In Search of a Good Pizza
Before I get started, one disclaimer. Horrible pizza exists in all communities, MO as well as Chareidi. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that. The reasons, however, are worlds apart. I wish to focus on Chareidim because they have always been so smug about...well, everything. Also, they smell. But back to the pizza.
Last Saturday night, I went with my family to a local Chareidi pizza establishment and ordered a seemingly innocuous slice of cheese pizza. Nothing fancy, just plain pizza. Biting into the pizza was like going into a Chareidi mikva. The crust was too hard - almost painful to bite into, and the sauce was bland and pasty. Needless to say, the cheese was utterly tasteless.
Now of course you may ask: What does bad pizza have to do with Chareidim? But I feel the answer is clear. It is my view that the Chareidi community's narrow Hashkafa of "Torah Only" is so rigid and demanding that Chareidim are simply incapable of producing good pizza. It's all about "learning, learning, learning," as Rav Schach used to say. Any other activity is looked down upon. Is it any wonder that they can't produce a decent slice of pizza? It's almost as if the food is purposely made to taste like cardboard in the hope that Chareidim will be discouraged from going out to eat.
There has finally been some recognition of the problem by Chareidi leadership. After tasting a slice of "Chareidi-style" pizza, several people heard Rabbi Aaron Feldman mutter, "Oy vey." This is an absolutely true story.
The one Orthodox group which seems the most capable of producing a competent pizza is the serious Centrists. This is because by nature, Centrists are serious about everything – Torah, Mitzvot, Internet, Television, Mud Wrestling, and of course, Pizza. We emphasize Torah learning and give Torah authorities their proper due, unless they're Chareidim, when we bash them mercilessly. Centrist pizza is right in the middle. Neither too much sauce, nor too little. Not too light on the spices, but neither are they overwhelming. A crust that is neither soggy nor hard. True Centrist Pizza is a living role model for how pizza should be made.
I want to relate one personal story which I believe illustrates the mark of a Centrist pizza. This story is about my Rebbe, Rav Aaron Soleveichic. Rav Soleveichic was a true Gadol Hador, unlike so many others in his generation. It was pointed out by R. Aaron's son, R. Moshe Soleveichic, during his levayah, that R. Moshe Feinstein considered R. Aaron one of the Gedolei Hador. It should be noted that this statement was made at a time when the Brisker Rav was still alive, as was CI, RAK, RYH, FBI, YMCA, RSVP and Triumph the Comic Dog.
So we once entered an upscale Italian restaurant together and ordered a pizza. When the food finally arrived, it was obvious that the pizza sauce had not been spiced well. So what did my Rebbe do? Did he berate the staff as many intolerant so-called gedolim would have done? No, of course not. Instead, he looked up at the waiter and asked, "Could you please bring us some garlic?"
Please, he said. How proud I was of my Rebbe.
This story explains why, last Saturday night, I stood up and announced to all the patrons of that Chareidi pizza joint, "This pizza is just not good!" I did it for the sake of Emes, without a care for the stares of the patrons, and the threats to call the police or the booby-hatch.
And I'm sure my Rebbe would have been proud of me too.