באותה שעה גזרו על היחוד ועל הפנויה. יחוד דאורייתא היא! אלא אימא: על יחוד דפנויה
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Rather than write a blogpost, I am simply copying and pasting an email, which I sent an hour or so ago to a colleague. Personal matters have been omitted.
Thank you so much for your email. The piyyut is from medieval Italy, probably 12th or 13th century. (No earlier than 11th, because it shows clear influences of the late-10th-century "Odkha Ki Anafta", and no later than 14th, because it appears in manuscripts from then.)
It occurs to me that the piyyut is probably later than "Ahallel El Beminnim", another Hanukkah yotzer, because "Ahallel" also begins with Alexander. The difference is that "Ahallel" is based directly on the historical narrative of Josippon, from Alexander's conquest through the victory of Judah Maccabee. The Alexander section of "Ahallel" tells the story of Alexander and the High Priest, like our yotzer, but then it goes on to tell the stories of Heliodorus, the translation of the Septuagint, and finally (the bulk of the poem) the various events associated with Antiochus IV and the Maccabees.
If our paytan was inspired by "Ahallel", it means he was so enamored of the Alexander section that he decided to devote almost the entirety of his piyyut to Alexander, and only mention the Maccabean victory very briefly, at the very end. This means that he "recasts" (to use your term) the story of Hanukkah, or, at the very least, shifts the weight of the holiday to Alexander.
This is interesting, because we know that Alexander was a popular character in medieval European literature in general. Usually, when we think of Alexander in medieval literature, we think of the Alexander Romance, which was available in many languages, including Hebrew (where it found its way into later versions of Josippon). However, the stories told in our yotzer are not those of the Alexander Romance, but of the Talmud and Midrash. Perhaps further research (not mine, but I'll make an appeal for such research in my publication of this yotzer!) will uncover further evidence that Jews associated Hanukkah with telling stories about Alexander. (Or, on the other hand, perhaps not -- it could have been the creative innovation of our paytan, who wanted to make Hanukkah about Alexander, but did not succeed in spreading this idea.)
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
For some time now, I’ve been wondering what the origin is of the tune for Dayyenu that is now used almost universally. My father once heard a friend say that they had seen in some article that “the Dayyenu tune is over 1,000 years old”, but this is obviously ignorance and folly. The tune sounds quite 20th century – hardly likely – late 19th century. There are a few old recordings of the text being chanted in lern niggen [the tune used for reading the Talmud], like the rest of the Haggada; I grew up with part of the text being chanted in the current tune, and the rest in lern niggen.
For the past few years, Phillip and I have each had a theory about the current tune, though neither of us had seen any evidence, other than “how the tune sounds”. Phillip guessed that the tune was from 1950s Israel, whereas I guessed that it was from 1920s-1930s New York (from the circle of people associated with institutions such as the Educational Alliance). By the late 1950s, one can certainly find many recordings of the tune, from Israel, the United States, and possibly also other countries.
In the past week or so, I have decided to search for more evidence. I remembered the existence of the dissertation The Music of the Passover Seder from Notated Sources (1644-1945) [University of Maryland, 1980]. This dissertation is not available on Proquest, but I knew that there was a copy at the JTS library. Unfortunately, though, the JTS library has been closed for the past week. However, it re-opened today, so I was excited to go to the library and check this out.
I got there today, quickly found the dissertation, and looked up “Dayyenu”. It said that the “common tune” is first found notated by Idelsohn, in his massive Hebräisch-Orientalischer Melodienschatz, volume IX, Der Volkgesang der Osteuropäischen Juden; and that it has been notated in zillions of places since then. (Newhouse’s dissertation focusses mainly on notated sources from before 1945, but she will occasionally make reference to later notated sources, if they parallel earlier sources.) It is clear that in a dissertation from 1980 America, a reference to “the common tune” for Dayyenu must be to the tune which is so familiar today.
This was surprising to me, because I tend to associate Idelsohn with the very early twentieth century, and this tune does not sound like it is from so early. (This is besides the fact that it was interesting to find that it went back to Eastern Europe, rather than Israel or the United States, as Phillip and I, respectively, had guessed.) However, when I went over to the Idelsohn volumes, I realized (and vaguely remembered) that Idelsohn had started out by doing ethnomusicological research in areas such as Iraq and Yemen; he got to the Ashkenazim only later on in his career, such that the volume in question, volume 9, is from 1932.
