What Jewish History Forgot

by Marnie Macauley August 24, 2017
 

 

what-jewish-history-forgotToday we take a look back at some of the majestic events that took place during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

GOOD JEWISH SPORTS: KOUFAX! A HERO AMONG HEROES

Hank Greenberg and Ron Blomberg made an indelible impression when each refused to play ball during the High Holidays. Sandy Koufax in particular did so during the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and Hall of Famer – also one of the most famous Jewish athletes in American sports – made national headlines when he refused to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. Instead of pitching, he went to shul and fasted.

How many know that when Koufax’s replacement Don Drysdale was pulled from the game for poor performance, he told the Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager Walter Alston, “I bet you wish I was Jewish, too.” Did you know that Casey Stengel once called Koufax: “The Jewish kid is probably the best of them” in answer to the question, “Who was the finest pitcher in baseball history?”

Koufax’s father, who thought baseball “a stupid game,” was nevertheless proud of his son’s famous decision, calling him “… a good Jewish boy.”

AN AWESOME PRAYER: KOL NIDRE

There is scarcely a Jew anywhere who hasn’t felt the power of this mournful prayer, but did you know that Kol Nidre is actually a legal statement, in Aramaic! More, that the moving chant many regard as a voice of Jewish suffering, was also used, in part, by Beethoven in his Quartet in C Sharp Minor?

SHOFAR SOUNDS

While Jews worldwide are eager to hear the shofar blown during the High Holidays, did you know that there are four sounds that a tokea, which means “blaster,” makes with the hard-to-master shofar? Although many tokeas are seasoned after having blown the shofar for years and years, most still practice because the shofar is a difficult instrument to master.

Throughout the shofar service, four different sounds are called out at which point the blaster will make the sounds on the shofar. These are the four sounds:

Tekiyah: an unbroken blast lasting about three seconds,

Sh’varim: a tekiyah that’s been broken into three blasts,

Teruah: nine quick, rapid-fire blasts,

Tekiyah gedolah: three of the tekiyah blasts lasting at least nine seconds in total.

In many communities, the tekiyah gedolah has become an epic part of the shofar service with the blaster attempting to elongate the final blast as long as possible, especially at the end of the final service on Yom Kippur. Also: The shofar sounds an amazing 100 times throughout the High Holiday service, and it’s a mitzvah to hear those blasts!

More, the shofar is used to multi-task. Just as the shofar (ram’s horn), as reported in Exodus, was heard on Mount Sinai when G-d gave Moses the Ten Commandments, and is  blown in the synagogue during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In the past it was considered a musical instrument and trumpet of war. Did you know that the shofar is also sounded in modern Israel on grand occasions, for example, when the Western Wall was liberated and upon the inauguration of a president? The use of the ram’s horn reminds Jews of G-d’s reprieve, allowing Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son.

KREPLACH: MEATY & MEANINGFUL

Kreplach, an Ashkenazi Yom Kippur Eve tradition, is a meat-filled dough, often used in soups, yet is has a deeper significance. The filling symbolizes justice, while the dough connotes compassion. Kreplach then is a metaphor meaning that G-d’s strict justice will be tempered on side of mercy.

ONE VOICE NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN

[Excerpt] “We have been promising to observe the Kol Nidre service. The rabbi prays. I look at the crematorium. And I hear the voice of the rabbi, as though it no longer came from his heart, but as if his heart itself had opened and wept: ‘And a portion of our fat and our blood.’ The congregation repeats ‘our fat  and our blood.’  Louder and louder ….  [Switching from Hebrew to Yiddish] … ‘The blood and fat of our parents, children and relatives.’ Tears pour …. The weeping flows together, like a river.”

– Yoysef Vaynberg, describes the scene in Auschwitz, excerpted from Yiddish, A Nation of Words (2001)

IKON-ICS

During the Yom Kippur war in 1973, a gentile named William Ikon wrote a letter to the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph that was published in 250 dailies. He wrote:   “…  bumper stickers read, ‘Jews go home, pack your belongings and go. We do not want Jews. We want oil. But before you leave, do us a favor?! Could you leave behind the vaccine formula of Dr. Jonas Salk before you go?! Will you leave behind the capability in politics, your good literature and your tasty food. Please have pity on us. Remember it was from you that we learned the secret of how to develop great men as Einstein and Steinmetz. We owe you for the atomic bomb, research satellites and perhaps we owe you our very existence. I’m not sure I could live a secure life in a land in which you are not found. If at any time you will have to leave, love will leave with you. Democracy will leave with you – If you pass by my house, please slow down and honk …  because I’m going with you.”

Chag Samayach and Gut Yuntiff.

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