Friday, April 18, 2008

Story of the Week - April 14-18

Dear Wednesday Wordplay,

um, What?


Yetziat New York

Here's a little something I learned in Hebrew School this week.

I learned a new verb this week, only it turns out, it wasn't new to me at all. In fact, it was one of the fundamental words of the Passover holiday and the Jewish faith.

The verb, in its infinitive form, is l'tziat.

The verb appears repeatedly in the Passover seder, in basically 3 contexts:

  1. hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz. the bringer of bread from the earth.
  2. motzi matzah - the part of the seder when we take out the matzah from under its cover and eat it for the first time.
  3. the theme of the Passover Seder is Yitziat Mitzraim - the going out of Egypt. (as seen in the song "Deyenu" in the line "ilu hotzianu mimitzraim" (for bringing us out of egypt).
My Hebrew teacher offered another context for Yitziat Mitzraim that I decided to share with my handful of loyal blog readers this Passover season (and in light of a story that dominated this week's news)

Here's the portion of the article we read in class that I've translated as best I could:

Passover is an important, meaningful holiday in Judaism. It emphasizes the transformation from a group of people into a nation - from a group of slaves to a free people.

Yitziat Mitzraim is the turning point in the tale of the Jewish people, an event that completely changed our history.

We asked the students of Ulpan Akiva: do they also have their own Yitziat Mitzraim - a meaningful event, after which their lives never seemed the same.

The article chronicled a diverse group of Jews who at one time or another faced a moment of Yitziat Mitzraim. It's an interesting question, one that can enrich and make current the conversation at any seder, as a way of fulfilling the seder's request that each of us think of ourselves as having personally gone out from the land of Egypt.

My story of the week is a mini Yitziat Mitzraim - not a life altering event, but one that illustrates that new verb I learned - L'tziat (to take out, go out. It has a lot of meanings. In one context it means "to spend money" or as I like to think, to bring forth money from one's wallet). I call it Yitziat New York.

This year's seders fall on a Saturday and Sunday. That timing means that few Jewish Young Adults living in New York City have to face a difficult decision - to stay in the city and go to work, or to be home with family on Passover.

Then there's another timing thing - The Catholic Church, in the form of its leader, Pope Benedict XVI, has invaded New York City. With traffic everywhere blocked off and diverted on the streets, extra security in the Subways, and the Mets and Yankees both on the road (not to mention the ascension of thousands of gawking, goyish tourists), it's the perfect weekend for the young Jews of New York to go out from the land of Manhattan, to cross the sea (already conveniently parted by the miracle of modern bridges and tunnels) and enter into the promised land of good family and delicious food.

Minus, of course, the wandering for 40 years in the desert. Because, hey, some of us have to work Monday, and the Holy Father will be gone by then anyway.

For now, it's Passover, time to remember and to celebrate the Original Yitziat Mitzraim.

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