Adventures in Toddler Bilingualism
Superfluous plurals.

My Yiddish- and English-speaking* 3-year-old, while playing blocks with me:

Du bist a boyer! ("You're a builder!")
Ikh bin a boyer! ("I'm a builder!")
Mir zaynen beyde boyersn! ("We're both builders'n!", i.e. with the plural form boyers and an added plural suffix-n)

*She also sings a lot of songs in Mandarin, but I don't think she can generate a sentence.


Who cut the khreyn?
And other Passover questions.

I'm thinking about the following questions during this Pesach season. You are invited to roll your eyes at them, ignore them, discuss them, think about them, or suggest your own.

1. Does it matter whether the Exodus story is historical?

2. How can one story (the Exodus) yield contradictory interpretations - e.g. the Jews are God's chosen people, yet the Jews were deserving of extermination in the desert?

3. Did the Israelites do anything to make themselves worthy of redemption - or was it all Moses'/Aaron's/God's doing?

4. What is the connection of chametz to Passover?

5. Can one people redeem another, or is that unwanted interference in the internal affairs of another nation?

6. If God chose the Jews, what did God choose them for?


Halachah Is Not Esthetics
An article in Makor Rishon.

Looks interesting, but I haven't read it yet:
The traditional halachic principle which prohibits "a mitzvah done through sinning" is not all-encompassing. According to a distinction made by the Rabbis of the Talmud, it goes into effect only in the most blatant of circumstances.


I know what your problem is
You're two stents!

I have the sinking feeling (maybe it should be "clotting") that the bare-metal vs. drug-eluting stents debate* is going to be our decade's version of dietary epidemiology: small effects, multiple studies, uncertain conclusions of doubtful clinical relevance. (For example, the latest NEJM-published meta-analysis looks at a four-year follow-up. I really hope our patients with stents live longer than that.)

*Short version: Vessels in which bare-metal stents are inserted tend nevertheless to fail (close off again) after a short time. Stents which elute drugs avoid this first problem but have recently been associated with an increased risk of thrombosis (clotting). Of course, whether these first two statements are true is also open to question . . .


Schaechter z"l: toiling without sentimentality
"What motivated him was the desire that Yiddish should receive the respect of any other language."

Brian Zumhagen talked about him today on WNYC (audio, transcript).

* * *

An evening of remembrance and Yiddish learning
on the shloyshim of Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter z"l

Sunday, March 18th, 5:30 P.M.
at the Workmen’s Circle / Forward Building,
45 East 33rd Street
between Madison and Park Avenues
in New York City

The speakers:

David Braun, Harvard University
Marc Caplan, Johns Hopkins University
Paul Glasser, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
Rakhmiel Peltz, Drexel University
David Roskies, Jewish Theological Seminary

A few Yiddish songs especially meaningful to Dr. Schaechter will be

Primarily in Yiddish.

Take the 6 train to East 33 Street,
or the D, F, N, R train to West 34 Street.


On and Off the Bima

Nice if unsurprising article in the Times about adopted Chinese girls turning bat mitzvah, but please!
“That was my hope when I started her in day school,” Ms. Nealon said, “that when she got up on the bimah” — the lectern where the bat mitzvah girl reads from the Torah — “she would feel like she had the right to be there.”
Sic! Look, you're The New York Times, the only de facto Jewish newspaper some New York Jews ever read. Get the lingo straight, wouldja?

(For reference, the bimah is the platform. The lectern is called the amud. It's called other things too, but I bet no one calls it the shtender in the shuls mentioned in the article.)

On second thought: it could just be that the Times is using lectern in another sense, namely to refer to said platform. If this is the case, they would probably call the reading stand a podium.
Where have you been, Moses?
Look, we made you something. With your brother's help.

This year Parshes Ki Siso (Ki Tisa) almost makes me want to cry. The children of Israel made a mistake born of desperation and fear - they didn't know when Moses was coming back down the mountain. (Rashi says it was all because of a scheduling mixup, whether 40 days included the following night.) What were they supposed to do? And the worst of it is, their sin is a real sin, which shouldn't be blamed on the mixed multitude. They did it (we did it), and are to be blamed, but our reasons were understandable. We were scared and hopeless.