I opened that volume, and found that, sure enough, he had the tune, and it was identical to how it is commonly sung today. (Often, when one finds the first evidence of a particular tune, it is in a form quite different from the form known today.) On the page, Idelsohn provides no further information about the tune’s origin, and he does not seem to have anything about it in the introduction. And yet –
There was something interesting. As an ethnographer, Idelsohn was careful to transcribe words as they were actually pronounced by his informants. Yet for this tune, unlike for most others in the book, the words are transcribed not in any form of Ashkenazic Hebrew, but in Zionist, Sephardified Hebrew: “Il-lu na-tan la-nu et ha-to-ra, da-ye-nu.”
What could this mean? Presumably, the tune was from Eastern European Zionists. What (little) I know about the music of such people fits with the tune; and in fact, it fits rather well with the guesses made my Phillip and by me – the people who were Zionists in Eastern Europe in the early 1930s were often from the same circles as people who would later be in Israel in the 1950s, and even in New York in the 1920s or 30s. (OK, maybe the people in the Educational Alliance in the 1910s would have been more Bundists than Zionists – I don’t know exactly – but their tastes in music were probably similar.)
So, now we’ve got a hypothesis. It would be interesting to see if there’s any more evidence we can find.
[Incidentally, the refrain is transcribed by Idelsohn as “da da ye nu”, as commonly heard in cantorial recordings from the 1950s and 1960s, and not as “dai dai yenu”, as commonly heard today. This makes sense, too: while there is a dagesh hazaq in the yod, such that the first syllable would be dai, not da, in many pronunciations of Hebrew, Zionist Hebrew would hardly pronounce the word as dai ye nu, but rather as da ye nu. And so, when the first syllable is repeated, this becomes da da ye nu.]
Friday, November 2, 2012
Baking leavened bread, the second Friday in a row. It looks like this might become part of my regular Friday morning ritual. I don't even really like leavened bread much (though hopefully this will be better than the puffy stuff one buys in a store), but the ultimate goal is to get good enough at making leavened bread to be able to be facile at making unleavened bread.
Last week, I put in way too much salt. Let's see what error happens this week. Anyway, this week I'm having guests on Shabbes evening (Friday night), so hopefully the bread will be edible.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
We then were taken to see The Rebbe. We were instructed by our guide to keep our quiet when entering his Dining Chamber.
We opened the double-doors, silently filed in, and closed them behind us.
The Rebbe was wearing a green wrap dress, typical of those of women, except that it had cargo pockets. He was seated in a comfortable chair, at his table, holding a glass of wine in his right hand, which he was slowly swinging back and forth.
He was listening to the chamber orchestra which was playing on the other side of the room, near the air conditioner. The music sounded to be Vivaldi.
The table was all set with various platters of cut-up fruit, and other things to eat, in addition to bottles of white wine and other beverages, including water. The Rebbe motioned for us to come to the table and sit down.
He said to us: "I am so glad you have come here! You have come just in time for the beautiful poetic berakha over the wine, found in the Cairo Geniza. Unfortunately, the original version of it, in which it itself makes up the berakha, was declared forbidden by the Geonim, because it turns a 'short berakha' into a 'long berakha'. So, we will use the trick which medieval communities did with other berakhoth mefuyyatoth -- instead of sticking the poetic expansion after the opening words of the berakha, such that the word אשר continues from מלך העולם, we'll tack it onto the end of the berakha, so that the word אשר continues from the appellation of God there. Plus, we'll cut out the חתימה at the end."
He poured us each a glass of wine, and raised his glass with his right hand. With his other hand, he motioned to the pianist to accompany him on the piano.
He sang out:
ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגפן
We said "Amen", and he drank a sip, but then, quickly, removed the glass from his lips, and continued:
אשר ברא יין עסיס / ותירוש טוב מעצי גפנים
והוא ערב לנפש וטוב לאדם / ומשמח לב ומצהיל פנים
והוא תנחומין לאבלים / ומרי נפש ישכחו רישן
והוא רפואה לכל שותיו / למי שישתנו בטעם ובדעת
הוא שמחת לבב ששון / ורב גילה לשותין אותו.
