The Voldie Oldie
"Brandy" (Looking Glass, 1972)
Story, n. A narrative, commonly untrue. The truth of the stories here following has, however, not been successfully impeached.
Soul, n. A spiritual entity concerning which there hath been brave disputation. Plato held that thos souls which in a previous state of existence (antedating Athens) had obtained the clearest glimpses of eternal truth entered into the bodies of persons who became philosophers. Plato was himself a philosopher. The souls that had least contemplated divine truth animated the bodies of usurpers and despots. Dionysus I, who had threatened to decapitate the broadbrowed philosopher, was a usurper and despot. Plato, doubtless, was not the first to construct a system of philosophy that could be quoted against his enemies; certainly he was not the last.
Sorcery, n. The ancient prototype and forerunner of political influence. It was, however, deemed less respectable and sometimes was punished by torture and death. Augustine Nicholas relates that a poor peasant who had been accused of sorcery was put to the torture to compel a confession. After enduring a few gentle agonies the suffering simpleton admitted his guilt, but naively asked his tormentors if it were not possible to be a sorcerer without knowing it.
"Let's say you have a horse, and it doesn't have a place to live. Then it's unstable."
Several years ago, I partook in a meal of some sort - I think it was Shalosh Seudos - sponsored by a husband and wife observing a yahrzeit, I think of the wife's father or grandfather. I think I was in Baltimore, Los Angeles, or possibly Toronto, but I don't remember for sure. (If anybody can figure out from the following account where I was or who the family was, please tell me.) Anyway, during the meal, the sponsoring husband spoke about the man whose yahrzeit was being commemorated. He had apparently been a rabbi in eastern Europe - Lithuania, I think; not one of the really famous ones, but a talmid chacham and respected leader of his community nonetheless. I don't remember much of what the speaker said about him, but one thing stuck in my mind. The speaker related that this rabbi had advised his wife not to put herself out too much, or to pour enormous energy, into hosting the houseguests they periodically had. He explained that if she tried too hard to be an exemplary hostess, she would end up feeling that having guests was a burden, and would be less amenable to putting people up - i.e., fulfilling the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim. Better, he advised, to be more modest in her hospitality, but to be always willing to provide it, than to put such effort into it that she would burn herself out and sometimes - consciously or otherwise - avoid hosting altogether.
Slang, n. The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus intolerabilis) with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of setting up as a wit without a capital of sense.
"I had the greatest career anyone could ever have. I rode a big black horse. I rode hard. They heard me coming three and four towns away."
This weekend was lots of fun, but I think that Tommy and I are going to be seeing a chiropractor for years to come after we tried to lift you in the air. That was pretty stupid.
"After Jackie Robinson, the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson. I really mean that."
Senate, n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and misdemeanors.
"My only regret in life is that I can't sit in the stands and watch me pitch."
"I don't know what's goin' through their heads. Not enough, I guess."
The story of Yitzhak and the wells is seemingly pointless at first. Why should we care that he dug three wells, and that he called them these strange names? This question has troubled many commentators (see Ramban). Netziv provides an interesting approach.
"Gentlemen, repetition of a notion does not render it correct."
"Can You Give It All to Me" (Myles and Lenny, 1974)
Scimetar, n. A curved sword of exceeding keenness, in the conduct of which certain Orientals attain a surprising proficiency, as the incident here related will serve to show. The account is translated from the Japanese of Shusi Itama, a famous writer of the thirteenth century.
Saw, n. A trite popular saying, or proverb. (Figurative and colloquial.) So called because it makes its way into a wooden head. Following are examples of old saws fitted with new teeth.
"It looks more like an anal oriface than a mitochondrion."
"It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" (Tom Middleton, 1973)
Satire, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness.
"Wow, I'm the man. Well, actually, David Sidney's the man. I guess that means I'm the woman."
Safety-Clutch, n. A mechanical device acting automatically to prevent the fall of an elevator, or cage, in case of an accident to the hoisting apparatus.
Sacrament, n. A solemn religious ceremony to which several degrees of authority and significance are attached. Rome has seven sacraments, but the Protestant churches, being less prosperous, feel that they can afford only two, and these of inferior sanctity. Some of the smaller sects have no sacraments at all - for which mean economy they will indubitably be damned.
"The largest government department is the Department of Redundancy Department."
The following is a mildly edited version of a series of comments I just posted on http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2006/11/concise-history-of-anti-semitism-in.html. It begins with someone else's comment, which I have italicised.
Sabbath, n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. Among the Jews observance of the day was enforced by a Commandment of which this is the Christian version: "Remember the seventh day to make thy neighbor keep it wholly." To the Creator it seemed fit and expedient that the Sabbath should be the last day of the week, but the Early Fathers of the Church held other views. So great is the sanctity of the day that even where the Lord holds a doubtful and precarious jurisdiction over those who go down to (and down into) the sea it is reverently recognized, as is manifest in the following deep-water version of the Fourth Commandment:
"Would you like a large assignment?"
Russian, n. A person with a Caucasian body and a Mongolian soul. A Tartar Emetic.
"Mouthy brat... case of arrested development."
"Because the track coach was the biology teacher and I had trouble with biology. I'm not crazy."
Roundhead, n. A member of the Parliamentary party in the English civil war - so called from his habit of wearing his hair short, whereas his enemy, the Cavalier, wore his long. There were other points of difference between them, but the fashion in hair was the fundamental cause of quarrel. The Cavaliers were royalists because the king, an indolent fellow, found it more convenient to let his hair grow than to wash his neck. This the Roundheads, who were mostly barbers and soap-boilers, deemed an injury to trade, and the royal neck was therefore the object of their particular indignation. Descendants of the belligerents now wear their hair all alike, but the fires of animosity enkindled in that ancient strife smoulder to this day beneath the snows of British civility.
