Friday, April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich, RIP

Mstislav Rostropovich, the famed cellist, has died, z'kan u'seva yamim. In my mind, it's one of the little ironies of history that he died only a few days after Boris Yeltsin. To me, the two names will always be linked because of their actions during the coup attempt of 1991, and more specifically the account in Reader's Digest that thrilled me a few months later. (I still have a copy.) Yeltsin's role is well known, of course. Rostropovich, in Paris at the time, settled his affairs (like many, he expected a bloody crackdown), got on a plane, charmed his way past passport control (or whatever it's called there), and went straight to the Russian Parliament's "White House" where the opposition had massed. He spent the rest of the time speaking live and on air and visiting, hugging, and giving encouragement to the protesters outside.

I remember one detail in particular from the story: When the man assigned to protect him fell asleep on his shoulder late one night, Rostropovich was left holding his machine gun. There's even a picture of it. After the coup had ended, his erstwhile bodyguard accompanied him to the airport to see him off. "Yuri, my friend," Rostropovich said, hugging him goodbye, "When you slept I held your machine gun. Come visit me in Paris, and when I sleep, you shall hold my cello."

Leaving aside his considerable accomplishments in music, that's a claim to immortality right there. R.I.P.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ani V'Rochev Al Chamor

A parsha sheet I've been seeing for a while is now coming out in English. This past week, it contained a line that made me laugh. In bringing to life the situation of having one's house fall victim to tzara'at, it describes the actions of the owner thusly:
During that tense week, the man pleased with Hashem: "Ribbono Shel
, make the stain disappear, like it came."
OK, so "Ribbono Shel Olam" is a post-Biblical phrase, and they'd more likely have used the actual name of God. But I digress.
He ran to tzadikim for brachos, contributed money to tzedaka, fasted and did teshuva.
(Why no italics on the last word?) That's when I lost it. Let's leave aside the question of whether the phenomenon ever occurred, and the more philosophical question of how it can be considered a punishment if (as inevitably happens in these stories) they find a treasure in the walls: The simple fact is that an Israelite of the era would have been more likely to visit his local idol than engage in the anachronistic practice of running to "tzadikim" for "brachos". (Which, of course, is questionable period, but, again, I digress.)

As I considered it, and in light of the fact that today is Yom Ha'atzmaut, it occurred to me that the same people who read present phenomena into the past so readily are the last that would update any old assumptions or ideas in light of recent events or situations. (Hence the title, mavin yavin for now.) Ah well. Moadim L'Simcha.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chag Kasher V'Sameach!

To all my peeps, especially my far-flung siblings- missing you all, having you all in mind!