Monday, December 22, 2014

The Greatest Little Hobbit of Them All

At the end of the screening of The Fellowship of the Ring that I attended, someone in the audience got up and said, "Well, now for a one-year intermission."

Turned out it was more like a thirteen year gap- I've just seen part three of The Hobbit. Yes, yes, not quite as good as the first trilogy, but not bad at all, and it certainly had its moments. I especially appreciated that they included this little exchange at the end (quoted from the book):
Then the dwarves bowed low before their Gate, but words stuck in their throats. "Good-bye and good luck, wherever you fare!" said Balin at last. "If ever you visit us again, when our halls are made fair once more, then the feast shall indeed be splendid!"

"If ever you are passing my way," said Bilbo, "don't wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome at any time!"
As one commenter put it- I think it was quoted in The Annotated Hobbit, which I don't have on hand at the moment- it's clear the two are saying the same exact thing, but each in his own language.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Can All Use Some Lifting

Amid the horror, another sad event: A few days ago, passing his house, I saw the "Baruch Dayan Emet" sign for Raphael Molcho, one of the builders of modern Israel, who passed away on Sunday, b'sayva tova, only a short time after his wife, Rachel. (He's part of a distinguished line- the square down the block from him is named for his father.)

He was a distant relative, and I used to visit him every now and then. He'd sit finishing a whole box of Ferrero Rocher ("Yes, I know I shouldn't, Nachum, but at my age, what difference does it make?" Apparently not much.) and regale me with stories of life in Jerusalem from the 1910's onward:

"Where are you living now? Katamon? [This was a little while back.] Ah, I remember the Battle of Katamon in '48. That was bad. You know I was in charge of arms procurement for the Hagana, and we just took them wherever we found them. We heard that there was a huge cache of weapons in the basement of the Egyptian embassy, on Rachel Imenu- where do you live? Tayassim? Yes, right near there...anyway, we got there and discovered the whole building was literally bricked up, and we had to break in somehow. The problem was, the battle was raging all around us, and the Arabs were fighting to keep us from getting in...and then, in the middle of everything, I saw a chicken running around. A chicken! Remember, Nachum, the city was under siege. We were starving! I dropped everything and chased that chicken all over Katamon. Bullets were flying around me, but finally I caught it, threw it in a sack, brought it back to Rechavia, and said to Rachel, 'Bring this to the shochet in Shaarei Hesed tomorrow morning, we're going to have chicken.'

"Well, the next morning, we discovered the chicken had laid an egg. We didn't have it shechted. Instead, our boys had eggs to eat every morning for the rest of the war."

(One of his sons is a prominent lawyer and chief negotiator with the Palestinians. The other is a well-known architect.)

They always say that the real war heroes don't tell you about the actual fighting. What a hero he was.

OK, another one: "Not all the British were bad. One day, right before independence, I was sitting at my desk in the bank when a British soldier walked in and put a set of keys on my desk. 'What's this?' 'Keys to a tank. It's parked outside.' 'OK, first, you drive that thing around back. I don't want a tank sitting right in front. Next, you take off your insignia and give it to me- I'm not having someone not in a British uniform driving it away.' He did that, and so...we got a tank."
And here's an unrelated (or is it?) story from today, via a relation of a relation via Facebook:

I hope it helps lift your spirits during this difficult time.
This morning I was in a bakery in Jerusalem when I noticed that I was standing behind Natan Sharansky. I summoned up my courage and told him that I had just cited from his book this week in a class I was teaching on Sefer Tehillim. I explained that I told my students the inspiring story of how he had kept a tiny book of Tehillim with him at all times, even when he had to struggle with the authorities to get it back. At that point, Sharansky smiled, reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out that a tiny (palm-sized) tattered book of Tehillim. I was stunned, and I asked him “Do you carry that wherever you go?” Sharansky didn’t even pause and he replied “Actually, it carries me!”

I love Jerusalem - the city where Jewish heroes walk the streets.

I'm always inspired by seeing the man in person myself. A number of years ago, my parents found themselves sitting right behind him on a plane trip. My mother asked him for his autograph for me, alas not on one of his books but one she happened to have on her. (She's good at that- she once got a pre-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to sign a washing machine bill for me.) He wrote something like, "Dear Nachum, make aliyah!" A few years later I ran into him at a local event. I told him the story, and said, "Here I am!" He smiled modestly.

