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« April 15—Sic Semper Tyrannis! | Main | Patriot’s Day Reclaimed »

April 17, 2005

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Danny,

We woke up this morning and were stunned to see that the baby was gone. Gone! My wife has never looked better, but at what price?

Danny! What have you done?!!

Oy, so unfair to scare a shtetl Jew! Don't worry—you two are completely immune to the evil eye (but you should be worried about your cats sucking the breath out of your baby's mouth...)

Oh Danny-you know damn well that kinnehora means your thighs are fat.

I almost included that anecdote! Once my mother grabbed my sister's leg and exclaimed "kinnehora!" I'm sure she meant that as "Look at my daughter's beautiful figure—stay away from her, evil eye!" but my sister heard it as "wow, have you ever seen a fatter thigh in your life?" As if the base-level superstitions aren't bad enough, we Jews are skilled at weaving them into additional layers of torture and shame!

I think what your grandmother meant was, "Now **this** is a healthy body! No evil eye would waste its time!" My wife indulges in such Yiddishisms from time to time: "Oy, look at that Gabie punum. Poo poo poo."

Turns out many of these "superstitions" have mystical origins. It was transitions -- birth, bris, wedding and the smaller ones of everyday life -- that were thought to provide the "cracks" through which the Evil Eye could see and penetrate. Hence the directive (from the Big Guy Himself) to put mezzuzot on doorways. And that's why brides were carried over thresholds -- their feet shouldn't touch the ground of that first, most sacred transition. And smashing the glass underfoot at the wedding reminds us of the Temple's destruction, but I've read its original purpose was to scare off the Evil Eye.

Our grandparents' generation grew up with these practices already becoming divorced from their roots, sources, or explanations. You just did it because you did what your elders told you to do, never mind why unless I should give you a smack on the side of your head. Poo poo poo.

I can bore you with more of this anytime you like.

Does anyone remember having to chew string when your mother shortened clothes as you were wearing it? I believe it prevented the evil spirits from using the straight pins to stab your youthful skin. Because I was (still am) a shortie, this ritual accompanied all of the clothing Mother bought for me in Carsons' or Fields' basements in the 1940s.

Danny... Danny... Danny...

Today, I Googled "Kennehora" (looking for the definition) and up comes your blog entry AT THE TOP OF THE LIST. Oy veys mir, what's this world coming to ?

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