Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Welcome the 9th most important Jewish holiday


   The cheder boys on scooters showed up Friday, as they always do, asking me to pray. I was upstairs, scrolling through social media, and almost sent them away. I'm too busy a man to be expected to go through this arcane religious ritual, and why? Because I paused to talk to them on the street at the end of March and foolishly pointed out which house is mine when they asked. 
     Send them away, tell them not to come back. Enough with the ritual already.
     But nowadays, it's smart to take what social connections presents themselves. I went downstairs.
     "Let's do this," I said, sticking out my right arm, while Elchonon indicated the left, proper arm, and wrapped it in a shiny leather band, while his partner, Mendel, busied himself with Kitty. Someday I'll get it right.
     I repeated the ancient words after him, managing to string a few together myself. Someday I'll get them down pat. Or, more likely, get tired and stop doing this entirely. He pointed out that Shavuot was coming.
     The regular reader might have perceived by now that I'm a Jewish person who is at least passingly acquainted with my faith, even the more arcane particulars. Not only do I knew what a pidyon ha-ben is, but my older son had one ("Redemption of the first born," an obscure ritual where the first son is purchased from God. Five pieces of silver are required, just like with Judas, and I went to a coin store and bought five old silver dollars to give to the rabbi. My in-laws were Orthodox). 
    But Shavuot? I'd heard the name. But for the life of me, it doesn't register. If I started reeling off Jewish holidays, given $100 for each one I could name, there would be Passover and Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah, Purim and Simchat Torah, T'Bhish Vat and Tisha B'Av. I don't think I'd ever get to Shavuot, unprompted.
    "What's Shavuot?" I asked. Elchonon explained that it celebrated being given the Torah 3,000 years ago on Mount Sinai. Which doesn't count, apparently, in attaching Jews to that particular spot on earth. But is true nevertheless. 
    "And what do we do on Shavuot?" I pressed.
     "On Shavuot we eat cheesecake," he said. My ears perked up. 
    "Why cheesecake?" 
    "It's nice, and fancy, and tasty," he replied and the yawning chasm between these pious teenagers and a fairly cynical and agnostic 63-year-old closed to a hairsbreadth. Eat nice, fancy, tasty cheesecake — if more religions came up with requirements like that, I think they'd fare better in this modern world. I shot off an email to Marc Schulman at Eli's — is this not a marketing opportunity — and circled the beginning of Shavuot, the evening of June 11. God knows I have enough cheesecake in the freezer. 


  1. Why isn't this in the paper?

    1. Because today is Tuesday. The column only runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday, typically. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday I post something here unrelated to the paper.

  2. Yum Kippur not withstanding, yet another Jewish holiday we celebrate by eating. How best to honor God. Esn mensch!

    1. But Yom Kippur ends with eating. Once again, "They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat."

  3. I still consider it scandalous that you can't buy Eli's Cheesecake at any store in our state's capital. And, it's too costly to get it through the mail. Maybe, I should start a GoFundMe project. :-)

  4. The traditional holiday greeting, among Ashkenazi Jews, is “Gut yom tov.” Which means..." (Have a) good holiday."

    “Yom tov,” which literally means “good day” in Hebrew, denotes a holiday. In Yiddish, it is normally mangled into something that sounds more like “YUN-tiff.” That's how I always said it, as did my mother before me. She learned to speak in Yiddish, and only learned English when she started school.

    .Thus, the greeting can sound like “Gut YUN-tiff” ” (When translating “Gut yom tov” into English, you arrive at the strangely redundant “Good good day.”)

    Anyway, here's to a good yuntiff, Mr. S...a good, good day...

  5. grizz, you're almost asss good as the host in coming up with arcania as the host.

    1. Microsoft Bing. Say hello to my little friend.


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