Jay Nordlinger (who's not Jewish) once interviewed Sharansky for National Review (again, not Jewish) on one of his later books and projects. At the end of the interview, he said, "I have to you have it on you?" He didn't even have to say what "it" is- Sharansky took the Tehillim from his pocket and held it out. Nordlinger, too, was struck by its small size, but even more by the fact that he was looking at it live. Sharansky's reply in the first story is perfect. And thus the name of this post.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gishmei Bracha

Well,it's been almost two months- two busy months, of course, which explains why, but still two months without blogging. As I've said here before, I try for once a month at least, and had a whole list of things to write about- plus, of course, all my Facebook posts to repost here, for those of you who don't have accounts there.

But events provide me with something better! And so all those ideas and posts will have to wait, if indeed they ever get put up here...

Soon after I made aliyah, I made a comment about the rain, and my roommate (here much longer than I) flatly told me that precipitation in this country follows our tefillot and the chagim. I protested that sometimes the chagim are early, sometimes late, but he refused to budge. I'm sorry to say that I suspected some form of hyper-Zionism there, but whatever the cause, boy was he right. Last night we started saying V'Ten Tal U-Matar; today we're getting what feels like our first serious rain. (OK, Tel Aviv was a day early, apparently. :-) )You really do live the Jewish calendar, and feel the hand of God, in this land.

A blessed winter to all!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Here to help

I attended the Start-of-the-Year event at the Bar Association today. The food (the main reason I go, let's be honest) was excellent as usual. The speeches frightened me.

There was an all-star lineup- President Rivlin, Chief Justice Grunis, Justice Minister Livni, the Attorney General, etc. etc. It started blandly enough, although the speakers (even the "rightists") did their best to imply that the greatest threat Israel faced over the past summer was a bunch of hotheads on Facebook making un-PC remarks. (Rockets? What rockets?) Of course, protecting free speech, speaker after speaker told us, is essential to democracy. But when they got to specifics, I couldn't shake the impression that the "unpopular" speech that they feel needs protection is limited to that of leftist critics of Israel, while the right-wing equivalent is to be condemned, period.

Now, simple condemnation of a political view by those in power is bad enough- "chilling effect" and all that. But they didn't stop there. Oh, no, such speech needs to be *prosecuted*. "Racist" and "inciting," wouldn’t you know. Free speech is great! Free speech is essential! Free speech needs to be protected! Except the stuff we don't like! That has to be suppressed- in the name of democracy, Livni earnestly informed us in the very same breath.

This is, of course, of a piece of the sickness sweeping Western democracies, in which- not only for societal well-being, but for our own safety and wellbeing, of course, and of course that of "the children"- we are told that certain liberties are, well, too much. Nor is this limited to UK and Israel, without written constitutions, or to any country without a First Amendment. Nope, you see it in the United States too. And among the finest liberal Americans to make Aliyah. And Israelis, unfortunately, seem particularly prone to it, whether through some sense of mamlachtiut, or threats of disunity, or threats of war- all the usually ways the progressives/fascists (and you can see them on both ends of the spectrum here) work their little tricks. As I said, it frightens me.

OK, a bit of a funny note: The main presenter was the deputy head of the Bar Association or something. His name didn't give it away immediately to me, so I tried picking out his accent- Russian? Arabic? I settled on Arabic before he gave it away: This was the start, he said, of the year "Tet-Shin-Ayin-Heh." Bingo!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Sixth Month (Look It Up)

Wow, twenty minutes left in August and still no post...and it's not like I don't have what to write about, or at least Facebook posts to repost here. Well, I guess it's true that babies take time out of you. For which we are very grateful. A Shana Tova to all!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Two on Shiva Asar B'Tammuz

From Facebook, yesterday:
Tomorrow- tonight, really- is the 17th of Tammuz. One of the tragedies marked on the day is the discontinuation of the Korban Tamid.

Interestingly, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story on this very topic. You can read it at either of these two links. Note that according to the second link, it is actually a parody of a novel popular at the time, which explains its over-the-top language.

The main characters are gizbarim. *I'm* a gizbar. Hee!

One more note: He dates the story to 63 BCE (to Poe, the world was created in 4004 BC, and you can do the math); in other words, to Pompey's siege of Jerusalem which marked the beginning of the end for the Hasmoneans. The Korban Tamid, though, was quickly reinstated and ran until the Churban 133 years later. May it be reinstituted again very soon.