"If you combined Electra and Orestes, would you get Olestra?"
Rope, n. An obsolescent appliance for reminding assassins that they too are mortal. It is put about the neck and remains in place one's whole life long. It has been largely superseded by a more complex electrical device worn upon another part of the person; and this is rapidly giving place to an apparatus known as the preachment.
"I didn't do so great in the first grade either."
"The paper I get, they make sure it's yashan. I get it three months after it comes out."
"Ten-thirty! I'm not even done throwing up at that hour."
Robber, n. A candid man of affairs.
On his birthday. Hope you're wearing your birthday suit, Gaby 'n Fish.
I've been steadily gaining weight since I started working six months ago. I'm slowly pushing the half-tonne mark. I've got to do something about it so I've decided to jog to work everyday. Work is 10.58 km away from home. Hevnsangel19 says that it won't last more than one day. Any other guesses to how many consecutive days of jogging to work before I give up?
All righty, here's a feature I started way back in February 2006, and it only lasted two installments before it disappeared, so I decided it's about time I bring it back for a third try. Here's the story:
"There is much less drinking now than there was before 1927, because I quit drinking on May 24, 1927."
Ritualism, n. A Dutch Garden of God where He may walk in rectilinear freedom, keeping off the grass.
R.I.P. A careless abbreviation of requiescat in pace, attesting an indolent goodwill to the dead. According to the learned Dr. Drigge, however, the letters originally meant nothing more than reductus in pulvis.
The commentaries of Netziv and Malbim on Genesis are quite different in style. In general, I think one could justify the assertion that while Malbim is generally concerned with analyzing the flow of the narrative, showing how the concatenation of verses fits together in a seamless tale, Netziv is much more interested in understanding the precise linguistic meaning of each term in Genesis. To be sure, this distinction is largely a question of emphasis: one can hardly explain the connectivity between different pieces of a narrative without invoking some form of grammatical or lexicographical diyyuqim. But it is nonetheless there.
Riot, n. A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent bystanders.
"Max... Max... Maximum..."
Notice my comment at http://fkmaniac.blogspot.com/2006/11/better-let-rabbi-shalom-kaminetzky-say.html.
Righteousness, n. A sturdy virtue that was once found among the Pantidoodles inhabiting the lower part of the peninsula of Oque. Some feeble attempts were made by returned missionaries to introduce it into several European countries, but it appears to have been imperfectly expounded. An example of this faulty exposition is found in the only extant sermon of the pious Bishop Rowley, a characteristic passage from which is here given:
"Give me an M.... Give me an A.... Give me an X.... What do you get? Maxie! No, Max."
Who was Lot? Was he a loyal companion to Avraham, led astray only by his lust for material prosperity? Or was he rather an almost wholly corrupt relative who was along for the ride only so far as the gravy train traveled? The images presented by our sages leave a very confusing picture.
"It depends on the length of the game."
(Publisher's Note: Notice the back-and-forth correspondance between Ephraim and Pi at the end of the dvar torah.)
New feature. A song beloved to the Dark Lord and therefore to be much extolled by his Death Eaters. (It will usually be at least 20 years old - hence the name.)
Revolution, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. Specifically, in American history, the substitution of the rule of an Administration for that of a Ministry, whereby the welfare and happiness of the people were advanced a full half-inch. Revolutions are usually accompanied by a considerable effusion of blood, but are accounted worth it - this appraisement being made by beneficiaries whose blood had not the mischance to be shed. The French revolution is of incalculable value to the Socialist of to-day; when he pulls the string actuating its bones its gestures are inexpressibly terrifying to gory tyrants suspected of fomenting law and order.
"First I'm going to talk about some pretty boring stuff."
"I only gave up three runs - Rosie gets half of everything."
Reverence, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man.
"Escapees from the Institute, come back!"
"I flush the toilets between innings to keep my wrists strong."
Over the past few weeks, I have added many new addresses to my mailing list, so let me introduce myself again. This is my weekly “vort” on the parsha. If you know of anyone else who might like to receive this sort of thing every week, feel free to forward this message to them, or have them contact me so that I can add them to my list. For nothing more than the cost of postage, you can receive an absolutely original dvar Torah every Thursday or Friday (or even earlier in the week, it seems to turn out), as well as before significant dates of the year. The style will be more analytical than didactic, and I am by all means open to suggestions regarding possible subjects. Back issues are also available for a nominal fee.
Restitution, n. The founding or endowing of universities and public libraries by gift or bequest.
The early sections of the Torah which we’ve been reading recently contain a number of firsts. Last week we met Nimrod, the first king/despot in world history (see Ramban on 10:9). This week, we have the first war ever (see Tanchuma Lech Lecha 7). And we also have the first attempt to sneak something by the border. No, it was not a WMD (or Weapon of Mass Destruction, to the uninitiated).
"I can still steal bases. I can still run. I can still hit. I can still make errors."
Responsibility, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.
"I can tell you, however, what we won't be covering - sex ed., for one...."
Resplendent, adj. Like a simple American citizen beduking himself in his lodge, or affirming his consequence in the Scheme of Things as an elemental unit of a parade.
"The best part is, all I have to do is catch balls instead of throwing them. I didn't care for throwing that much."
Respite, n. A suspension of hostilities against a sentenced assassin, to enable the Executive to determine whether the murder may not have been done by the prosecuting attorney. Any break in the continuity of a disagreeable expectation.
Although I was very tempted, this week everything will be in order. But if you’re interested in more chronology, check out Tosafos on Berachos 7b and Shabbos 10b.And please feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested.
Respectability, n. The offspring of a liaison between a bald head and a bank account.