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Dec. 3rd, 2006

I found the Sephardi cantillation I've been looking for in Western notation!

Oct. 10th, 2006

Here I am, blogging again. I'm definitely avoiding responsible things.

In that vein, here is my vocalization and translation of Genesis 1:1 and the very first Rashi in the Torah. I have a translation of most of Rashi on the first pasuq, but LJ ate much of the post and I don't feel like retyping much.
RashiCollapse )

[Now, what has always bothered me about this midrash, or at least this use of it, is that while it's true that Israel does not accept any law as a nation until 'This month...' the Torah mentions at least one mitzvoh before that, circumcision being a prime example (the other being the mitzvoh of doing Exactly What God Tells You Even If Your Wife Is So Traumatized That She Dies Promptly At The Beginning Of The Next Parsha). So, we should start from at least that point. Indeed, the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah precede circumcision. While these are not specifically directed at Jews (there being no Jews at that time) they certainly apply to Jews, and in that sense merit mention. And once one is starting with Noah, what the heck -- might as well throw in the beginning of it all, no?]
`Hag was lovely. The significant other of a friend was in town, and he, and I, and a Columbia undergrad found ourselves at the Bayit sukkoh (or sukkah, if you prefer) for second night dinner, and for once, I was zoche to talk math at a meal. The S.O. of the friend also pointed me to the song that I dream my bashert will sing to me right before he asks me to marry him. I'll prepare an annotated version, I hope.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Once upon a time there were three bears, Daddy Bear, Mommy Bear, and Baby Bear. They lived in a small enclave of bears, and loved above all else porridge, sleep and walks in the woods. One day while they were out walking in the woods, a little girl named Goldilocks entered their cottage and ate all the porridge and fell asleep there. Returning home, the bears were hungry. Lacking porridge, they dismembered Goldilocks and devoured her on the spot. She was so tender and delicious that from that day forth they ceased eating porridge and dined exclusively on the flesh of young virgin girls.

Snow White

Once upon a time there were a king and queen who lived in a fine palace with everything they wanted in life, except a child. One day, the queen was thrilled to realize that she was with child, and the overjoyed couple welcomed Rivke bas Elkanah v()Chanah into the world about 8 months later. Alas, childbirth weakened the queen, and she was niftar before the child was even a year old.

The king was consumed with grief, but strove mightily to bring Rivke up to be the bas Toiroh that he and his wife had envisioned. She was a bright, sweet child, and she and her father were `osqim battoiroh and her progress was quite rapid.

When Rivke was six, her father met an eishes chayil from the next kingdom over, and they were wed. Unfortunately, the new queen had a hidden jealous streak, and when she saw how tznius and makpid Rivke was, her heart was consumed with fear that the girl should overtake her in learning and in mitzvois. However, the queen had a magic seifer that she consulted each morning

'Seifer seifer on the shtender!
Who's the Toiroh's best defender?'

And each day the seifer reassured her:

'You are the Toiroh's best defender.'

Still, the queen's insecure heart gnawed at her, and though she desperately wanted to have Rivke murdered in the middle of nowhere, but closer to the adjacent kingdom's borders, she knew that if she did so the magic seifer would cease to assure her of her frumkeit. Therefore, she arranged a marriage for Rivke to a nice enough boy, but not a talmid chacham in the least and far enough away that the king wouldn't retrieve the girl. The king and queen lost all track of her.

Then one day it emerged that the local sho`het was in fact selling treif chicken to all the families in the kingdom. Instead of accepting responsibility for their role in the mess, the rabbeim who hadn't supervised him immediately proclaimed a fast across the kingdom, and demanded kashering and replacement of all dishes that might have been touched by the chicken of doom. The queen, eager to be seen by her subjects (and the seifer) as frum, and sure that Rivke and her husband could not afford to follow her act, immediately replaced all the dishes in the castle and began a great fast.

Rivke's husband was horrified by the apparent imminent expense, since they could ill afford to replace the dishes in the cottage. However, Rivke had diligently toiled in the beis midrash every evening after work since their marriage. Calmly, she reassured her husband that they need neither fast nor kasher dishes, nor replace any of them, since the error was not theirs and it was all beshogeig.

The next day the queen got up and said:

'Seifer seifer on the shtender!
Who's the Toiroh's best defender?'

Unexpectedly, the seifer replied:

'Your emunah is misaligned
Rivke's frumkeit is divine.'

Furious, the queen hunted down the rabbeim and the sho`het and had them exiled to the Gobi Desert. Rivke and her husband learned happily ever after.