From Facebook, today:

Following up on my post from last night, in light of the news:

Great leaders, it seems, often produce not-so-great offspring. Not usually of an issue in a republic, but in a monarchy...look out. Salome Alexandra (Shlomtziyon, as in the street, Hasmonean queen from 76-67 BCE) was one of the greatest monarchs in Jewish history. As soon as she died, her sons Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II began fighting it out for the crown, violently. Civil war followed, and it became an unholy and bloody mess , with shifting international alliances and support.

Rome was appealed to for support by both sides (not the first time the Hasmoneans had done so- they had enlisted Roman support when fighting the Seleucids in the previous century), and Rome, being Rome, was happy to "help." The war was ended when Pompey, Caesar's partner, marched to Jerusalem in 63 BCE, besieged it, broke through the wall, slaughtered thousands, and installed his preferred candidate.

Of course, this "help" didn't come free: Independent (if it ever truly had been) Judea essentially ceased to exist after only about a century (if that) of existence. A quarter of a century later, Herod, with Roman support, did away with the Hasmoneans altogether, and less than a century after that, the Mikdash was destroyed and the long Galut began.

It's very likely that one of the events marked by today's fast, the discontinuation of the Tamid, actually occurred during Pompey's siege. In that case, perhaps it's not only the lack of two daily lambs we mourn, but the entire chain of events- the real beginning of the end of the Second Commonwealth and Mikdash, and strongly due (as Chazal say) to Sinat Chinam and literal sinat achim.

As to being in thrall to foreign "advice" and "help" and "cease-fires" and "peace plans"...well, especially today, it's often painful (and, yes, often inspiring) to read Jewish (or any) history and notice parallels to our own time.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

It didn't quite end all wars...

Various posts from Facebook:

Fun fact: Tammuz, the month that starts today, is named for one of the gods in the Mesopotamian pantheon. In fact, all of the "Hebrew" month names are Babylonian in origin, whether religious or secular. "Marcheshvan," for example, is Akkadian for "eighth month." All of this was well-known to Chazal, who even justified it by citing a prophecy of Yirmiyahu. (You are free to offer this fun fact whenever speaking with someone who insists on not using the English names of the months or days of the week because of their pagan origins.)

Tammuz was, in fact, the god of fertility, and was portrayed as a handsome young man, all of which, as you might expect, made him quite popular with the ladies. And not just in Mesopotamia: Yechezkel has a vision of Jewish women "crying for Tammuz" within the precincts of the Beit HaMikdash itself. They were crying over him, incidentally, because he was the god not just of human fertility but agricultural fertility as well. Every year, the coming of the dry season (not coincidentally, in the month named for him) marked his "death," and he would "come back to life" as the rainy season returned with the autumn. (A god who dies in the spring and is later resurrected...that should remind you of something.)

He became so popular and revered, in fact, that his adherents stopped using his actual name and referred to him only as "Adoni." (That should also remind you of something, with a "l'havdil" here.) His fame spread to the Greeks, who (along with others) adopted him. They didn't like vowels at the end of masculine names, though, which is part of how "Moshe" became "Moses" and "Yeshu" became "Jesus," and how "Adoni" became "Adonis."

"Adonis" remains a part of our lexicon to this day. Shakespeare wrote a long narrative poem (this and his other narrative poem, Lucrece, are the only two works he published himself) about the doomed relationship called "Venus and Adonis," in which Adonis is killed by a wild boar, and to this day, "Adonis" is a term for a handsome young man. It's even used on Seinfeld at one point- to refer to Uncle Leo, of all people. 

A thought for the new month, to tide you over for the next twenty-nine days. I got nothing about Av, sorry. 

My beit knesset is located in the Heichal Shlomo building, which also contains a Judaica museum. They usually have an exhibit in the lobby as well, and for the last couple of months it's been some very nice shots of Jerusalem at night, mostly sans people. (The building I work in is included, funnily enough.) The signage at the exhibit explained that it was in honor of the eightieth birthday of the photographer, who had a photo shop in the center of town for many decades and was the go-to guy for gan and school class pictures before he retired and became a curator at the museum itself.

The building has a security guard full time, and while sometimes it's a relatively youngish guy who works for a security agency, sometimes it's an older, bearded man. (They both help us with making a minyan as needed. [They both seem secular, but the former once joined us when he had yahrtzeit.]) Today, I saw the older man was on duty, and was taking down the photos of the exhibit and packing them up during shacharit. Afterward, I walked past him and began a conversation:

Me: "I didn't know this was part of your job!"

He: "Well, I work for the museum, actually. The exhibit is coming to an end."

Me: "Oh, we enjoyed it very much. Lovely pictures."

