Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Religious Parrot

I heard this famous story directly from the friend of the couple. I don't remember anymore where it took place, but I heard it in Suburban Detroit.

A frum family had a well-trained, smart parrot. But one day the parrot actually escaped. Some time later, it turns out, the parrot landed in a totally different community, on a porch of a Jewish couple who were borderline assimilated, very successful, New Age, liberal, and they attended a Reconstructionist or Humanist Temple on some Yom Kippur occasions.

The couple felt responsible to find the owners of the parrot and posted posters and other announcements, to no success. Meanwhile several weeks have passed, and they noticed that the parrot spoke strange language in addition to the regular English expressions that parrots know to repeat. The couple realized that investigating into the parrot's language skills might help them find its owners.

Some of the their friends did not have any idea of the language. One friend did recognize that the mysterious expressions contained Hebrew, but not the kind he understood. The couple made recordings of the parrot, and turned to the help of all the Reform, Conservative rabbis, and other academics, and soon were told that the parrot was saying blessings, standard greetings, basic Talmudic expressions, and kiddush of Ashkenazic Jews. The couple did notice that the parrot spoke in this mode on weekends, on Friday nights, and whenever they had candle-lit dinner. The couple narrowed down their search and put up posters in a religious neighborhood nearby, eventually getting the attention of the parrot's owners.

The couple was fascinated by the bird, and the frum owners' gratitude. The couple wanted to know what were the events that the bird was used to. They were invited to a Shabbat. While witnessing the family's shabbos, the couple identified the blessings, the kiddush, and the expressions; they intellectually appreciated the lifestyle, and soon realized that they were interested in the spiritual beauty of it all. Starting with the superficial, aesthetic Shabbos observance, they became more observant, and soon became totally religious, and now they are leaders in a frum shul, and nobody even suspects that they were baaley teshuva. And all because of a parrot.

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