הוא אלוהינו יצרו מאז / להתענג במעשים כוננו מראש
שכל שותיו יברכו לאל / וישבחו ליוצר בינה
המכין מעדני תבל / ויָצַר למתוקי ארץ
אשר ברא תירוש מן הגפן / והתקין עסיס מן ענבים
להשביע נפש רעבה / ולמלא נפש שוקקה
שותיו ישמח לבו / על פרי מעשיו יברכו לבוראהו.
המלך המרומם לבדו
האל הקדוש / בורא פרי הגפן.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Over 50 months ago (4+ years), I made a list of toys that I wanted:
3. festive green porôches for Yomim Tôvim
4. painting of myself
5. sifrei mikro on kelof
6. Computer program for creating musical notation
In the meantime, I have actually gotten 1-5:
1. I've got 6 käppchen: three black, two white, one green.
2. I bought a printer-scanner-copier about four years ago. It had issues throughout its lifespan: it was slow, often didn't do what I wanted to do, had a terrible scan feature, and sometimes didn't work at all. I threw it out last year.
3. It's not a professionally-made parokheth, but I do have a nice piece of green fabric, cut to size and shape, hanging on my aron qodesh.
4. I've got two paintings of myself, painted by Janet.
6. Jen wrote me Ekha and Qoheleth, and gave me a Sefer Tora. I would still like to commission the others, of course, but this is a big start.
I never did get #6.
I should now make a new list of toys which I would like:
1. Because I never did get that musical-notation software, let me make it #1 here. I would still like it, but don't know when I'll buy it.
3. Green wrap-dress.
5. Enormous huggable plush wolf.
6. Enormous huggable plush lion.
7. I'll have my (=Louisa's, but in my possession through at least 2027) electric piano when I return to New York in September, but it might be nice one day to buy a real acoustic piano with hammers and strings. For that matter, it would be nice to have a an ‘oud to hang on the wall, and maybe learn how to play it, and have professional or amateur lutenists play it while I have dinner parties. And maybe even a chamber orchestra, in order to be able to have concerts of chamber music, and even chamber operas, in my living room.
8. Of course, the other books of Tanakh on klaf.
How's that for a start?
Friday, June 15, 2012
After years of dreaming of one day buying a shtraimel; months of seriously (on-and-off) planning to buy one one; and weeks of looking at the sign advertising that they're selling at Adler Shtraimlekh starting at $690, I finally went to find the shtraimel store.
A few days ago, I looked up the location, #5 Yehuda Ha-makkabi St., on a map. It turns out that it's a five-minute walk from my house.
So, this morning, at about 11 AM, I put on a white shirt and dark pants (to not look like a weird tourist or mocker), and walked over to that street.
I found that #5, like many (or perhaps all) the addresses on that street, is a huge building complex. I walked around inside the huge courtyard, until I found signs pointing to Adler Shtraimlekh.
I walked up the stairs, and found an unmarked door. There was a chasidic or perhaps Yerushalmi man standing out on the balcony. I asked him: "Is this Adler shtraimlekh?" He said: "Yes."
He asked: "Why do you want to know?" I said: "Because I want to enter." He said: "Oh, do you work there?" (Odd -- if I worked there, wouldn't I know where it was?) I said: "No, I would like to shop there."
He said: "Ah, to buy a shtraimel. For a chassene?" I said: "Yes." (Well, not exactly, but I eventually hope to get married one day, and probably will wear my shtraimel at least at on point during the wedding. Cough, cough. I could have said: "No, it was just time for me to buy a shtraimel; I felt that I'm old enough to be an adult." So I'm adopting the clothing of their culture, but not their cultural assumptions. Hmmm. Anyway, there are some groups where unmarried men wear shtraimlekh -- according to Wikipedia, yerushalmis. And rebbishe einiklech in various chasidic groups, but I'm not that.)
He asked: "When is the chassene?" I said: "Not for a while -- after tishebov." (Not technically false -- if I get married, it will almost certainly be at some point later than this tishebov.)
