Happily, though, not all assigned tasks are so grim. I've been doing my homework for the March 10 "Noir at the Bar T.O. style," featuring authors Howard Shrier and Sean Chercover, and the job has been fun. Here's one reason: The kicker to Chapter One of Shrier's novel Buffalo Jump. P.I. Jonah Geller has just ejected an ill-mannered, anti-Semitic slob from a Toronto streetcar after the bum had grabbed a seat intended for an elderly woman. As the streetcar doors close on the complaining yob, the hero of the piece muses: "Jonah Geller. Repairing the world, one asshole at a time."
What does this tell us? That Shrier has a sense of humor. That Geller is a gentleman of the old-fashioned kind, a knight errant who does what the rest of us only fantasize about doing to jerks, slobs and morons. But mostly it tells us that Geller, his creator or both paid attention in Hebrew school.
Repairing the world, in Hebrew tikkun olam, is an ancient ethical concept in Judaism, its various meanings embodying service, social conscience, duty and responsibility for others. It may be time to make room for Geller on the roster of ethnic detectives (for which, see here and here). And, since tikkun olam originated in the rabbinic period, with roots in the Mishnah, perhaps the Mishnah joins that list of proto-detective classics of world literature.