We about half way through the month of Elul, a time for introspection and self-examination (cheshbon ha-nefesh, a personal accounting). We are reminded of the approach of Rosh Hashanah by the blowing of the shofar every weekday. This week’s Torah reading, which demands that the Israelites accept the covenant and agree to serve the Lord with all their heart and soul, provides a nice parallel to the season. [Biblical scholars would translate “heart” as more encompassing mental processes, rationality, wisdom, etc., while “soul” is the physical being, breath, etc. There’s a lot more in Joel M. Hoffman’s Lost in Mistranslation, excerpted in the Fall, 2010 issue of Reform Judaism, passed along by Stanley (Thanks, Stanley).]
The Israelites, approaching the end of their journey, are given specific scripts to recite when bringing their first fruits for sacrifice and after donating tithes, scripts that explicitly thank and recognize the Lord as the source of their bounty. Like the donations themselves, this is meant to foster humility. Then the people are told to write the Law on large, plastered rocks (Biblical billboards) and build an altar of unhewn stones nearby for offering sacrifices. What follows in the text are instructions for a dramatic, antiphonal proclamation of blessings and curses by the Levites, with the tribes aligned, one half on Mount Gerizim facing the other on Mount Ebal, responding “Amen” to each curse, but not the blessings (hmmm). Then we read the Tochachah, blessings that will accrue if the Israelites obey the commandments (not nominally, but faithfully, with genuine intent) and curses that will befall them if they don’t. Remember the minor Tochachah (Leviticus 26:3-46)? This is the major one. The curses are traditionally chanted by the Torah reader quickly and in an undertone, but you can read all the gory details for yourself in the text. The blessings are the usual general ones, especially concerning fecundity and accompanying prosperity. The curses are very graphic and detailed, encompassing threats of physical harm, disease, being starvation and cannibalism, being conquered and dispersed, constant futility (you’ll build a house and another will live in it, you’ll plant olive trees and vines but get no oil or wine from them, etc.), and so on. Those are all largely external punishments. What is even worse are internal ones, such as those in 28:65-67: “…you shall find no peace, nor shall your foot find a place to rest. The Lord will give you there an anguished heart and eyes that pine and a despondent spirit. 66 The life you face shall be precarious; you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival. 67 In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening you shall say, “If only it were morning!” — because of what your heart shall dread and your eyes shall see.” Another translation of v. 66, more exact and even more terrifying, is outright insanity: “And your life will hang before you, and you will be frightened night and day, and you will not believe in your life.” What a nightmare. (See R. Avi Weinstein’s comments, “The Worst Curse Is To Lose All Control” at http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Weekly_Torah_Portion/kitavo_hillel2000.shtml .) Moses then reminds the Israelites of all the miracles they’ve experienced, though he doubts they are capable of appreciating them, but assures them that if they join with the Lord in this covenant, they will succeed.
The haftarah, the sixth one of consolation, Isaiah 60:1-22, is full of images of light and hope and is indeed consoling to the reader who is shell-shocked after the Torah reading.
Top Ten Signs the Guy Sitting next to you at Shul is Osama Bin Laden [lightly touched up]:
by weekly bang 9/11/09 Posted: 09-11-2009(Viewed 2026 times)
10. Has the longest beard in the room but totally screwed up p’sicha [opening the ark]
9. Claims he’s been living in a cave for years (you thought he meant learning in Lakewood, NJ)
8. Really liked the Torah portion about Burning Bush
7. Cheers for the tochacha
6. You ask him what his wife does, he responds: “Which one?”
5. Greets mourners with “Im yirtzah Hashem [G-d willing] by you”
4. Says he’s from the middle east, but doesn’t know any of your cousins.
3. Sponsors 9/11 Kiddush
2. His Al Qaeda Purim costume looked a little too authentic
1. Called up to the torah “Osama Ben Laden”
A Selection of Curses
from Nahum Stutchkoff’s Thesaurus of the Yiddish Language [selected from a list of 39]
Zol es im onkumn vos ikh vintsh im (khotsh a helft, khotsh halb, khotsh a tsent kheylik).