He asked: "Where is the chassene?" I said: "New York." (Again, most likely true.) To keep up the conversation, I said: "You've been to New York?"
He said: "Yes. So why are you getting a shtraimel here? You could get one for much cheaper in New York." (Unless I misheard, and he said "better" (yoter tov), and not "cheaper" (yoter zol).)
I was very surprised by this. Is it possible that this could be so? Judaica items are always cheaper here, and besides, the chasidim here are really poor, because they tend not to work. Chasidim here in Jerusalem wear cheap synthetic-fur shtraimlekh, whereas chasidim in New York have money, because they work at B&H (the camera store), so they wear real fur shtraimlekh. (And chasidim in Antwerp work in the diamond industry, so they are probably even more well-off than the ones in New York, so they probably own multiple real-fur shtraimlekh.)
I said: "Well, I'm here now, so I would like to buy one here. Are they open on Fridays?"
He said: "Yes, usually. Why don't you knock?"
I knocked the door, and rang the bell, but nobody answered. It seemed that there was nobody inside; at one point, a telephone rang inside the store, but nobody picked it up.
So I went home. But now at least I know where it is; I'll go back some time in the middle of the day on a weekday, next week.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
This past Saturday night, I ordered my haggadoth from Lulu.com
As of today, they still had not shipped, and I was beginning to get worried.
I went to the Lulu.com support chat. The good news is that the support staff were quite good: They spoke English, understood the problem, and were able to explain to me what was going on.
The bad news is that my order had been cancelled, because the credit card had failed. (I'm pretty sure the reason for this is that I clicked "use shipping address as billing address", and the shipping address was my dad's address, rather than one with my name.)
So, this meant that I would need to start from scratch.
I re-uploaded the PDF, and made a new order. The problem is that printing can take 3-5 business days (though it never has taken more than two days in my experience, and has even taken one day), and my father is leaving for Israel on Wednesday night.
So, I chose "express shipping" (24 hours after printing), which cost me a bloody fortune -- $60. I sure hope it arrives in time. If it prints tomorrow, then it will arrive at my dad's place on Saturday; if it ships on Monday, it will arrive at his place on Tuesday; if it ships on Tuesday, it will arrive at his place on Wednesday.
If it ships later, I simply won't receive it.
But that will be OK, right? I can calm down? If that happens, I can print 3 or 4 copies at a print shop here, even though they won't be nicely bound? And if I have more than four people at either seider, people can share.
It won't be super-beautiful, or impressive for me, but does it really need to be? Isn't that just feeding narcissism, not freedom? (That is, it's OK to want it to be beautiful, but if I'm going to freak out and feel like a failure if it's not, that's not going to be good for me at all.)
Thursday, March 22, 2012
It strikes me that it had been written on gevil (unsplit leather), rather than qelaf (parchment), this wouldn't have been a cause for worry. At least, that's what Yaakov has always told me.
That's why you can write a mezuza on gevil, in "Dio Lanetzach", and keep it in a large glass mezuza-case, filled with water and a few goldfish, and it will remain OK. Does anyone do that, though?
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
I have a wet Sefer Tora in my apartment. This does not make me happy.
There's a safruth store a block or two away. I hope I can convince someone tomorrow to come from the store and take a look at it, to tell me what to do.
Monday, March 19, 2012
me: Anyway, did you open the email? [NB: The email said just: "In faire Verona where we lay our Scene...".]
Phillip: yes,yes, R&J
10:49 AM me: Or just MS Verona - Seminario Maggiore 34
10:50 AM Phillip: hence the italics
10:53 AM me: That's not actually why I did the italics, do you realize?
10:56 AM Phillip: No. Because it is in Italy?
me: No (but I thought of that since you wrote the thing about the Italics)
10:57 AM Phillip: so?
me: Because that's how it is in the 1599 Quarto
10:59 AM Phillip: Ah, of course. I didn't know this particular word was in italics, of course, but that explanation should have occurred to me.
11:02 AM me: OK
What?!!! You didn't know that that word was in italics? Did you even pass your Abitur?!?!!
11:07 AM Phillip: Yes, we learned all of Schekspear by rote, and in English, but in blackletter, of course.
11:18 AM me: Ah, not a single italic word among them./
But you did memorize other typographical features, such as capital letters, yes?
