Everyone likes a good laugh, but Seinfelds blabbin rabbi crosses a line

Any “Seinfeld” freaks out there? You couldn’t be more fanatical about the show than I. Six years after its swan song, “Seinfeld” is still the best show on TV — even in rerun. I’ve seen every episode 100 times and have every plot, subplot and spasmodic Kramer doubletake down cold.

For me, watching “Seinfeld” is like a daily “Rocky Horror Picture Show” party: I shout the punch lines like a one-man Greek chorus.

The joys of “Seinfeld” are boundless, and with every airing I see something new: the way George blows a gasket in one scene, or the way Elaine screws up her face in another. I never tire of Soup Nazi’s “No soup for you!” or Jerry crying “but I don’t want to be a pirate!”

However, there is a shtick from one episode that bugs me every time.

You know the one: Elaine wonders why George managed to get engaged (to Susan, doomed to die from licking toxic envelopes) while she remains unattached. She confides her fears to Rabbi Glickman, who lives in her building.

Rabbi Glickman is a bad rabbi. He speaks in a ponderous monotone that would put the HAL 9000 to shame. He wears a black hat and ill-fitting black suit. He pronounces “matzah” as “matzo” and presses his fingertips together.

After Elaine confides in him, Glickman proceeds to spill her secrets. Soon everyone in the building knows of Elaine’s angst.

It’s 100 percent Grade A lashon hara.

Every Jewish Sunday school kid learns about lashon hara (Hebrew for “gossip”). It’s like a triple drive-by shooting, harming the disser, the dissee and the one who lends an ear.

Not that most of us can resist the occasional deep-dish gossip. It was Alice Roosevelt Longworth who said “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about someone, come and sit right down beside me.”

Too many times I’ve been caught on the backend of a gossip session, having kidded myself that my tattled tales wouldn’t come back to haunt me.

Once I left a note for a workman, advising him to avoid talking to my neighbor because I thought she was a no-good blankety-blank. Meanwhile, I forgot I had asked that same neighbor to feed my cat. Of course the neighbor read the note, and for years we gave the Hatfields and the McCoys a run for their money.

But it’s not just personal. These days, people get rich saying mean things. Switch on cable news and there they are: character assassins like Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter hurling invective like nuclear-tipped Frisbees. To them, political enemies are no better than ax murderers.

No one is safe. The extravagant rudeness exemplified by the “Jerry Springer Show” is now lingua franca. Elementary school kids call girls “bitches,” just like their hip-hop heroes. Yet Springer himself inspired an opera. And he wants to be a senator.

So what’s the big deal about a minor character from one episode of “Seinfeld”?

Though rabbis are not exempt from being creeps (witness convicted New Jersey wife-killer Rabbi Fred Neulander), most try to adhere to Jewish ethics. Few would indulge in hard-core lashon hara, and none would ever dish to the neighbors the way “Seinfeld’s” Rabbi Glickman does.

It’s not that rabbis or Judaism should be off limits to comedians. One of the beauties of “Seinfeld” is that it can be viewed as a 9-year-long drash on Jewish American life. In Jerry’s world, nothing — and nothing Jewish — is sacred.

But the blabbin’ rabbi crosses a line. He conveys a message that Jewish spiritual leaders are just tactless yentas. Rabbi Glickman illuminates nothing about Jews or Judaism. Rather he dims understanding and descends into the realm of stereotype. He might as well have horns.

I’ll never stop watching my favorite show. Long ago, I forgave “Seinfeld” for any perceived flaws. But the Rabbi Glickman business reminds me of one pointed exchange between Jerry and Elaine. She says to him, “You prefer dumb and lazy to religious?” He replies, “Dumb and lazy I understand.”

Dan Pine lives and kvetches in Albany. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.