When Zman Simchateinu Lost Its Joie de Vivre

I always had the feeling, back in The States that there was more gusto to Sukkot than I was experiencing, especially on the intermediate days when I always went to work. Yes, I could have taken off, but there wasn’t much else to do that you couldn’t do any other day of the year – so why bother, why use up my vacation days just to make a point. Plus, Sukkot was usually in October, meaning it was starting to get a bit chilly, and there was often enough precipitation to rain on one’s parade. I remember one particular Sukkot when I was leaving our synagogue, noticing an enormous grinning plastic pumpkin on a lawn up the block. Halloween was everywhere, and our holiday, not so much.

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Eliminate the Frippery

Our regularly scheduled Wed. evening gemara shiur got put on hold a few weeks ago because Nachum was in quasi-bidud (‘bidud’ is what they call isolation here in The Land). He had visited someone in the hospital who may or may not have had COVID-19, but who definitely did wind up dying of something. Nachum was awaiting his own test results when he called me. Maybe we could reschedule for the next night? Turns out we couldn’t because, while his first test was negative, they wanted him to take a second test, which also turned out negative. And that prompted me to send him a link to a recording on You Tube of the Johnny Mercer- Harold Arlen standard, Accentuate the Positive (Eliminate the negative). Because my mind works in strange and wondrous ways, I thought that maybe we all should be focused on eliminating the unnecessary over the Hagim. Or better still, Accentuate the has-to-be, eliminate the frippery.

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How Ya Gonna Get Them Back in the Shul….

Let’s jump ahead to the morning of Sep. 19, which if you remember or have a calendar handy, was both Shabbat and the first day of Rosh Hashanah. By the time a friend showed up to our apartment, tallit and siddur in hand, I had already started davening. There I was in the living room with Shekhi curled up on my lap.

There are several questions one might ask about what I just wrote. What are you guys doing in your living room when you should be in shul? If your friend is not in shul, why is he davening at your place? And who or what is this Shekhi, assisting you in davening? Now that I’ve aroused you from your torpor, I can begin the next episode about this continuing tale of woe and disaster.

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All I Need to Know

Where should I begin this particular chapter: at the beginning, which was several years ago; the prologue, which is the beginning of the beginning, almost sixty years ago; the beginning of what’s important in the narrative, four or five months ago; or what’s happening now, starting, say, two months ago? Decisions, decisions…….. Let me tell it this way and hope you can follow along.

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Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Pontification

Most of us have family and friends who live far away, sometimes oceans apart. We understand, despite our best wishes and intentions, that we’re not going to see them in person very often – even in times when we’re allowed to freely travel hither and yon, which is not now. But good friends who live a few hours away, shouldn’t that be doable? Why can’t we get together when we’re not being locked down or too intimidated by the virus? Frustrating, isn’t it.

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What to Do?; I’m Masking You!

Have I said anything yet about masks? No, I’m not talking about masks as in Purim or Halloween; nor do I have in mind something you would wear to rob a bank, God forbid. Not even as in The Lone Ranger or Batman. I mean the de rigueur face covering that we’ve been wearing the last few months as a protection from the pandemic. That’s a biggie. You can’t say much about Life with COVID-19 without discussing masks, what they’re for and people’s reaction to them. At first, the authorities who are supposed to be telling us what to do downplayed the importance of covering our faces, only to do a Netanyahu-like 180° turn and say we must wear masks outdoors and in public places. That may seem arbitrary; it may seem onerous; but it doesn’t seem hard to do. Place the darn thing on your face, adjust the straps over your ear, and move it up or down until the top of the mask is covering the bridge of your nose. Like many endeavors, however, there is one way to do it correctly and a host of ways to do it wrong. I won’t go so far as to describe your average Israeli as a virtuoso  of doing things not exactly according to Hoyle, but many of them do work at it (as in, screw up a check-out line in a supermarket by leaving their cart unattended in the line while they run around the store to do more shopping – which is why I only do automated checkout). As far as how to mis-wear a surgical mask, Natania’s video explains it all. Continue reading

Professor Y

As in, Why did I ever get involved?

It started innocently enough, all things considered. Several years ago, Natania noticed a message on a bulletin board at Hebrew U. from one of the professors, a very prominent academician. He was looking for someone to assist him in fine-tuning his research papers. The qualifications were obvious: knowledge in the field and a mastery of the English language. That sounds like my daughter. Any child growing up in our home would understand when to use ‘I’ and when to use ‘me’ in a sentence. The science part? That she didn’t get from me.

Natania, having only two or three other jobs at the time, answered the call and began working with Professor Y. And then, somehow, this winter, I was brought into the picture. Actually, I know exactly how and why they got me involved. Professor Y is extremely well-regarded in his field and deservedly so. Like many scientific researchers, however, he has toiled year after year in relative anonymity. What prompted him to seek a small bit of glory, I cannot say, but the good professor decided that he was entitled to a page of his own in Wikipedia. Maybe because he is entering the twilight of his career, it’s now or never. (Something I can appreciate.) He mentioned the project to Natania, as in Can you help me with this?  To which our daughter responded that a) she was up to her neck trying to complete the requirements for her Master’s degree and b) she knew absolutely nothing about Wikipedia. However, she said, my daddy does. Continue reading

It Was a Pleasant Evening Down by the Puddle……

It was a pleasant evening down by the puddle.

One of the things I’ve written about elsewhere is something from my childhood that wouldn’t happen today. Going to the movies when they would show a double feature with cartoons, newsreels, and coming attractions thrown in for good measure (no commercials) without any intermissions. You could buy a ticket and walk in any time, so invariably you’d come into the middle of a movie. Of course, the ‘middle’ might have been ten minutes after the movie started or ten minutes before it ended. Either way, you had to try and figure out what was going on, knowing that, if you sat there long enough, it would be shown again, and you would wind up back in the ‘middle’ where you came in, and then you’d know for sure what the movie was about. What I’m going to write about might be viewed as being in the actual middle, the beginning of the middle or near the end of the middle, but none of us are foolish enough to claim to know which it is. But, sooner or later, by combining my literary efforts with those of Natania, you’ll get the whole picture – starting here. But for now, we’re describing events in July 2020, not March when the saga actually started. Continue reading