The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Magic Words and From Seder to Shoah

Some people would enjoy the life of a supermarket cashier. People come in weekly or daily, you get people what they need, and you know what is a fair price when it comes to food.

That being said, the average Kupa’it is not the most pleasant of women. Let’s be honest, most of them are downright surly. Who can blame them? Repetitive stress injuries, people trying to use expired coupons, folks who can’t read a label on a shelf, and management that… well, you get the idea. But there is a magic phrase that for a week will turn even the most grim of Kuapiyot into a woman happier to see you than your favorite aunt. “Aich Leyl Haseder?” How was your seder? This phrase, and various variations thereon will give you a feel of wizard- like power. Speak the incantation, and the grim sphinx who guards the way between your groceries and freedom turns into a aristocratic matron all too happy to speed you on your way.

The first time I used the magic, I was unprepared, and nearly brought the store to a standstill. “How was my seder?” Her expression transformed from wrinkled, prune like, in annoyance of having to deal with another American, into a beatific smile as she replied. Yes, it was lovely, 40 people, ended at midnight, what a delight. Then the chain reaction happened. “Shira! Shira!” she hollered to the next Kuapit, “How was it? Did Muki come in from the Army?” “Yes! And he brought this girlfriend!” Dana,” called Shira, “how did the seder go by you?” Another kupait stopped scanning cans and boxes. “Everyone wore white, we sang and sang…” It spread like a wave of giddiness, and it took a few minutes for the lines to get moving again. Powerful stuff.

Supermarkets on Pesach are a trip. Wine is on discount, sold in bonus boxes and 2-for-one offers. Wine here is cheaper than beer, strangely enough. There are shelves full of K4P cakes (see the photo- each cake is k4p), other shelves covered over with butcher paper (shown above), just like at home- very amusing and enjoyable shopping. And now Passover is past. The initial clamor for all things Chametz has died down- bakeries are not running out of bread, schnitzel is available in all its manifold forms, and the magic phrase has lost its power. Try it out next year if you can.


We are transitioning into the period of the “new” holidays, starting with Yom Hashoah V’gevurah. in Israel that last bit is stressed, unlike in the US where nobody uses it. That means that here in Israel people are not as likely to lament “Why didn’t they fight back?” In Israel, part of the day is remembering that people did indeed fight. Jews fought back in numerous ways- combat often came last. First came the greatest acts of resistance under Nazi oppression- remaining alive and practicing Judaism. When smuggling extra food or praying in a minyan are things that can get you killed, it is heroism to daven or to bring potatoes to your family. Not as flashy as binging bullets to bear on Nazi soldiers, but just as daring an act of heroism. We did fight back- and hence in Israel, the day has three words, ending with V’gvurah- and heroism.


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