“If only everyone knew my name and face! If only I had fans wherever I went! If only it was me whom everybody noticed!”
That’s probably what quite a number of people say from time to time.
It’s understandable, because everybody wants to be somebody. But I have to tell you that fame is not always such a yom-tov.
Take me for example. I’m the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. You’ve heard of me, of course. Most people have. After all, I’m famous.
In ancient days when I became known, they didn’t have any media to make me into headlines. But I was given a good spot in the Bible, twice in fact – once in Yitro, once in Va’et’chanan. And I had another mazal.
I even got a place of honour in the synagogue, above the Holy Ark. No-one else has achieved that.
So I’m famous. But you think it gives me naches? Not if you’re famous in the way I am.
I get lip service and that’s about all. I have a message for the world, but they don’t wait to hear it. What they say is, “The Ten Commandments? Yes, the Ten Commandments – great, impressive, majestic (and similar adjectives: language is a rich resource). But don’t bother me with the small print. I’m too busy living my life to want to know the details.”
So I’m like a famous prisoner. They’ve got me where they know I will be safe, in the Bible, in the synagogue. Once in a while, indeed three times a year, on two Sabbaths and on Shavu’ot, they come to check on me, to make certain I am still where they left me and haven’t suffered from physical neglect. But the one thing they don’t seem to want is to let me move out into society and be seen heard and heeded. That would upset all their plans.
I understand, of course. They are uncomfortable at the thought that I would remind them that God is God and they should cease making gods out of superstars and secular fads and fancies. They are concerned I would tell them to guard their tongues and not use words carelessly, that I would argue for a regular Shabbat on which to rediscover themselves and their heritage, that I would insist that parents are entitled to respect.
They are scared I would be peremptory and utter some unambiguous negatives, like “Do not kill! Do not steal! Do not commit adultery! Do not witness falsely! Do not covet what is not for you!”
They know I’m famous, so they pretend I’m great; but they prefer to listen to their own whims and be run by expediency. My voice would bring them a higher message, but they’d rather leave me behind in the Bible and synagogue and not let me into the streets of their civilisation to disturb their lives.
It’s all a great pity. Being famous is not such a blessing after all…