A tale of Sukkos past

 

If you are a Jew, you can skip to the second paragraph.  For the goyim (gentiles) reading this, Sukkos (or Sukkot) is a Jewish Holy Festival where we build and then take our meals in a temporary sukka (or booth) in obedience to the command of G-d in Leviticus 23.  We do this to remember how our ancestors lived in temporary booths in the years following the Egyptian captivity.  You’ll find it mentioned in the Christian scriptures in John 7 as the “Feast of Tabernacles.”  On 15 Tishrei (late September/early October) we start the seven-day festival.  With your introduction to Judaism freshly learned, you may be able to appreciate the brief tale that follows.

I have a funny, if not somewhat sad tale of my first Sukkos away from home. I was a freshman at Rutgers University. I went to the Newark campus which was for commuters only.  Newark, NJ, like many big cities, is mostly paved. A few Jewish students and I tried to erect a sukka in the Rutgers quadrangle without the benefit of soil to stake it in or trees to tie it to. As fate would have it, Sukkos started on a very windy day so our sukka did not survive. I have to wonder if G-d looked down and said, “what schmucks, they don’t even plan to build a proper sukka,” or if He said, “such faith and commitment these kids have, believing that an untethered sukka could stand on a windy day.”

I am looking forward to finding out which of these He said.

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What they didn’t teach you in Hebrew School

If you are Jewish, you’ll understand this post.  I don’t know who the author is but my nice Jewish mother sent it to me.

1. The High Holidays have absolutely nothing to do with marijuana.

2. Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.

3. No meal is complete without leftovers.

4. According to Jewish dietary law, pork and shellfish may be eaten only in Chinese restaurants.

5. A shmata is a dress that your husband’s ex is wearing.

6. You need ten men for a minyan, but only four in polyester pants and white shoes for pinochle.

7. One mitzvah can change the world; two will just make you tired.

8. After the destruction of the Second temple , God created Nordstrom’s.

9. Anything worth saying is worth repeating a thousand times.

10. Never take a front row seat at a Bris.

11. Next year in Jerusalem . The year after that, how about a nice cruise?

12. Never leave a restaurant empty handed.

13. Spring ahead; fall back – winters in Boca.

14. WASPs leave and never say good-bye; Jews say good-bye and never leave.

15. Always whisper the names of diseases.

16. If it tastes good, it’s probably not kosher.

17. The important Jewish holidays are the ones on which alternate side of the street parking is suspended

18. Without Jewish mothers, who would need therapy?

19. If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. But if you can afford it, make sure to tell everybody what you paid.

20. Laugh now, but one day you’ll be driving a Lexus and eating dinner at 4:00 PM in Florida .

Backformation in the vomitorium

I used to think a vomitorium was the place where self-indulgent romans would go to purge their over-stuffied bellies so they could have another round of over-eating.  In a grammar and vocabulary dialog with a left-coast colleague of mine, I said the following as we discussed backformation:

In writing about backformation, I just found another horrendous one [backformation]. I just used this sentence:
“Edit” was backformed from “editor.”
I guess I could have written this:
“Edit” was backformated from “editor.”
Where, pray tell, is the vomitorium?

After the conversation, I recalled that in the movie Hanna (which I totally loved), the character of Sophie was fond of the word “vomitorium.”  I wanted to find the exact line from the movie because I thought it was so amusing.  As I looked for it, I discovered two entries for the Valley of Wrongness.  The first entry goes to me for not knowing the correct definition of vomitorium and using that incorrect definition since I first saw I Claudius as a young teen.  I thought it was a socially acceptable place to practice bulemia.  The good folks at Dictionary.com say otherwise:

Main Entry: vomitorium
Part of Speech: n
Definition: in a theater or stadium, esp. ancient, a passageway leading to and from the seating
Etymology: Latin vomitorius, alluding to the path’s discharging of the spectators

That makes perfectly good sense.  Then, they put the nail in the coffin of my Wrongness when they stated:

Word Origin & History

vomitorium
1754, “passage or opening in an ancient amphitheater, leading to or from the seats,” from L. (Macrobius, Sat. , VI.iv); see vomit. Erroneous meaning “place where ancient Romans (allegedly) deliberately vomited during feasts” is attested from 1923.

The second entry in the Valley of Wrongness goes to the dozens of sites that stated “vomitorium” was nothing more than teenage jargon.  I’m only slightly better than them.  I knew it was a real word.  I just didn’t know what it meant. 

Mea culpa.

References

vomitorium. (n.d.). Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon. Retrieved July 13, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vomitorium
 
vomitorium. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 13, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vomitorium