Glossary:

bas Toiroh - Nice Frum Girl
beis midrash - house of study
beshogeig - by mistake
eishes chayil - woman of valor
emunah - faith
frum - observant Jewish
frumkeit -- general state and style of Jewish religious observance
kasher - to make kosher
kosher - fit for Jewish religious use
`osqim battoiroh - people engrossed in (learning) Torah (sing masc `oseiq battoiroh fem `oseqes battoiroh)
makpid - concerned (with mitzvois)
mitzvois -- commandments
Niftar - 'Was exempted' -- passed away
Rabbeim - plural of rabbi (teacher)
Seifer - book, here implicitly a Jewish religious one
sho`het - butcher (does kosher meat)
Shtender - book stand that props a seifer at a good angle for learning
talmid chacham - student of a wise person
Toiroh - Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
treif - food that is not kosher
tznius - modest

Russian bookstore!

I did not bankrupt myself. This success is primarily due to my limited ability to carry stuff. They did not have Anna Karenina in stock. That did not stop me from buying "The Master and Margarita" and (I couldn't help myself) "Tevye the Milkman". I must not go back there any time soon. I will buy too much stuff.

Rapunzel

Once upon a time there was a poor farmer and his wife who lived in a little hut at the edge of the shtetl. Despite their poverty, they lived happy lives, except that they were childless. However, the farmer davened and davened and one day they found that they would soon have a daughter.

Next to the couple's little cottage there was a fine magnificent home in which lived a talmidas hokhom, who was regarded with some suspicion by the talmidei hokhom of the shtetl since she was a woman. Next to the home was a fine magnificent garden with some fine magnificent rampion. One night, the farmer's wife was seized with a terrible desire for rampion salad. Her distress was so severe that the farmer crept into the neighboring garden to fetch his wife some rampion. The talmidas hokhom was horrified when she saw him and cried out: !לא תגנב If only you had asked me, I would gladly have given it to you! Horrified, the poor farmer asked how he could do t'shuvoh. Seeing a perfect opportunity to expand the ranks of talmidos hokhom, she said that she would grant mechiloh if the farmer would send his daughter to learn with her. The farmer gratefully agreed.

Not long after, the couple had a daughter, Chava, and when she reached the age of chinuch, the farmer sent her to learn with the talmidas hokhom. Chava proved extremely bright, and before long, she and the talmidas hokhom opened a girl's yeshivoh in the shtetl. There, Chava shut herself in a high tower so that she could better focus on her learning. One day, she chanced to see her bashert from the tower, and she called after him to invite him for shabbos. Horrified, the bashert called back אל תרבה שיחה עם האשה and ran away. So Chava lived the rest of her life learning 17 hours a day.

Glossary:

Shtetl -- village, where Jews live
Davened -- prayed
Talmidas hokhom -- (feminine) A learned student of Torah (plural talmidos hokhom)
Talmid hokhom -- (masculine) A learned student of Torah (plural talmidei hokhom)
!לא תגנב -- (Lo Signov) Thou shalt not steal (Exodus)
T'shuvoh -- Repentance/making amends
Mechiloh -- forgiveness
Chinuch -- education
Yeshivoh -- place in which one studies Torah
Bashert -- one's fated spouse
Shabbos -- Jewish Sabbath
אל תרבה שיחה עם האשה -- (Al tarbeh sihoh im ho-ishoh) Don't engage in idle conversation with women (Eruvin 53b)
'Learning' -- studying something Torah related

A brief note on why I write some fairy tales in 'Yeshivish'. I realize that it narrows the audience that can potentially understand the story, though I think it's a fair assessment to say that much of my small audience can read this stuff, even if they would never speak it. However, writing in straight English, I feel something is frequently lost. 'A learned student of Torah' just doesn't flow as well as 'talmid hakham'.

The actual Hebrew is not so much for Yeshivish purposes, as that I like using multiple alphabets on my computer.

With regard to the story -- I will try to post something more serious on uses of sihah ((idle) conversation). It's interesting to note that this word is also used to describe prayer. I don't think this tale is one of my better efforts, but this time it's something about which I was thinking instead of a semi-random brain dump. Possibly more some other time.
Once upon a time there lived a king and queen. All was bright in their lives except they had no children. So the king davened and davened and the queen wept and joy of joys, the davenen and the crying went up to shomayim and the couple had a beautiful daughter. The next shabbos they named her Shoshana Makabeya and made a big kiddush at the castle and almost everyone in the realm was invited.

Alas for their daughter, they did not invite the fairies, since such nonsense was assur d'oraisa. Nonetheless, the fairies came unbidden. Citing Vayiqra 22:17: You shall not let a sorceress live, the king and queen killed the fairies as fast as they could. Enraged, the evil fairy descended upon the castle to avenge her fallen comrades and pronounced a terrible curse upon Shoshana Makabeya: On her 15th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle and die. Grief-stricken, the king and queen failed to stop a final heathen magic-working party-crasher from making an appearance on the scene. This fairy gasped at all the carnage and addressed the dumbstruck crowd: I cannot remove the curse, but I can soften it. Shoshana Makabeya will not die; she will merely sleep for 100 years, after which she will be awakened by a kiss from her bashert. Then the last fairy ran away, lest the king and queen come to their senses and kill her too.

