People often ask me where I get my ideas for my columns, and the truth is, often I will see and hear people interacting and it leaves an impression on me that I think is worth sharing. Sometimes it is a positive one; other times what I observe is quite disturbing and disheartening.
Sometimes a reader will ask me to write about something that he/she experienced in order to educate people – often to give them the benefit of that experience and offer some insight.
One person complained to me about the sad reality of difficult people. In Yiddish, there is a word that nails the essence of what can only be described as difficult individuals. They are krimme menschen. Now the word “krim” (or krum) technically means crooked, but that implies not straight or dishonest, which is not necessarily the case. When applied to human beings, it means warped, as often their thinking is distorted and awry.
The following example is based on a real situation.
A young lady, the youngest of her family, was getting married and of course the various machatanim (in-laws of siblings – there is no actual word in English) were invited. One couple had to drive several hours to come to the simcha. As the chuppah approached the michitin (sibling’s father-in-law) inquired as to what sheva bracha he was getting. The kallah’s parents were taken aback because they had not planned to give this man a bracha especially because none of their other machatanim were going to be called up. That was the case as well for the machatanim on the chassan’s side. There were roshei yeshiva and rabbanim who were slated for kibudim.
Sensing the michitin was going to feel slighted, the parents explained the situation to an elderly uncle who graciously gave up his spot. With a sigh of deep relief for a “situation” that was averted, the parents joyfully walked their daughter to her new life.
After the chuppah and throughout the meal, the kallah’s parents noticed that these particular machatanim were aloof and barely joined in the dancing. It was later conveyed to them by their child that her in-laws were insulted that her father-in-law was given the third, but as it turns out shortest bracha,the one that ends with yotzair ha’adam.
This is krimkeit – when an individual has an inflated sense of importance and expects to be treated according to his “higher” status. The fact that other machatanim did not expect to get a sheva bracha at the chuppah just emphasizes how twisted this couple’s thinking was.
Not unexpectedly, after years of trying to please her impossible-to-please in-laws, catering to their demands and expectations, trying to placate them and give in to their demands, the young wife gave her husband an ultimatum: They move far away or get divorced.
Then there is another kind of krimkeit: gross indifference. Decades ago I would occasionally help out in my children’s school. One time, the field where the kids played during recess was particularly muddy, as it had rained heavily the day before. A child was brought into the office covered in mud, literally from head to toe. He had been playing baseball and “slid” in order to get to base. A home run for his team but a big mess for him. I called his mother and asked her if she could bring a change of clothing. From the background noise I could tell she was in a restaurant. She told me that she was busy and that he could sit in his wet clothes for the rest of the day. It would teach him to be more careful.