11:19 AM Phillip: Obviously. No wussy liberal teachings about "meanings" and such nonsense.
me: Right. This is Germany, of course.
I've got almost three weeks to make Pesach -- that is, to make magic in my apartment, turning it from a plain, filthy one-room hovel into a glorious, beautiful Roman triclinium.
My brain is less able to focus on work during these weeks -- and that's OK. It really is. It's OK not only when I'm tootling around Washington Heights and attending a "class" every few days or so, and occasionally doing some reading for said "class", but even when I'm occupied with hardcore work at the IMHM on a daily basis. It's OK to get less work done, as long as I'm still regularly doing work.
- Two days ago (Saturday night), I removed my mattress from the slat base, and put it on the floor.
- On Sunday morning, I bought a plunger (and successfully cleared out the drain of the kitchen sink, which had been clogged and festering with a cesspool of bacteria for weeks).
- On that same shopping trip, I bought a mat and a blanket, to put over the slat base, to turn it into a bed. Even with these, it was still not usable.
- Later on Sunday, I did a fair amount of work on my Haggada. I would like to finish all corrections and updates by Friday, and send it to Lulu.com then.
- This morning (Monday), I brought my suits to the drycleaner, and the Torah scroll's torn mantel to the tailor. On the same shopping trip, I bought three large pillows (sale: 15 NIS each, only three left) to put between the ratty-blanket-lying-on-the-slats and the new-(albeit-smallish)-blanket-that-I-had-bought-yesterday. I also bought four decorative cushions.
- I set up the large pillows between the blankets, and lo, that thing is starting to become a rather comfortable bed.
- What else did I buy this morning? Don't remember. I need to find little tables somewhere.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
In Selichoth this morning, there was a piyyut by Menachem bar Machir (late 11th to early 12th century, Regensburg), אדם בקום עלינו, telling the Purim story. It reminded me quite a lot of the piyyut of his which I'm working on these days, אודך כי עניתני, for Hanukkah. Long, narrative poem, too many words in each line, each stanza ends in a biblical verse, usually from somewhere unconnected to the story. (In the Hanukkah one, only the first stanza ends in a verse from a prophecy about the Hasmoneans, ועוררתי בניך ציון על בניך יון, and in the Purim one, only the last stanza ends in a verse from the Megilla, רוח והצלה יעמוד ליהודים.)
Makes me think that someone should put out an edition of the collected poems of MbM. (Probably not me; I'm more into holidays and rites than individual poets. It's a different way of organizing a book. Both are important.) Davidson lists twenty poems of his, in many different genres (in contrast to many Ashkenazic contemporaries of his, who wrote almost exclusively Selichoth), and I would be surprised if people haven't discovered several more in the past 90 years..
Friday, March 2, 2012
I've been taking some of my huge clunky files of textual variants in the largest (=most lines and highest numbers of manuscripts) piyyutim, and turning them into usable texts, by typesetting the poetry stichometrically, adding vocalization and line-numbers, and typesetting the textual variants in the form of a readable apparatus criticus, rather than as ugly, clunky footnotes. In the piyyutim which quote pieces of Biblical verses at fixed points in each stanza (say, the last line of each stanza), I have been adding the citation references at the side of the page, next to the line, rather than in the commentary.
This last activity has gotten me thinking about the use of Biblical verses in (both versions of) Menaḥem bar Makhir's piyyut Odkha Ki ‘Anithani. He's really incorporating these verses into his narrative quite skillfully, and I'm intrigued by how he's repeatedly going back many of the same Biblical chapters, thus intertextually linking his narrative to those stories. (Thus, for example, the sexual elements of the Hanukkah narrative* get linked to the story of the Rape of Dinah in Genesis 34.) Also, it's interesting how he seems to make an effort to find Biblical verses containing the names of characters in his story, such as Judah or Hannah, even though the Biblical verses are obviously referring to the Biblical characters of those names.
*[Ha, I bet you didn't know there were any sexual elements of the Hanukkah narative.]