He: "Actually, I'm the photographer. They threw this little geste together for me for my eightieth birthday."

Me: "Um, oh! Yes, I saw that. Really nice shots! Congratulations! Mazal tov! Shavua tov!"

He, patting me on the back as I walk out: "Thanks! Chodesh tov!"

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated (together with his wife) one hundred years ago today, on June 28, 1914, an event which led, directly or indirectly, to most of the horrors of the 20th Century (and beyond).

John Derbyshire sums it up nicely in the first couple of items here:

Cracked sums it up nicely, in their own way, in the first item here:

To give you an idea of how history can sometimes be less remote than we think, my paternal grandparents were born and raised Austro-Hungarian subjects. (My maternal grandparents were born subjects of the Czar.) My father's mother, who I can remember, if dimly, said that Emperor Franz Joseph (uncle of Franz Ferdinand) was so good to the Jews because he'd had a Jewish girlfriend back in the day. Or at least that was the scuttlebutt among the Galician Jews.

Franz Joseph was, indeed, good to the Jews. He personally financed the completion of the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, a building destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948 and now being rebuilt.

On a related note, on this date a century ago, Sherlock Holmes was soon to wrap up his last case, working to secure Britain's position in the war everyone knew was about to come. The case would be wrapped up on August 2nd- remind me to revisit it then. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Five Weeks

From the beginning of the Omer this year, Egged ran the daily count as part of the inside electronic destination signs, cycling it with the regular information. It was lovely.
Well, as the Sage of Baltimore himself, H. L. Mencken, put it, "Puritanism [is] the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy," and this is amply true of our modern-day Puritans, who are of course to be found on the other end of the political spectrum from their ancestors. Some busybody- just one, of course- made a fuss, and, as is true of all busybodies, managed to impose his will on everyone else. The Omer was taken down, and even Egged wasn't happy, but who wants the hassle? (The literal meaning of "Bolshevik" is "majority," because busybodies always try to sound bigger than they really are.)
Anyway, what was his excuse? First, some mumbling about offended "minorities" (i.e., Arabs). Mind you, he wasn't an Arab himself, and I doubt he asked any, but there you go. (Don't bother bringing up the flag, anthem, or name of the country- or the language the signs are in. He probably thinks all those have to go too.)
Second, some muttering about how the extra line on the sign is an "inconvenience," I suppose because it would take you an extra five seconds to see what the next stop is, and the guy needed to claim standing.
Well, Egged has now added the time to their signs. So you've got to wait another five seconds. Personally, I'm not inconvenienced. I'd prefer the Omer.
Why do we (American universities in the commencement season of 2014, I'm looking at *you*) give in to bullies so easily?

PS: I forgot to mention- a busybody, maybe the same one, tried to shut this series down as well, and got laughed at.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What Mr. Rogers Taught Me About Birkat Kohanim

Well, Pesach came to an end last week, and once again I was reminded of something that I mentioned quite a few times in the early days of this blog: In one week, I said Birkat Kohanim more times than in an entire year in chu"l. In fact, I'd like to think that as you go through those early entries, you see something of a progression leading to my eventual aliyah. And the ability to perform this mitzvah so often was actually a factor in that decision.

Well, once back in those chu"l days, someone asked me, after duchaning, what my kavanot were while saying the brachot. ("Kavanos," of course.) I sort of knew what he had in mind, but I answered, "May Hashem bless you and watch you..." After all, the kohen is really "just" the pipeline. Why make it complicated?

Still, it sometimes pays to get insight of one kind or another. And for an introduction to that, let's go back a couple of years, in a car on the way to a rehearsal. (Ruddigore, I think.) I'm sitting up front with the driver, a fellow cast member who grew up in Pittsburgh, and another two cast members, both of South African origin, are in the back. We're chatting about this and that, and the driver mentions that she grew up next door to Mr. Rogers. To my stunned reaction, she casually said, "Oh, sure- he was a minister, you know, and we saw him walking to church every Sunday, and he'd to walk us to shul every Shabbat. 'You're my *real* neighbors,' he'd say."

I was completely bowled over. "But why?" the South Africans asked. "Who was he?"

"Mr. Rogers?" we answered. "He was...well, he was sort of a saint."

The funny thing is, I've repeated that story to lots of people, and all the Americans anticipate that answer. The stories about him are legion- Cracked has some good articles as well (follow the links for more, and watch the videos). I don't have to repeat them here. Even though I grew up without a TV, we did have his LPs, and played the grooves off them.

