This week, in honor of Purim, I’m taking off. Why not? Who wants to work on Purim?
So I handed off the responsibility of writing my article to a non-Jew – again, in honor of Purim. Also, I’ve done this once before, and people loved it.
He asked, “What should it be about?”
I said, “I don’t know; Jewish life or something.”
Jewish Life or Something
A poem by Tim
I’ve been living near Jews for a decade or so,
And I have to say: There’s still a lot I don’t know,
Despite that I manage an entire floor,
And employ a few Yidden (and soon a few more),
And been keeping an eye through my wide-open door,
As some things just perplex me, and that is for sure.
Overall, I have zero complaints about them,
As they’ve largely been making a Kiddush Hashem.
(And they’ve taught me some terms that I use in my life,
That come out at strange moments, and weird out my wife.
When I say words with “ch” sounds, they gather to hear,
And I like that it helps scratch my deep inner ear.)
But they’re not a religion – they’re a whole lifestyle.
And since I am going to be here a while,
I should make an attempt to “farshtei” their whole brand,
As I feel that we fear what we don’t understand.
So I constantly question the strange things they do,
I ask so many questions, they think I’m a Jew.
(That last line is a joke, as they know I am not,
As my neighbors keep giving me hints on Shabbat.)
Like what is this “tzenter”, they yell out the door?
Then somebody goes in, yet they yell it some more.
And what makes a food kosher? It doesn’t taste funny.
Does kosher just mean that it’s double the money?
There’s a store on my corner that sells kosher food,
And I stop in and buy stuff when I’m in the mood,
Or to try something different when I feel like comparing.
They have no crab or shrimp, but have something called herring.
I bought a jar once and I needed a drink;
You can share it with friends, but it makes their breath stink.
And sometimes, in the fall, you can buy a fish head,
And then poke it and prod it to make sure it’s dead,
But there’s no way to cook it to get any meat!
I made seven fish heads, yet had nothing to eat!
They have lots of desserts in their bakery wing:
Kokosh, rugelach, babka… They’re all the same thing.
And near Passover all of their products go south,
And their cookies… they just kind of melt in your mouth.
I would like to try matzah, though, but it’s expensive,
The price for one pound is extremely offensive.
It must be so delicious – like caviar or quail!
(Maybe after Passover, they’ll put it on sale.)
So there’s something I figured I’d try out instead –
It’s a package containing ten pieces of bread.
Each one in its compartment, so easy to handle,
And they come with a spoon and a Hanukkah candle.
I opened the package, put one on the spoon,
After lighting the candle (which went out too soon),
And it tasted like regular plain Jewish rye!
So my question was, “Who on earth eats these and why?”
There are foods that they sell for just no rhyme or reason,
Like dry fruit they sell two months before matzah season.
Or like one single wing – I’m sure that comes in handy,
And then there’s one month that they only sell candy.
But I come by despite the occasional quirk,
And buy food here and there for the chevra at work,
Who don’t like when I open a single food tray.
(This is something I’ve learned over time, the hard way.)
Like when I buy a cake – and I think this is drastic –
They must first spend ten minutes fighting with the plastic.
I bought one kosher mug that they wash with, I think,
And I leave packs of ten bites of bread near the sink.
But sometimes, I ask them a rule to explain,
And they’re happy to do so, but it hurts my brain.
The one I ask simplifies, not to confuse,
But he trips over words he does not want to use.
And then someone else pipes in, or simply says, “Wait…”
Then they look at each other and have a debate.
Then they both start explaining at once, from the top,
At which point I say, “Ah,” just to get them to stop.
Plus there’s stuff that I see where I try not to dig,
Like there’s one woman here who I think wears a wig,
I don’t let it come up; I just keep it down low,
I feel bad; I don’t want her to know that I know.
And even in summer, they dress up in layers,
And then put on some more when it’s time for their prayers.
They pray in the conference room, right around lunch.
And not one at a time – they all go as a bunch.
But they don’t bring the woman when they go to pray,
And I think it might be ‘cuz she wears a toupee.
But like they’re ones to talk – they’re all balding as well!
(They wear big yarmulkes, so they think we can’t tell.)
Oh, and when I invite them all out for a beer,
They say, “Oh, I’m sorry; I can’t miss my shiur.”
I first thought they said, “Shear.”
I said, “Cutting more hair?
What will be left after you get up from the chair?”
But it turns out that shiur is this class every night,
Where they study, gain knowledge, and probably fight.
And they cannot miss one, as it’s part of a series,
All to better equip them to answer my queries.
But when things really matter, they show me some love,
When my third son was born, they all yelled, “Mazel tov!”
And they offered some meals – “Whatever you wish!”
I said, “Anything’s good, but just please don’t bring fish.”
And one guy said, “Three sons?! That’s exactly like mine!
And my daughters just love them! Of which I have nine!”
“Wait; you just had a son?” I asked. “Cool! What’s his name?”
And he said I could hear at the bris, so I came;
Though I barely made out what the mohel said then.
I did not catch it all, but his middle name’s Ben.
(Which I engraved on his gift, so to keep from forgetting.)