But wait, there's more: Menaḥem actually begins the piyyut with an introduction which speaks more directly of the Biblical connection. Implicitly, he is telling us how he is going to be composing the rest of the poem. He spends the first few stanzas, through line 18, singing of how the events of the Hellenistic and Maccabean periods, though they occurred in post-Biblical times, had already been foreeen by the Biblical prophets:
I give thanks to Thee, for though hast answered [my prayer], kept me alive, and not finished me off,
Thou hast not let mine enemies rejoice over me, and thou hast brought me up out of the netherworld,
I praise Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast drawn me up.
From way back in time, thou wast aware, and had the intended [events] inscribed,
Before the news happened, Thou madest them known, and announced them:
I shall raise up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece (Zechariah 9:13)
Thou didst redeem me way back in time, from the mortar and bricks of Pibeseth and Aven [Egypt],
And thus also from Hellas, the mucky pit of evil-doers,
Out of the horrible pit, the miry clay.
The dearly beloved man [Daniel] dreamed explicitly of the matter of the Third Empire [=the Greeks],
The image of a tiger, with four impressive wings,
And then it split into four heads [the tetrarchy].
He [Daniel] was shown, a second time, a goat [symbolizing Alexander's empire] which grew and became formidably mighty,
And the great horn, and the image of four [horns] which became established beneath it --
Northward, southward, eastward, and westward.
Only then does Menaḥem begin telling his story in a more conventional narrative manner.
In the (ugh) introduction, I totally should have a chapter where I discuss the use of Biblical references in the piyyutim of my corpus, and specifically a piece about Menaḥem's use in this particular piyyut.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
ME: In late 2009, Jen and I ran into a French (Jewish) girl at the opéra. I pointed out the Chagalls to them, and the French girl said: "Ah, oui", and then, embarrassed, said "I mean, yes."
LIPMAN: Haven't I, about in 2005, told you about the woman who approached me when I was sitting in the university library at a computer? She asked "Könnten Sie mir mit dem Computer helfen?" I answered "Wie?" in the sense of "Certainly; what can I do for you?", and she understood "Oui."
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Dear Rabbi Dr. Minden,
Which language is older, German or Yiddish?
Thank you for your time and expertise,
First of all, Yidn are documented in Cologne in the year 321 in the goyishe calendar, while (Lesser) Germany was founded only in 1871. Secondly, political correctness aside, German isn't a language but a jargon of Yiddish. The proof of this is that even after decades of being exposed to Yiddish in Kiryas Joel, I still don't always understand all that a German mumbles.
Yours venerably and modestly &c.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
XXXX (Name omitted, to protect the utterer from getting in trouble with la grande nation): If you want mishne lessons [in Yiddish], it's more, if you just want somebody to talk to your child, it's less.
me: Right. For the French, I care less about the michná lessons.
XXXX: But cooking, or philosophy, or swearing, or whatever the French have a reputation for?
me: Right, possibly those. But I would be willing to forego those, in order to save money.
XXXX: Or you don't pay the tutor much, that way you'll save money twice, by paying less in the first place, and by having him demonstrate the richness of French curses.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Any ideas about this brief text?:
Oh, hi Pete, old chap - got yerself a gmail address fine'ly, eh? How's Ellie these days?
Monday, February 13, 2012
So, remember that piece-of-shit fucking oven which isn't strong enough even to bake a potato? At least the broiler was not bad, and I used it to broil frozen veggie-burgers and french-fry-potatoes.
It cost me (the sheqel equivalent of) over $100.
Now it won't even turn on. The power is dead.
I'm going to see if I can try to fry up these frozen veggie-burgers and french-fry-potatoes in a pan on the stove. They'll be disgustingly oily that way, but at least they'll be calories.
UPDATE: I don't have the emotional energy to ask a store, in Hebrew, to honor a warranty for a product which I hated anyway. At the time when I bought it, I was penniless. Now, at least I have the financial energy (hah) to buy a new, better, more expensive oven. (But what if that one breaks down in 2.5 months, just as the first one did? Well, 2.5 months from now is about May 1, and I'm leaving on May 17. Ah, but I'm returning on June 1? Hmmm.)
UPDATE II: This could be a "blessing in disguise", as they call it. Having a real oven (i.e., one that can get hot enough to actually cook) means that I could bake matzoh on Pesach.