What does this have to do with Birkat Kohanim? Well, even if your kavana is the plain meaning, that middle pasuk is a bit hard to grasp. The first is clearly physical- health, wealth, safety, blessing and guardianship. The last, peace, is even more straightforward. But the middle one...what is "grace"? Clearly something spiritual, but can you put your finger on it?

Well, maybe not. But this article is sometimes described as the best thing Esquire has ever printed. I even cut it out and saved it back then. In it, you learn that Mr. Rogers didn't sign autographs; he wrote the Greek word χάρις, grace.
What is grace? He doesn't even know. He can't define it. This is a man who loves the simplifying force of definitions, and yet all he knows of grace is how he gets it; all he knows is that he gets it from God, through man. And so in Penn Station, where he was surrounded by men and women and children, he had this power, like a comic-book superhero who absorbs the energy of others until he bursts out of his shirt.
 And, at the end, the author prays with Mr. Rogers.
What is grace? I'm not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever.
It doesn't nearly explain everything, as is clear from the article itself, and I'm not even really sure how much of it, if any, is applicable here (sorry if that's anticlimactic). But it's certainly added a bit to my kavanot, and perhaps even can, indeed, add to our actual understanding of the bracha. I don't know that I can define it, but it's something we need just as much as the rest of the brachot, and something Hashem grants us in His goodness. Thank you, God, and thank you, Mr. Rogers.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


It was ten years ago today that I began blogging. I had just started a new job, a friend set up this account (long story), and I got into it.

Ten A lot's happened in those ten years. Work, play, study, ups and downs, an expanded family, relationships, friendships...and then Aliyah, a whole new world of people and experiences, meeting the most wonderful woman, marriage, and, as the decade is nearly upon us, a new job and, most significantly, a new and adorable baby. I am- we are- truly blessed.

It goes without saying that posting has decreased over the years, for any of a number of reasons, but I've always managed to do at least one post a month. Who knows what I'll do from here out, but at least the blog will stay up for now.

And, of course, thanks to my loyal readers! Stay in touch, all!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Before the big news, two more Jerusalem anecdotes:
I suppose we've gotten so used to the fact that any junk we want to get rid of will be gone within minutes of being placed on the wall outside our house that not only didn't it register that our semi-broken toaster (it needs some good whacks to get going, in case you're the new owner) was gone that quickly, but...well, I noticed that a slice of bread (untoasted) had been left in its place. I even threw it out. But it wasn't until almost a whole day later that the hilarious fact that our toaster had been replaced with a slice of bread sank in, and I laughed and laughed.
Number two:
I was waiting for a bus at Tzomet Pat yesterday when a tour bus stopped and disgorged some elderly tourists, secular Israelis, who joined me in waiting for a Rechavia-bound bus. Some of them began conversing. Eventually:

"There's a free seat at the shelter."

"No, no, the bus will be here soon."

"Mashiach will be here soon too, but that's no reason not to sit down."
And now the big news: We are proud, happy, and full of gratitude to Hashem as we welcome a new addition to our family; as of his brit yesterday, his name is Hoshen Golan. An explanation to anyone who requests. :-)

Monday, February 03, 2014

OK, one more...

Everyone's a comedian, which is appreciated, but even more so when there's that touch of Biblical/Talmudic humor in it.

I went for a haircut at my usual place yesterday. When the guy was done, I touched the top of my (rather bald) head to see if he'd cut enough there. "Oh, you want that cut as well?" the barber asked. "Sorry, I'll take care of it. I thought you wanted to leave it, you, know, zecher l'mikdash."

I didn't stop laughing until I was well on my way home.
(Hmm, two pate-related stories in a row. I really don't think about it that much, honestly.)

Sunday, February 02, 2014

And So Facebook Slowly Does Away With Blogs

...but for those of my loyal readers who follow me mostly here and not there, and I love you all, here are some recent posts from Facebook. For the comments, some of which are quite good, see there. (I leave out one post about Facebook itself.):
I'm used to people coming up to me in shul and telling me my tefillin are too low. I usually try to wave them off, but some of them are insistent.

They say R' Kook used to adjust people's tefillin, but at least he was the rav- and he knew what he was doing. With me, it's usually some ignoramus. To make matters worse, they usually have full heads of hair (lucky dogs) and simply can't grasp what the phrase "my hairline isn't where it once was" even means. (I suppose the language barrier doesn't help.)