Let what I wish on him come true (most, even half, even just 10%).
Khasene hobn zol er mit di malekh hamoves tokhter.
He should marry the daughter of the Angel of Death.
Azoy fil ritzinoyl zol er oystrinkn.
He should drink too much castor oil.
Oyf doktoyrim zol er dos avekgebn.
He should give it all away to doctors.
Trinkn zoln im piavkes.
Leeches should drink him dry.
Migulgl zol er vern in a henglayhter, by tog zol er hengen, un bay nakht zol er brenen.
He should be transformed into a chandelier, to hang by day and to burn by night.
May you grow like an onion- with your head in the ground!
November 18, 2005 12:01 AM
“May you be like a lamp: hang by day, burn by night and be snuffed out in the morning.” Welcome to the long tradition of Yiddish curses. According to one scholar of insults: Curses in other languages differ from Yiddish in both content and style…Anglo-Saxon cultures prefer insults dealing with excrement and body parts, Catholic countries are partial to blasphemy, and cultures of the Middle and Far East go for ancestor insults, while Yiddish curses have a baroque splendor. A bunch more examples are here [http://www.hashkafah.com/index.php?/topic/6218-nasty-yiddish/ ].
posted by i_am_joe’s_spleen at 12:41 AM on November 18, 2005 :
My favourite of all time: Es soll tziblis in sayn pupik waksn.
(Onions should grow in his navel).
posted by yankeefog at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2005 :
And one that I didn’t see on any of these lists plays on the fact that “May God make you like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” is traditional Jewish blessing:
“May God make you like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Like Abraham, may you wander from town to town; like Isaac, may you go blind; and like Jacob, may your children plot to kill each other.”
KosherFest – Best New Kosher Food Winners
by KosherFest Posted: 11-15-2007(Viewed 1745 times)
So you don’t think there has been innovation in kosher foods since Oreos? Say hello to the winners of the Kosherfest 2007 New Product Competition: [mainly fruit-related ones. IGP]
· Best New Snack Food – Zesty Veggie Latke Crisps, Thou Shall Snack, Seattle, WA;
· Best New Fine Foods from Israel – Strawberry Vanilla Fruit Fusion, Oxygen Imports, Carteret, NJ;
· Best New Beverage – Totally Light Energy Rush Berry, 4C Food Corp, Brooklyn, NY;
· Best New Jam, Preserve or Spread – Tishbi Estate Red Wine Preserves, Oxygen Imports, Carteret, NJ;
· Best New Kosher Organic Product – Elite Naturel Honeydew Melon Juice, Elite Naturel/Organic Juice USA, Bohemia, NY;
· Best New Foodservice Product – Shofar So Good Apron, Davida Aprons & Logo Programs, Huntington Park, CA; [since it’s Elul]
· Best New Wine, Beer or Spirit – Rimon Pomegranate Dessert Wine – 2005, Rimon Winery (Cannonball Wine Co.), Menlo Park, CA
Prayers go up and blessings come down.
Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings to counting your troubles.
Maltbie D. Babcock
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.
Author Unknown, from Be Thankful
How To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity! [That is not an oxymoron. IGP] [Selected]
At lunchtime, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.
Put your garbage can on your desk and label it “IN.”
Develop an unnatural fear of staplers.
Put decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has gotten over their caffeine addictions, switch to espresso.
Specify that your drive-through order is “to go.”
Find out where your boss shops and buy exactly the same outfits. Wear them one day after your boss does. This is especially effective if your boss is of the opposite gender.
Call the psychic hotline and don’t say anything.
When the money comes out of the ATM, scream “I Won! I Won! 3rd time this week!”
Tell your boss, “It’s not the voices in my head that bother me, it’s the voices in your head that do.”
Tell your children over dinner, “Due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go.”