Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Megillah Comes Home

I've previously written about the Megillah I read from- see the end of the post here. It wasn't until yesterday, though, and an email from my mother, that I got the full story. My parents sent it over to Israel so I could read for a few people this Purim, and after I sent them a note telling them that I'd gotten it, here's the message I got back:
Happy to hear that the megillah arrived safely. Dad and I figured out that it may be close to 100 years old. Don't ask me how my cousin Henoch Lieder, of Kiryat Hashmal outside of Haifa, got his hands on it. He made aliyah to Israel, I believe after the war, but was caught and imprisoned in Cyprus for a while. He was married to Yachne Bashe who was my mother's first cousin. He's the one in the Betar picture, if you remember. Maybe as a young man he studied in Yeshivat Mir but when the family arrived in Israel they were not religious and if I'm not mistaken, when my Tante Eshke visited Israel, he gave her the megillah. She gave it to Dad when we were in Cleveland in 1973. Hopefully this will be the megillah's final home. I think I wrote a whole megillah...
Isn't that nice? Happy Purim, one and all!

Monday, February 22, 2010


Caught a bit of a cooking (cookery, for the Brits) show. Set in what seems to be a kitchen on an organic farm someplace out in the hills, raining. The host has a serious thing for leeks, at least in this episode. Makes leek chicken soup, then announces that he's going to do challot with leeks. He and the guy who runs the farm start kneading the dough.

Again, translating from the Hebrew:

Farmer: "Ah, challot. My mother is a da'atiyah [religious] and makes challot every Friday. I love challot."

Host: "Really? I didn't know you were raised religious."

Farmer: "I'm still a ma'amin [believer]. Just without a kipah."

Host and farmer then go off for a while in a discussion of religion, how religious each is despite not having the visible signs, how much they appreciate the religion and traditions...and then, after a few minutes, the host seems to suddenly remember he's on a cooking show:

Host: "Well, in any event, we're doing the leeks now..."

A nice little moment. The challot looked yummy, by the way. They should have smell-o-visions for those shows, and I see an Israeli company is developing one for cellphones, as it happens.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ahh, cabbies

OK, here's another one to match the one below:

So I'm sitting at the bus stop, minding my own business (the eventual destination was Tel Aviv, for a very nice evening), learning from a Gemara, in fact, when a cab pulls up in front of me. At first I think the guy wants my business, but then I realize he's asking me something. Something about...Yehuda HaNasi?

Now, let me explain: Yehuda HaNasi (Judah the Prince) was a third-century rabbi. The Greek Colony, the next neighborhood over from where we were, is full of streets named for rabbis from that period, and I assumed (my headphones had been in) that he was asking me where "Yehuda HaNasi"- that is, Yehuda HaNasi Street- is. Logical, right? Translating from the Hebrew:

Me: Um, I'm not sure...somewhere down that way...

Cabbie: Sorry! You don't speak Hebrew?

Me (boldly): Yes, but I'm just not sure where it is...

Cabbie: No, no! Who was Yehuda HaNasi?

Me: Ah, who! He was a rabbi, a Tanna. Lived in the year...

Cabbie: I just told someone he arranged the Mishna! Was I right?

Me: Certainly! He was the one! Live in the year two hundred...

Cabbie: Two thousand? [The words sound vaguely similar in Hebrew.]

Me: No, two hundred.

Cabbie: Ah, of course! But he arranged the Mishna...are you sure?

Me: Definitely!

Cabbie: Thanks!

And he drives off, and the bus comes. Nice, eh?

Incidentally: My synagogue changes their various cloths- the ark curtain, the reading table cover- fairly frequently. Today (whoops, yesterday) I noticed that the cover they had on was dedicated to those people from the city of Brody who were killed in the Holocaust. And I thought- my father's family was from there; most of them were killed in the Holocaust. Good to see them remembered in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"When I live in Jerusalem, I am living another's dream."

I saw that quote in a poetry book recently, and frequently have cause to think of it, even when experiencing seemingly unrelated events, like passing by a local Hasmonean-era tomb on Chanukkah, or hearing a reference to "Canaan" in Joseph Erev Shabbat Vayeshev. (A lovely minhag of my roommate.)

I was on my way to the opening panel of the Jerusalem Conference last night, riding in a taxi with a somewhat talkative cabbie. (Note, although it's becoming something of a- still lovely!- cliche in these sorts of stories, that there was no kippa on his head. This is all translated from the Hebrew, by the way.) I usually don't take cabs, but the hotel where the conference is at is a bit out of the way and I was slightly pressed for time.

So I'm sitting in the back, listening to the Daf on my Ipod, and we're heading up Straus Street, when the driver asks me if I want to go straight or turn right on Neviim and take a more roundabout route. He explains that the straight route will take much longer- lots of traffic. The Haredim are out in force, rioting and burning trash in Kikar Shabbat over some nonsense. (We smelled it on the way back. Lovely.) So we turn right as he (and, I'll admit, I) carry on about the Haredim and their crazy and destructive habits, as he blasts the police for being ineffective along the way. "Nu, it's getting warm," he says. "They need something to do." "Let them work during the day, they won't have as much energy at night," I opine. "Where do you live?" he asks.


"Try adding a room to your porch in Katamon! The municipality will be on you in a second and stop you and fine you! Here in Geulah? Nothing!"

He then went on about how he thinks bottle recycling is nonsense, and would only put his bottles in the bin if he knew the money was going to tzedakah. "But the city keeps it all! See this bottle?" He holds up his soda. (Only liter bottles have redemption value in Israel, due to- believe it or not- Haredi pressure. Don't ask.) "I throw it in the regular trash- I don't need the money. Let someone who needs it collect it and get the 25 agorot." This then leads to a discussion about tzedaka. Amidst another blast at Haredim ("Rosh Chodesh Adar today- Marbim b'Simcha! They're practicing for Bi'ur Chametz already, and it's a month and a half off!"), he suddenly shifts gears. "Ahh, lots of tzedaka is given in Geulah- millions of dollars collected. I always give- you know what kimcha d'pischa is?"

A bit shocked to hear him use the phrase, it takes me a second to acknowledge that I do.

"You have to give! How can I enjoy my meal, my seder, when I know that other people don't have food? You have to give kimcha d'pischa..."

The conversation ends with talk of Gilad Shalit. "They want us to let people go- let them go! Then we can kill them right after we release them, when it's OK! Give me a gun and send me to Shechem, I'll do it myself!"

He drops me off at the hotel, telling me to send regards to the Mayor. Alas, I didn't get that chance, but the session was very nice indeed, with Mayor Nir Barkat (whoo-hoo!), Minister Benny Begin (looking more like his father all the time), journalist Nadav Shragai, Natan Sharansky (I always feel in awe when I see him), R' Aryeh Stern (two Katamonites in a row!), and Gavriel Barkai, the archaeologist, who gave an impassioned talk calling for Jewish rights on the Har HaBayit, from a mostly secular perspective. Interesting there sister and brother in law were there- we sat together, which was very nice as well- and I got a ride home with a neighbor I see in shul every morning- turns out I was in ulpan with his wife. Don't think I'll make any of the rest of the conference, but Kol HaKavod to them, and most of all to my cabbie.