None of that prepared me for today. Today, it was someone who- I kid you not- runs an entire organization (in Brooklyn, naturally) devoted to this topic. He had a spiral-bound book and glossy fliers all about his cause. And he kept going on about how I'm violating a d'orayta, need to take care of this today, and how- I'm quoting here- "I'm doing you a big favor." (The Karaite myth didn't come up, alas.) All this in the middle of hagba. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think talking during davening ranks a bit higher on the no-nos.

When faced with that sort of lunacy, you just nod, smile, and try to slowly back away. While saying your "V'Zot HaTorah," "Acheinu," and Amens, which, as I said, I think God is a bit more interested in.

 (This is from last week, and so a bit dated, but not much:)
So here's a timeline of headlines:

Sunday: Bibi announces that he won't remove any Israelis from their homes. Subtext, not picked up on by me then: Settlers are free to live under the PA if they want.

Monday: Bennett blasts Bibi, saying this is a stupid idea. (It is, on a number of levels.) On the same day, in a different paper, the headline informs us that the PA rejects the idea out of hand. Their future state will be Judenrein, thank you very much.

So, Monday night, Efrat and I decide that Bibi may well be being devious- offer the PA a deal which they'll inevitably reject (because they're evil and, thankfully, stupid), and thus expose them as a bunch of anti-Semites, not that it will convince anyone who doesn't like Israel or Jews anyway.

Sure enough, Tuesday's headline: Bibi blasts Bennett for ruining his perfect opportunity to expose the Palestinians as a bunch of "racists and anti-Semites" (which seems to have worked anyway, but maybe he wanted to make it "official"). Bennett's people respond by complaining that Bibi never told them it was part of a big plan.

You just have to laugh sometimes. (As Tom Wolfe once wrote, "It's a great life, if you don't weaken.") But it leaves the following questions: Are Efrat and I officially smarter than Bennett? (One of us voted for him, a decision still not regretted overall.) If so, why is he so much richer and more powerful than us? Was Bennett just playing to his base? Or, frighteningly, does Bennett perhaps know that Bibi really is the squish we think him to be? Or is all this really part of some huge plan? (On the last, at least: Nah.)

Finally saw The Hobbit Part Two (yeah, I know that's not its name) yesterday. Probably one of the last showings in theaters, so I had to go with the 3-D, which doesn't work for me, but I enjoyed it. So long as you don't expect Jackson to stick to the book- and he deviates wildly, oddly enough not only (obviously, for long trilogy) adding whole plots either from other Tolkien writings or from his own imagination, but ironically making some very clear omissions (I can only assume they'll be in the extended versions, but whatever)- it can be fun. Sometimes inadvertently funny, as in some of the over-the-top fight scenes, but what's wrong with a laugh? I guess I'm not a purist, especially if the result isn't bad.

Another year till the next...I'm having flashbacks to LOTR in 2001 and 2002.

I may have mentioned this last year, but it's certainly odd having to follow along constructed languages such as Quenya (Elvish), Khuzdul (Dwarf language), Black Speech, and Orkish in Hebrew subtitles. Same for Klingon last year.

One more thing: I know they tailor trailers to the main feature, but three of the four trailers were for Marvel movies. Wow. (The fourth was the Robocop remake, Hashem Yerachem.)

My English teacher in the seventh and eighth grades (twenty-five years ago!) was Mr. Harvey Brodsky. He was amazing. (Note added for blog: Most of my classmates, unlike me, had younger and not older brothers in the school. Mr. Brodsky would assign all sorts of "risky" books- like "To Kill a Mockingbird"- there would be howls of outrage from parents, and the books would not be assigned the next year. Fortunately, I got to read them before the hissy fits.)

My parents send regular "care packages" of articles and the like I might find interesting. What a delight to discover, in the latest one, an article showing that Mr. Brodsky is still going strong. May his tribe increase.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Small world, or at least city

On Friday we went to have brunch with a friend of my wife's from "the old country" who's visiting. Said friend was a classmate of mine in law school, but I don't think had any idea I had made aliyah, married her friend, or would be at the brunch.

There were about six or seven other friends of hers there as well. As the meal progressed, we realized we knew all of them- separately. Because ten people live in this whole country. (And we know six of them.)

As we often must, to get there, we had to stroll through the "closed zone" around the Prime Minister's residence, next door to us.

The small blonde border policewoman standing guard at one of the entrances caught our eye. She went to her chair, drank some water, and then picked up a small book, sat down and started reading. "She's *davening*," I observed to Efrat. "I love this country."