The king and queen were at a loss. They had never dreamed that halakhic adherence could produce such dreadful results. They determined to shelter Shoshana Makabeya from any and all knowledge that could possibly have protected her and decreed that all spindles should be burned within the year. The people of the realm complied and thus it was that at the mature age of 14 years and 364 days, Shoshana Makabeya was going on shiddukh dates without the slightest clue of how to spin thread to sew the clothes of her future husband.

On her fifteenth birthday, the king and queen threw a grand party in their daughter's honor. Her naivete concerning the curse placed on her from birth made the evil fairy's mission entirely too easy. When the crowd dispersed to play a merry game of hide and go seek, the evil fairy planted herself and a spindle in the top-most tower of the castle and waited. Inevitably, Shoshana Makabeya slipped up to the tower. She of course had never seen a spindle and was instantly intrigued by the fairy's tools and asked if she might try. Lo! She pricked her finger and fell into a deep sleep. The evil fairy promptly vanished and the good fairy promptly appeared. The good fairy cast a state of suspended animation over the entire kingdom so that 100 years hence when the bashert would presumably arrive to wake the princess, her parents would be around to enjoy the simcha.

About 35,964 days later, the bashert was preparing for his departure to rescue the princess. Unfortunately for Shoshana Makabeya, the bashert's rav poskened that it was assur to kiss her, and it was assur to be in the tower in the first place because of yihud. So the bashert settled down with some other nice Jewish girl, leaving Shoshana Makabeya, her parents and the citizens of the realm to sleep happily ever after.

Edit: Here's a glossary. Please don't take this as totally authoritative.

Assur: (adj) Forbidden
Assur d'oraisa: (adj) Forbidden in Torah law (a branch of Jewish law, the other being rabbinic law)
Bashert: Soulmate
Daven: (v.i.) Pray
Davenen: (n) Prayer, praying
Halakhic: (adj): Having to do with Jewish law
Kiddush: (n) Snack hour after davenen on shabbos
Posken: (v.i.) Issue a halakhic ruling
Rav: (n) Rabbi
Shabbos: (n) Sabbath
Shiddukh Date: (n) The occasion you meet a person before the occasion on which you decide whether to get married to the person
Shomayim: (n) Heaven(s)
Shoshana Makabeya: (n) Rosie the Riveter
Simcha: (n) Celebration. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs....
Yihud: (n) People who should not be alone together being alone together

Story!

Once upon a time there was a little girl who led a meek and mild life. When she came of age and prepared to go out into the wide world, her mother said to her 'My dear daughter, now a young woman, once a little girl, I am so very proud of you that you are going out to make a life for yourself in the wide world. Now as you go about your life, always remember to measure twice and cut once.' The young woman then went about her way, and one day, she grew arrogant, and she measured only once. Sure enough, she erred, and had to mend her ways.

Not so many years later, the young woman had a little girl who led a meek and mild life. When she came of age and prepared to go out into the wide world, her mother said to her 'My dear daughter, now a young woman, once a little girl, I am so very proud of you that you are going out to make a life for yourself in the wide world. Now as you go about your life, always remember to measure twice and cut once. My wise mother gave me this advice, but I grew arrogant and had to mend my ways.' The young woman then went about her way, and one day, she grew arrogant, and she measured only once. Sure enough, she erred, and had to mend her ways.

Not so many years later, the young woman had a little girl who led a meek and mild life. When she came of age and prepared to go out into the wide world, her mother said to her 'My dear daughter, now a young woman, once a little girl, I am so very proud of you that you are going out to make a life for yourself in the wide world. Now as you go about your life, always remember to measure twice and cut once. My wise grandmother gave my wise mother who gave this advice, but I grew arrogant and had to mend my ways.' The young woman then went about her way, and one day, she grew arrogant, and she measured only once. Sure enough, she erred, and had to mend her ways.

Not so many years later, the young woman had a little girl who led a meek and mild life. When she came of age and prepared to go out into the wide world, her mother said to her 'My dear daughter, now a young woman, once a little girl, I am so very proud of you that you are going out to make a life for yourself in the wide world. Now as you go about your life, always remember to measure twice and cut once. My wise great-grandmother gave my wise grandmother gave my wise mother who gave this advice, but I grew arrogant and had to mend my ways.' The young woman then went about her way, and never grew arrogant. One day as she was wisely measuring twice, a piano fell on her head and crushed her.

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