It feels like all the stories I'm hearing from my patients, now that I know enough to ask about depression, suicidal thinking, drug and alcohol abuse, but don't yet have enough experience to see my help taking effect -- or the problems are too deep-rooted for me to help at all. It's like screaming at the train that's about to hit a stalled truck.
Glyn Maxwell (from his book Nerve)

I made my child a promise, so a weight
was passed to her. I saw how carefully

its power was handled, that it lit the thoughts
around it, and I felt it warm her talk

and urge the hours along. Since I, like you,
no longer know a word like that, the light

she gained was lost to me. It didn’t mean
I’d let her down—I didn’t—but I seemed

to be aligned with those who might in time,
as if I’d somehow set coordinates.


Poem Stuffed into Ziploc Bags With Hamentasch and Raisins
aka shalekhmones doggerel 2007. Hebrew and Yiddish doggerel here.

Esther was greenish. You know that, honey?
It makes me squeamish but she's better than money.

She could have been silent, let the whole thing pass
But the Queen kicked the can of Ahashuerus.
Esther was greenish . . .

Beauty's in the eye, buck stops at the throne
Esther couldn't save us had she slept alone.
Esther was greenish . . .


World Leaders, Jewish and Non-Jewish, Send Purim Greetings
From the United Synagogue, Spam Division, Propaganda Subsection.

President George W. Bush
The White House
WASHINGTON -- Following are remarks that the President made for the press regarding the Festival of Lots, which falls on Saturday night, except when it doesn't.
"I'd like to thank the Prime Minister of Israel for alerting me to the very real danger that exists from President Haman of Persiran. We would admit defeat, and the terrorists would win, if we did not bomb the bastards back to the Stone Age the minute after the megillah is read at my friend Joseph Lieberman's synagogue Kesher Israel."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
The Kremlin
MOSCOW - Following are remarks the Prime Minister made to his wife before he turned his face to the wall and fell asleep. Some content has been censored.
"I would like to congratulate my Jewish friends on being so devilishly clever as to defeat the nefarious Central Asians. My friend Rabbi Lazar of the warm, friendly, welcoming, and messianist Jewish group Chabad tells me that only one lesson can be learned from the Scroll of Esther: we would be in very real danger if we did not bomb the Chechnyan bastards back to the Soviet Age the minute after I finish this bottle of vodka."

President Moshe Katzav
Beyt Ha-Nasi
JERUSALEM - Following are remarks made by the President to an attractive staff sergeant who brought him coffee this Wednesday.
. . .
On second thought, never mind.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
Spokesman of the World Conference of Grand Jewish Orthodox Charedi Rabbinical Rebbes
SOMEWHERE IN BROOKLYN. QUEENS MAYBE? MONSEY? I FORGET. ANYWAY. - "Since 'the glory of the princess is within doors' and Esther deserves her modesty, the coming Artscroll/Super Charedi (TM) edition of the Megillah will change Queen Esther's name to 'Mister Mister.' While we're at it, 'Mordechai' sounds gay; his name we're changing to 'Mendel.'"

Professor Arnold Eisen
Chancellor of JTS
UPPER WEST SIDE, PARTICULARLY INCONVENIENT TO ANY TRAINS YOU MIGHT EVER WANT TO TAKE. WHY COULDN'T THEY HAVE PUT IT NEARER MIDTOWN? - "First of all, Avi, quit making jokes about what the 'TS' stands for. That's just immature. Second, I'd like to wish an anthropological, sociological, and philosophical Purim to all my constituents. I am pleased to release the results of a comprehensive poll recently taken of the Conservative movement's leadership when they were having lunch together at Katz's. [They were eating the tuna salad. Jeez, you people are so frum!] 50% of the respondents (N=1) agreed with getting shiker-faced on Purim, while another 50% (N=1) held that sugar intoxication was preferred. Another 50% (N=1) wondered when he could finally retire to Jerusalem and join an Orthodox shul. Steve, oh Steve Cohen! Why don't these numbers add up right?..."

Rabbi Elliot Dorff
Professor of Partial Homosexual Heterim
UPPER WEST SIDE, I MEAN THAT'S WHERE HE WORKS, BUT FOR HIS SAKE I HOPE HE LIVES SOMEWHERE ELSE - "I'd like to wish my gay friends an enjoyable Purim. But not too enjoyable."
Informed consent
Notes for a talk

Mr. C. is a 55-year-old Spanish speaking man with abdominal pain that has migrated from the epigastrium to the right lower quadrant of the abdomen. You are asked to “consent” him for a CT scan of the abdomen. Your Spanish is good enough to talk to him, but Mr. C. does not ask any questions, even when you repeatedly press him on the matter. He keeps saying, “Whatever you say, doctor.”

More here.