Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name
In 2013, editors of TV Guide magazine voted this theme song from
Cheers to be the greatest TV theme song of all time.
It’s true – we do feel most comfortable where everyone knows our name.
Cheers’s fictional character, Norm Peterson, certainly did. This is why basically every episode of Cheers includes some version of this iconic scene:
Norm walks into the bar. “Good afternoon, everybody.”
Coach, Sam, and others: “Noooorm!!!”
Woody: “Mr. Peterson”
Coach: “How you doin’ Norm? What can I get you?”
Norm (walking to his set seat) responds with some one-liner and requests his usual beer.
Sometimes sitcoms really do imitate life. And the best guide for life is the Torah.
This week’s Torah portion tells us, “You shall love the convert because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Devarim 10:19)
The commentaries point out that we are already commanded to love the convert, as they are included in the command to love every Jew. The Kabbalists teach that we are commanded to love all human beings. Yet, no less than 36 times does the Torah emphasize that we must be extra careful in treating the convert (Bava Metziah 59a).
Sefer HaChinuch (Positive Commandment # 431) adds that this “precious commandment” is intended to teach us how to treat not only a convert but anyone in a new country or any new environment. We all know how awkward it can be to be the “new kid on the block,” whether at work, school, or literally on the block, and how much we appreciate those who make us comfortable. The sad reality is that there is a tendency to leave out intentionally or even taunt the “newbies” in our lives. The Torah demands that we treat them how we want to be treated and promises us abundant blessings if we do so.
Of course, this behavior shouldn’t stop when they are no longer the new kid on the block. Among the benefits I enjoy living in a relatively small suburban town is the “Good morning, Rabbi” greeting from the post office clerk and the cleaners who know what’s mine without a ticket. Certainly, I have wonderful family and friends, but these small gestures make a day a little brighter. (Don’t tell anyone — I think I occasionally purchase unnecessary stamps just to hear the greeting.)
So no need to binge-watch eleven seasons of Cheers to learn valuable truths about the importance of social connections. For millennia, the Torah has taught us that the human condition includes the need to fit in and feel comfortable.
Because, indeed, everyone loves a place “where everyone knows your name.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Oratz is the Rabbi and Director of the Monmouth Torah Links community. Shortly after receiving his semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Bais Medrash Govoha, the famed Lakewood Yeshiva, Rabbi Oratz, along with his wife Toby and family, moved to Marlboro, NJ where they co-founded the MTL community in 2001. Aside for his “Devar on the Par” that he writes for MTL, his writings have also been published on Aish, Times of Israel, Seforim Blog, Hakira, and in various Rabbinic journals. Rabbi Oratz looks forward to continuing teaching Torah in a way that is timely and timeless, and sharing meaningful Jewish experiences with the amazing MTL community.