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Friday, February 17, 2006

 

Raising Amaratzim?

Here's another priceless exchange from a session I had recently with a young student.

Student: My friend Joe is practicing for his Bar Mitzvah, and his 'trop' is completely different from the tunes you taught me.

Me: Is he a yekke? Do you know what a yekke is?

Student: I don't know... someone from Yemen?

Me: No. Someone from Yemen is a Yemenite. What's Yemen in Hebrew? (I was thinking he may have heard of Shimon Hateimani from Pirkei Avos. Silly me.)

Student: I don't know... somewhere in Europe?

After pausing to acknowledge the hilarity and tragedy of this exchange, I explained that yekkes are Jews of German descent. I explained that different communities and traditions have different styles of leining. I said, "Your friend may be a yekke, or a Sephardi."

Student: I think he's a Sephardi. His uncle is chasidish.

The boy confused Sephardi with Nusach Sephard. After pausing to smack my head with the heel of my hand, I explained the difference between Nusach Sephard (see DovBear's blog for an extended discussion thereof) and the Sephardic communities of Spain, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Then, unable to suppress my displeasure, I said something like, "Were you always this ignorant?" My wife chastised me for browbeating the boy, but I felt justified. These kids need to learn basic yedios klaliyos or 'general knowledge.' And whatever the yeshivos or households are doing isn't working.

Later, I was scrabbling around, looking for my notepad. "I can't find my notepad!" I complained. "Maybe you shouldn't be so ignorant," the boy muttered. He didn't think I could hear him. But I called him on that, too. Obviously, he's bright and clever. He came up with a decent zinger on the spot. A 'real' rebbe would have punished him for his chutzpah, but I don't see it that way. I see it as a glimpse of intelligence and wit. So why not be well-informed, too?

My extra-credit assignment for the boy is to find out what the arba parshios are. He'd never heard of them, naturally.

I wonder how widespread this cultural disconnect is. And what's the problem? Is it that schools don't have time to cover this stuff? Shuls are boring, so kids don't pay any attention? TV and sports and movies and the Internet are clouding their minds? What is it?

I'd love to do a survey of yeshiva kids across a wide spectrum of 'factions.'

Rabbi Leibel Dulitz, shlit''a, a veteran mechanech, once challenged a 10th grade yeshiva student to explain "zatu, bu, dad, ubyu." The kid had no idea what Rabbi Dulitz was talking about. He derided the boy for being an am haaretz - ignoramus - and then explained it.

But that's four degrees more advanced than "What are the arba parshios?" Am I expecting too much?


Comments:
So I'm an ingoramus. Could you please explain "zatu, bu, dad, ubyu?"

On another note, I'm with your wife. One could easily turn someone off to learning (or chv"s Judaism) entirely by being to harsh. Don't be satisfied with ignorance, but enlighten them gently.

It isn't always easy to swallow the reaction though...hang in there!
 
So I'm an ingoramus. Could you please explain "zatu, bu, dad, ubyu?"

On another note, I'm with your wife. One could easily turn someone off to learning (or chv"sh Judaism) entirely by being to harsh. Don't be satisfied with ignorance, but enlighten them gently.

It isn't always easy to swallow the reaction though...hang in there!
 
Thanks for reading. Basically, the 'arba parshiot' are four extra readings we tack on as 'maftir' for four shabbatot that fall around the Purim/Pesach time of year.

We read 'Shekalim' before Rosh Chodesh Adar, then we read 'Zachor' the Shabbat before Purim, then we read 'Parah' the following week (usually), then 'Hachodesh' the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Nisan.

Invariably, we 'skip' at least one Shabbat during this time period. And the mnemonic of 'zatu bu dad ubyu' tells you how to determine which Shabbat gets skipped.

Zatu means that if Rosh Chodesh Adar is on 'zayin,' or Shabbat, you do not append a special maftir on the 15th of the month - or tet-vav - or 'tu.'

Bu (bet vav) means that if Rosh Chodesh is a Monday, you skip the sixth of the month.

Dad (daled daled) means that if Rosh Chodesh is a Wednesday (as it is this year), we skip the special reading on the fourth of the month.

Ubyu (vav, bet yud vav) means that if Rosh Chodesh is a Friday, you skip the second AND the sixteenth of the month.

Jewish calendar trivia. Ain't it a blast?
 
Thanks! (and sorry for the accidental double post)
 
"Shimon Hateimani from Pirkei Avos."

I think it's shimon hatimni, not hateimani
 
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