UPDATE III: Nonetheless, I'll wait a day or two to see if it will turn on by itself again. Who knows what's going on inside the electricity?
Sunday, February 12, 2012
And now that Shabbes Shkolim is this week, it's time for the first pre-Pesach anxiety dream of the year. Woo-hoo!
I am a guest at the Goldsteins, in Basel. I think my father is somewhere present, too. There's no couch or bench or bed at the table, so I take two chairs and a few pillows, and fall back into the two chairs, reclining. Frau Goldstein gets indignant, tells me that nobody else is getting two chairs, including her, and asks me to move over to the other side of the table, where taking two chairs will, for some reason, be less burdensome. I feel guilty.
I fill up my glass (stemware -- ooh, phallic?) with what seems to be white wine, though it's pretty clear-colored. I redden it by adding some drops of -- red wine? Red grape juice? The drops are coming out only drop by drop, and I eventually realize that it's merely red food-coloring, which hardly count to turn "white wine" into "red wine". (Good thing there's no obligation to have red wine at the seder, merely a homiletical preference.)
It seems that various people are reciting kiddush for themselves, to speed things up or something. At least one of them is a woman; this is rather surprising in an Orthodox setting out of the Upper West Side, though of course it doesn't bother me. I'm trying to get to the point of being able to recite kiddush, but each time I stretch my body out horizontally over the badly-put-together-two-chairs-and-pillows, I spill liquid from the glass, and have to refill.
At least once, I think multiple times, I actually break the glass in the process, and my hand gets cut and bleeds. I think I may break a few, actually. The lights in the room are rather dark. I think a few other people might make kiddush in the meantime. Other people are still shmoozing. It's getting later; it might even be as late as 11 PM. And, of course, the seder still hasn't even officially started. My hosts must be getting annoyed with me. I'm feeling guilty.
Eventually, there's no more stemware, because I'm broken all the available stemware glasses. I take a plain glass cup, of the sort which I have in my apartment here in Jerusalem. I fill it with -- wine? Is there any wine left? Or even grape juice? I discover that the clear liquid in the bottle, which I had been using earlier to fill up my cup, was not wine, but some sort of distilled thing resembling Araq -- not halakhically acceptable for use in the ritual cups at the seder, and anyway not something I enjoy. Or maybe this one is made from pears, or something. Anyway, I try desperately to fill the remainder of the cup with more wine-like liquids, but what is there left? Have I already spilled all the wine, just as I have broken all the stemwear? I think I start trying to squeeze the red food-coloring into the glass, drop by drop.
I finally make kiddush, though I'm not sure over what. I'm embarrassed to recite the "expanded text" (beautiful poetic version, going back to the time of the Geonim, and used in many communities today), because I've already made myself look so ostentatious in front of the hosts and other guests, so I use the ordinary version. This makes me sad.
During kiddush, I realize that it happens to be Friday night, so I include the lines about Shabbos in kiddush. (This is the first time in 14 years that the seder has falllen on Friday night, so I recite these lines with great gusto.) But why did I only just remember this? Why didn't I remember it was Shabbos during maariv, at shul? Why didn't I include the relevant mentions of Shabbos in maariv? And what about ברכת מעין שבע -- I know that almost all shuls omit this on a Friday night which falls on seder night, but KAJ-NewYork includes it, and that's where I davvened. (If I davvened this evening in New York, how am I now in Basel, anyway?) How could I have missed that? Here is an occasion which hasn't occurred in 14 years, and I was at one of the only shuls in the world, if not the only one, which includes מעין שבע on that occasion, and I missed it? I walked out early? What the hell was I thinking?! And if I left early, that means I must have missed Yigdal, too, rather than getting the opportunity to sing it with the choir....
UPDATE: When I clicked "publish this post", there was an internet blip, and I was terrified that I had lost the post forever. I clicked the "back" button, and returned to the previous page. In the background, I could see the words of my post, græyed out, and there was a dialog-box in the foreground, asking me: "Restore from saved draft?" I clicked "Yes", and it filled the compose-screen with the words of my previous post, about some recording of “Poor Wand’ring One”. I screamed: "FUCK!" However, somehow, by clicking "back" or "forward" or whatever, I managed to get to the right post, which seems to have been posted, after all, for here it is.
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