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2,500 years ago, the awesome army of Baghdad (then called Babylon) pacified central Israel and hammered Jerusalem until the walls came down, the city was in ruins and the Temple burned to the ground. The cruelty and carnage was unbelievable. Most of the Jews who survived the war were taken in a death march down to Iraq (what it’s called today).
Those who survived the trek were welcomed by a decade-old Jewish community. This influx of immigrants created a Jewish presence along the Euphrates that not only survived but flourished for about 1,000 years, producing many of the greatest scholars in Jewish history and one of our most precious intellectual heirlooms, the Babylonian Talmud.
Even after the Islamification of Iraq, Jewish life continued there for centuries, and like everywhere Jews have lived, they contributed mightily to the prosperity of the society.
Eventually, like nearly everywhere Jews have lived, we became non-grata.
It would be interesting to tell a history of the Jewish people based on places we’ve gone and how those places have affected all of Jewry. For example:
Babylon – Talmud (among other great works)
France – Rashi and the Tosofists
Poland – Hasidism
USA - ???
Should we also mention material contributions?
The USA and Persia (Iran) are two countries where Jews have never been officially kicked out. Uncomfortable at times, but prosperous. I am presently in Los Angeles, where I have met many Persian Jews. They tell me that they are much more comfortable here! But one consequence of their comfort is that the long-term continuity of their community is no longer taken for granted.
Now, remember my friend Shlomo Shulman who is the only Jewish chaplain serving in Iraq? He was recently promoted to Captain. Here is a website with some moving photos of Jewish life in Iraq today – I encourage you to scan through some of these photos.
25 centuries after Nebuchadnezzar, here are Jews who have returned to Babylon to try to help make the country free and peaceful again.
As my grandmother would have said, How do you like that?
Question for your table: What are three mkomas you’ve been that had the biggest impact on your life?
PS – here is a meditational reading for Monday night.
July 24 – Tacoma, Wash.
August 7-8 – St. Louis (CAJE):
"You Can Teach the Talmud!"
"Combating Missionaries: The 'Why be Jewish?' Defense"
"Two Plus Five: How to Teach Spirituality"
(For details, send an email)
Yiddish of the week:
Mkohm — place (pl. mkohmas)
Yiddish review - how many do you know?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanos — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — how wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That’s how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of stopping; weekly sabbatical experience
"Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience"
Neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz — sweat
shanda — shame
Lechayim! — Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid — the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus — zeal