“A Tzadik in Peltz” is a Yiddish aphorism that describes a person who is (self) righteous but does not turn his or her righteousness towards others. Literally it means, “A righteous person in a (fur) coat.” As Rabbi Menachem of Kotkz explained: The Tzadik (in Peltz), warmly encased in protective fur, cannot appreciate the shivering of others.”
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg was our scholar-in-residence this week. She is an expert teacher of Mindfulness, a pioneer in bringing Mindful teaching to other Rabbis through the Institute of Jewish Spirituality she co-founded. For those who had the privilege of attending her talks, they found her to be a humble expert. We were not learning with her as much as we learning from her—from her own struggles being Mindful.
When hearing that her maiden name is Peltz the teaching came to mind. One of the first stories she read from her book Surprisingly Happy: An Atypical Religious Memoir is about her relationship with her mother. Many of us could (un)easily related to the theme; a mother insistent on her daughter needing something the daughter did not need or want. In her case it was a fur coat! Rabbi Sheila though did not have the energy or strength to say no to her mother, so she left the store with “this 25 pound suit of raccoon armor.” She wore it only rarely, mostly when she went to visit her Mother. The day came when she was ready to not be so afraid to hurt her mother’s feelings by returning it to her.
There are two types of spiritual teachers: Those who share themselves with you and those who share only their wisdom with you. Wisdom is indeed a great gift, but those spiritual teachers who do not share their own struggles are warmly encased in protective fur, not yet ready to reveal that they too are shivering along with you, struggling to settle the same issues we all deal with on a daily basis.
Rabbi Shiela Peltz (Weinberg) did more than just return the fur coat to her mother—she returned the favor by letting us in on her struggles. The expert on Mindfulness is the one that is mindful of how the shedding of our layers of clothing is a constant spiritual task.