been even more learned.” One lesson to glean from this Talmudic tale is that one should seek a mieskeit teacher just like one might seek a fat chef or a skinny fitness trainer. Another and more important lesson is that a mieskeit’s outward appearance is but a vessel within which you may find ample inner beauty.

Final thought: Don’t judge a book by its cover… unless you’re paying extra for mint condition.

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