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DER YIDDISH-VINKL October 24, 2003

With the High Holy Days behind us, it seems timely to recall a little story in Ruth Levitan’s ever entertaining collection titled “Lakh a Bisl, Lakh a Sakh.” The English translation is by Gus Tyler.

Yom Toyvim

A goy hot zikh amol megayer geven. S’iz grade geven in mitn vinter. Az s’iz gekumen Rosh-Khoydesh Shvat, iz vi er veyst avade, trinkt men in kloyz lekhayim. Iz dos dem ger gefeln.

Tsvey vokhn shpeter iz geven Khamishe-Oser Bishvat. Hot men vider getrunken, un m’hot gegesn erts yisroyel frukhten… boksr un teytlen un mandlen. S’iz dokh epes Rosh-Hashone — a nay yor bay di beymer! Bald nokh dem iz vider Rosh-Khoydesh. Rosh Khoydesh Oder, trinkt men dokh af dos nay! Glaykh derbay iz Purim. Demolt iz dokh avade a mitsve tsu trinken. Trinkt men un me trinkt, un me est homen-tashn un tayere gebeksn. Der ger hot zik shtark shtark posmakevet. Ay — s’iz a tayer zakh tsu zayn a yid!

Nokh Peysekh bagegnt zikh undzer ger mit zaynem an altn fraynd, a goy. Dertseylt er im vi gut s’iz tsu zayn a yid. Me halt in eyn esn un trinken.

Oyb azoy, Ivan, zogt der anderer goy tsum ger — efsher ver ikh oykh a yid.

A klal, der goy hot zikh oykh megayer geven. Un eyder vos ven — iz shoyn geven in mitn zumer. Se rukt zikh on der khoydesh Tamuz. Sheve-Oser betamuz fast men, un in dray vokhn est men nisht kayn fleysh, un trinken trinkt men dokh avade nisht. Dernokh kumen di nayn teg in Tishe-Bov. Me geyt arum fartroyert, un me fast vider. Un mashke zet men demolt afile in di oygn nisht on. Bald nokh dem is Elul, un se dernentern zikh di yomim-noroyim. Me fast, me veynt, un me zogt slikhes. Afile a fish in vaser tsitert dokh in yene teg. Vemen ligt in zinen trinken!

To geyt ariber a tsayt, bagegenen zikh di tsvey fraynd. Hot der anderer a tayne. —Staytch, mayn fraynd, du host mir gezogt az yidn haltn in eyn esn un trinken. Tsum sof, ze ikh gor, az zey haltn in eyn fastn un veynen.

— Bist gerekht, zogt der ershter ger. Zint du bist gevorn a yid, hostu do in gantsn kalye gemakht.


A gentile converted. It happened in the middle of winter. When the new month started, as you know, we take a drink or two in the small synagogue. The convert liked the idea. Two weeks later was the New Year’s Day for the trees. Once more there was much drinking, and they ate fruits of Israel — St. John’s Bread, dates and almonds. Shortly after comes the first of the month. It’s time once more to drink to the new. Shortly after comes Purim, a time most surely it’s a virtuous deed to drink. So, we drink and drink and we eat hamantashen and delicious baking. The convert relished it all. Yes, it is a dear thing to be a Jew. After Purim comes Passover. One Seder night and then another. One drinks the prescribed glasses and eats and is happy.

After Passover, our convert encounters an old friend. The convert tells his friend that it’s good to be a Jew. You just keep eating and drinking. New Year’s, you drink; Purim, you drink. Passover, you drink continuously.

“If that’s the case, Ivan,” the gentile says to the convert, “perhaps I will become a Jew too.”

In short, the second gentile arranged to be converted. By that time, it was mid-summer. Soon they were running into Tammuz, the 10th month of the year. There comes a period when for three weeks one does not eat any meat and drinking is a no-no. Then come the nine days of Tisha B’Av, the fasting in remembrance of the destruction of the Temple when one goes about in sadness and then fasts again. And one’s eyes, of course, encounter no booze. And then comes Elul, the 12th month, and one soon faces the Days of Awe. You fast, you cry and you recite prayers begging forgiveness. Nobody even thinks about drinking.

Time marches on. The two friends meet again. The most recent convert has a complaint. “Well, my friend, you told me that the Jews were constantly eating and drinking. It turns out that they are constantly fasting and crying.”

“You’re right,” replies the original convert. “But this only happened after you joined and spoiled everything.”

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