And last winter, I went to somebody’s kid’s wedding!
As I had never been, I was taking some chances;
I hoped it was not hard to learn all the dances.
And I brought my dear wife so there’s someone I know,
And I really did work to convince her to go.
On the door there’s a sign that said, “Men to the right,”
And I did not see her for the rest of the night.
Although on the ride home, she was less than elated.
But I had a good time! Which I claim unrelated.
I just followed the men and said what they were saying,
Got stuck in a hallway while they were all praying,
And I learned about Jewish Time (“Jewish” means “late”),
And I think at some point someone shattered a plate.
Said, “Congrats,” to the groom and his bride who was new,
(I did not point it out, but she had a wig too.)
And I learned that there’s more than just one Jewish song,
Plus I think I was wearing my yarmulke wrong.
Took a souvenir book that was all in Hebrew,
And it turns out that my wife had taken one too.
(It’s probably tales of the groom and the bride.
I’ll ask people at work to translate what’s inside.)
And then there’s the time that I got an invite,
To a meal that took place on the first Pesach night.
Holidays in the first place, through my point of view,
I’m convinced they’re inventing them out of the blue.
They ask for a day off, at my office door,
Then they give me a name never heard of before.
“Achenplachen!” they say. “And we cannot do work!”
So I let them take off so I won’t be a jerk.
So they got me a calendar, and – I kid you not –
Every day’s something.
What is Tu B’Shvat?
I asked and they said, “It’s a new day for fruits!”
So I think that the calendar guy’s in cahoots.
There is stuff written down here for every last date.
What on this earth is Brachos 58?
Then the other day someone came to me to speak,
And he asked for some days off “for Yom Tov next week.”
So I opened my calendar, looked all around,
And there’s no day called “Yom Tov” at all to be found.
Then someone else asked if he could have a breather,
For something called “Yuntiff” – WHICH I CAN’T FIND EITHER!
So when I was invited for this Yuntiff meal,
I grabbed at the chance to see if it was real.
I asked my wife if she could be my plus one,
But she said, “I don’t think so. Just go and have fun.”
Now I couldn’t show up without bringing a thing,
So I asked if there’s some type of wine I could bring.
But they said, “No, please don’t. Just prepare to converse.”
I said, “What about food?”
And they said, “No, that’s worse!”
So I showed up with flowers. I said, “Just because.”
And they said, “We cannot put these into a vase,
Not on Yom Tov,” they said, “As it says so in print.”
“Say no more!” I responded. ‘Cuz I got the hint.
I was so hungry as I’d not eaten since noon,
So I sat down and hoped that we’d eat really soon.
We all started with wine, which was not all that strong,
Then some kid gave a speech, and then three sang a song…
So I whispered across, “I don’t mean to be rude,
I thought this was a meal. I almost brought food!”
So they said that this meal was a thing called a Seder,
And yes, there was food, but that wasn’t ‘til later.
First off, we’d tell stories and thank the Creator.
But for now, if I want, here’s a small piece of ‘tater.
So I asked, “How’s it taste?”
And he said, “There’s a dip.”
And then, from the kitchen, we all heard a YIP!
Along with a shout from the guy’s eldest daughter:
“Why are there fresh flowers sitting in the salt water?!”
Besides that, for a while we did not a eat a thing,
I could not help but stare at this lone chicken wing.
Then the kids all asked questions, I said, “Wait to hear mine!”
So then I got a turn, then they gave me more wine.
Then they went through the story – the whole explanation,
Of slaves back in Egypt and emancipation,
How G-d redeemed them in their forefathers’ merit,
And then they held up the world’s ugliest carrot.
And they said lots of things like, “Someday we’ll be free!”
And I wondered if they were all looking at me.
We did eat eventually, after three hours.
And we all shared an egg dipped in water and flowers.
I finally had matzah – still don’t get the price.
And we all ate the carrot! I coughed it up twice.
And despite the no-carbs thing, the food tasted fine,
And I think that I had close to four cups of wine.
So I couldn’t drive home when the whole thing was done,
And could not call my wife as it was after one.
So they showed me the guest room, where I slept ‘til dawn,
I did not even notice my pillows were gone.
So this Yom Tov is real with some whole big to-dos,
Or they scrubbed all their walls just to keep up a ruse.
And now, once again, my good friend (named Yehuda),
Said that, “Purim’s next week – want to come for the seudah?”
“What is Purim?” I asked.
He explained, for the layman,
That they were almost killed by some shaigetz named Haman.
The decrees were all signed, and the signs were all posted,
But then G-d sent Queen Esther to get the king toasted.
And she said, “Here’s a fun fact: I too am a Jew!”
And they put Haman up in a cell with a view.
I said, “I have one question, and not to debate you,
But I just cannot figure why all these guys hate you.
Though this sounds just like Pesach! I came over then.
I’d prefer not to be the one drunk guy again.”
He just laughed.
Then I figured, “I like these adventures,”
So I came to his house, and I stole some more benchers.
And nobody noticed – the place was a zoo!
Plus my wife came this time.
And she took benchers too.
By Mordechai Schmutter