Someone in Netanya has lost a sock. I’m on my way.

December 14, 2009

I foolishly mentioned to an acquaintance recently that I was paying a short visit to Israel.  “Oh”, she said in pleasant surprise, as if she’d just won a ten pound prize in the lottery, “where are you staying?”

“Herzelia” I replied, “why?”

“Would you mind taking something for me?”

“A pleasure,” I smiled, “what is it?”

“It’s a sock”.

“A sock?”

“Yes, a sock,” my soon to become former acquaintance explained.  “My daughter was over a few months ago and she left a sock.  She only lives in Netanya.  It’ll be no problem for her to collect it from wherever you’re staying”.

“Why don’t you post it?”  I said, wishing to be neither unhelpful nor burdened by such a triviality.

“Oh, you know”.

No, I didn’t know.  I had absolutely no idea why anyone would choose to send a sock by personal courier, with the recipient being forced to travel from one town to another to collect it.  My suspicion is that what is going on is that my friend is living back in the 1950’s when it took several weeks to send something to Israel with no guarantee of it ever arriving, and so when she hears that someone is going to Israel (which is approximately every fortnight), she scours her home in order to find something to have shlepped, thus enabling her to bask in the delight of having solved a problem she never had in the first place.

As my day of departure drew near I thought my friend had accepted how nuts her plan was and decided not to bother, but no, the day before I left she dropped round to hand me a neatly wrapped package.  It was an envelope, properly addressed.  I thought it was being collected so why the full address?   She may well have hoped that I was going to stand in a post office queue for half my holiday but I had no intention of doing any such thing.

“I’ll leave it at the hotel reception – your daughter can collect it any time she likes,” I informed her, my irritation barely concealed.

I arrived at Heathrow and being both honest and stupid (a combination that makes me very few enemies, being only a danger to myself), I confessed to the possession of something within my baggage that I had been asked to carry for someone else.  I explained that the envelope contained a single sock that I had been asked to help re-unite with its partner.  I couldn’t have elicited a deeper look of concern if I’d told him I was carrying an AK47 and a couple of landmines, a look that transformed into incredulity when he opened the package to check.

So that was that, until I arrived home a week later and discovered, tucked under a flap at the bottom of my suitcase, an envelope with a baby’s sock in it.  I have therefore spent this morning queuing in the post office in Golders Green behind several tens of other people with small packages bound for Israel.


December 14, 2009

I’m sitting at my laptop wrapped in a warm glow of smug satisfaction, which is just as well because it’s cold and miserable out in the sukkah I have just put up.  It’s taken the best part of a frustrating day to complete but after several false starts (and one injury where an upright fell and hit me in the tabernacles) I finally succeeded and am jolly pleased with myself.  How good are my tents, oh Jacob?  Huh?

One of the many mysteries of Sukkot is how sections I’ve used in previous years miraculously don’t fit properly without having to chop, shave, saw and jam them into place.  During the year, while it’s sitting in the shed, I suspect it grows extra bits.   That aside, I must say these pre-fabricated steel and MDF sukkahs are marvelous.  I’d hate to have to design and build one from scratch using random pieces of wood, that’s for sure.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised at my success.  While we Jews are not thought of as particularly handy when it comes to construction, the temporary booth is our speciality.   During the war, my great uncle, a cabinet maker, was sent to build a barracks.  Clearly the army was not fully aware of difference between a sideboard and a hostel.  Nevertheless, Uncle Joe did his best and was commended for his work.  The only negative feedback he received was for the leaky roof and his reluctance to use more than two and a half walls. On the plus side, they loved his inlay work.

This year I am the proud owner of a deluxe etrog. While in every other area of Jewish law something is either kosher or not kosher, when it comes to etrogs some are evidently more kosher than others.  I wish you could see mine.  It is so beautiful you would be struck dumb and your eyes would pop out on their stalks as you jealously salivate over it.  You can be forgiven for assuming that I’m talking about a supermodel rather than a piece of inedible fruit, but agreeing to pay several pounds more for this item than for another because someone had graded it as “exquisite” has adulterated my mind.  Only yesterday I voluntarily offered an additional £8 for some particularly shapely apples at the supermarket.

So, as I gaze at the walls decorated with the deteriorating artworks of lulavs, etrogs and horses created by my daughter (she must have been into horses at the time), of one thing I am confident:  by the time you read this Sukkot will be over, the etrog will be sitting forlornly while someone decides what to do with it (you can’t just sling a £25 piece of fruit in the recycling bin, after all) and I will have probably spent no more than 45 minutes in the sukkah all week.

Recruiting a new rabbi

December 14, 2009

Our shul is struggling hopelessly through one of the most traumatic periods in its history. We have been trying to replace our dear rabbi who passed on to a better place four years ago after illness had kept him from the pulpit for the three previous ones.  A decisive group we are not.

The composition of the recruitment panel posed our first problem. Never before have we had so many members suddenly finding time to give to the shul.   Once our 27person panel was decided upon we had to come up with a job description.  The arguments over this led to several resignations before it was finally agreed and the following was published:

Duties:  Spiritual leader, teacher, moral authority, scapegoat.

Hours:  All day, every day.

Holidays:  Yes, but not the Jewish ones.

Salary:  Before we discuss that, let me tell you about how wonderful and caring our community is and how much our last rabbi loved it here before his debilitating stress related illnesses took hold.

Our next task was to decide on a selection process.   The first stage was to invite each applicant to lead a service.  Four members sat directly in front of the bimah and at the end of each performance they took it in turns to give their verdict.  The one sat on the far right of the four was really rather brutal in his assessments and dismissed one candidate saying he had a terrible voice and had made a very bad choice of nusach. Another panellist who, it appeared, had been coaching the candidate during the preceding week then defended this same candidate vigorously.

Asking them to deliver a sermon tested the candidates’ oratory skills.  Each spoke on the topic of the week’s sedra for one minute without repetition, deviation or hesitation.  They all failed on repetition when it was revealed that it was the same sermon they gave every week: Go to shul more often; stop eating shellfish in restaurants.

Finally, we wanted to be sure that the candidates were halachically Jewish because while they were all descended from great rabbis of the 18th and 19th centuries, they were also all born in outside of the UK.  To be safe, we decided it would be best to insist that they undertake a conversion process.

It was at this point that all the candidates mysteriously decided to withdraw from the process.  We therefore plan to restart the search just as soon as we can persuade one or two people to form another recruitment panel.