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Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend—Or Are They?

The Story of Arle de León,

A Medieval Spanish-Jewish Wise Woman

Dedicated to the memory of my late father, Bernard Rasof (1918-2017), who also was a poet and who specialized in playfully humorous verse

 

Come and see.

In medieval Spain, in the thirteenth century, when all things kabbalistic were hopping, there lived a woman named Arle de León, perhaps a relative—possibly an older sister—of Rabbi Moses de León, who scholars today believe (and traditionalists do not believe) wrote part of or edited the Holy Zohar, the Book of Splendor (or Radiance, if you prefer), the Holy Grail of kabbalah, the most important strain of Jewish mysticism. By the way, some of you may be wondering if Arle de León or even Moses de León was related to the conquistador Ponce de León, who is buried in Florida. If so, go ahead and wonder, because you won’t get an answer from me, at least not this year.

No ordinary woman, or ordinary Jewish woman, was Arle. No, legend has it that she was one of the thirty-six righteous tzadikkim—the hidden righteous ones, or lamed-vavniks—who hold the world together, something the world certainly could use in our own troubled and troubling times.

Although she lived during a time when Spain was full of Jewish women, little is known about them or their lives. Precious few of their writings have survived, and although many of the women were quite educated, we do not know how many could write or read.

We do know of Jewish women who were doctors, midwives, and herbalists, and we even know the names of some of them, sometimes along with the names of their patients. Na Floreta, for example, who lived in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, was the personal physician to a queen. We also know of some women poets and have some of their poems.

For the most part, however, not much is known about these women, which is hard to grasp by us moderns, given what the enlightened among us now know and believe about women.

In our midst in the Republic of Boulder, for example, we have women rabbis, teachers, rebbetzinot, student rabbis, and wise women, some of whom also are authors and at least one of whom has written a book about medieval and ancient wise women. There also are and have been even more wise-women-behind-the-scenes, who allow their husbands to appear smarter than their husbands really are—You know the old adage that behind every man . . . but that’s another story.

A more relevant story was told in Colorado a number of years ago by a member of the prominent family descended from the Chernobyl rebbe, who was a disciple of both the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, and his chief disciple, Rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezritch. You of course will remember that last year’s Purimspiel by yours truly involved members of this family. To distinguish among the members of this family, you will need to know that the name of the Chernobyl rebbe is spelled with a final “y”—T w e r s k y—while the name of the descendant who visited Colorado, along with that of his nephew who lived here, is spelled with a final “i”—T w e r s k i. Do you think maybe the spelling with the “y” is kind of asking, “Why? Why is my name spelled the way it is?” Or perhaps the spelling is meant to direct us to a larger, metaphysical “Why?”

At any rate, the Twerski now referred to—spelled with a final “i”—when asked about the secret of his parents’ long marriage, said that his mother once told him: “He’s the head, and I’m the neck.” “Nu?” he asked. “The neck turns the head,” she replied. Considering that the first time this couple had met was at their wedding, one wonders if things would have turned out differently had they had a long courtship or at least met the previous day, or—God forbid—lived together before getting married. It is unlikely they asked why they were getting married, since their name was spelled with the final “i.”

By the way, although these spellings are just transcriptions or transliterations, depending on how you define the terms, it is important, although you may think otherwise, to pay attention to them: To remind you: Twerski has a final “i,” Twersky a final “y.” They sound the same but really aren’t. The first Twersky, the Chernobyl rebbe, spelled with a final “y,” was called “The Light of the Eyes,” after the English title of his book Meor Eynayim, and surely we could use some of that light to illuminate not just the dark days of today’s world but also the lost significance of variant spellings in the names of Hasidic rebbes. But, in case you claim to know the significance of this variant, I can definitively say the secret of the long marriage was not the “i” at the end of the name of the other Twerski.

Anyway, these special women in our community in the Republic of Boulder—You all know who they are, and since I would be afraid to omit anyone if I attempted to list them all here, I don’t dare to do so. I also would fear for my life if I named even one of them in this story, which after all is supposed to be about Arle de León, so I won’t.

Speaking of stories, God help you if by now you don’t know what a Purimspiel is and what it is not. All I really want to say on this matter is that last year’s story was indeed a Purimspiel and this year’s is not, as you will be reminded a number of times along the way, just in case you become increasingly forgetful. Okay, I will give in a little and help those of you who need things spelled out more clearly. A Purimspiel is a story or play or skit, or somesuch, that has something to do with the Jewish festival of Purim. That said, may God help you if you don’t know what Purim is, even though God doesn’t appear by name in the Megillah of Esther, the scripture that describes what this festival is all about, so don’t count on Him—or Her, which you may prefer—to help you.

Now that I have clarified matters, I feel obligated to add that what you read last year and this story have nothing to do with the holiday of Purim, except perhaps that both of the texts dripped off my pen around that time. And no, the author was not and is not drunk, as is obligated on Purim, although the wiseacres among you might insist that these pieces of writing were meant to reflect the spirit of Purim. Ha ha ha. By the way, I forgot to tell you that Arle’s Hebrew name was Esther. And no—whatever you might think, even though her Hebrew name was the same as that of the biblical Esther, the heroine of Purim, that doesn’t make the current narrative a Purimspiel, does it? Not any more, I don’t think, than a similar-sounding name automatically makes Ponce related to either Arle or her relative or younger brother Moses, to whom the Zohar, the most important kabbalistic work in the Jewish canon, is often attributed in one way or another, except by traditionalists, who would have you believe otherwise.

Now, where was I? Arle de León, as I recall.

She is reputed, though only by legend, to have compiled the first dictionary of gematria—Jewish numerology—and to have calculated the exact date of the end of the world. As with many documents from the period, this one disappeared, though possibly the self-same Moses used it in his own work. As for knowing the exact date of the end of days—The Talmud says we are not supposed to make such predictions, since only God knows, or is supposed to know, although many have made such predictions—many human beings, that is—including the famous financier and biblical commentator Don Isaac Abravanel around the time of the expulsion (often capitalized, by the way, though not here) of the Jews from Spain, which you all know happened in 1492, the same year Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And no, I’m not going into whether he was Jewish—Columbus, that is, not Don Isaac. I also am not going to tell you what the Talmud is, since even a lot of Christians now know, so if you, who presumably are Jewish, don’t know by now, consider turning to the nearest Christian for help, who in this town just might be your husband or wife.

Speaking of Don Isaac Abravanel, who was born in Portugal but fled to Spain after annoying someone there and one of whose descendants was a conductor of the Utah Symphony, what you may not know is that one of Don Isaac’s ancestors—his father or grandfather—converted to Christianity, as did one of King Ferdinand’s ancestors who probably had been, yes, Jewish. As for Queen Isabella—whose body I hope suffered the same fate as Jezebel’s—I won’t speculate about her, though many have done so over the years. You probably know who Isabella and Ferdinand are from grammar school—the queen and king, respectively, of Spain before, during, and after they expelled all unconverted Jews from Spain and burned those who stayed and couldn’t avoid being rounded up. By the way, their names are often spelled differently from the way they are spelled here, but I will spare you the details, even though I’m sure you’re dying to know. Whether “expelled” and “spelled” have any connection, also, I will leave to the pedants among you, since frankly I don’t know. Maybe they were expelled because they couldn’t spell the names of the queen and king.

Now I must beg your indulgence, dear friend, and digress for just a moment, since I was discussing last year’s Purimspiel. Please remember, though, that if you’re thinking this narrative is a Purimspiel, you’re mistaken, since clearly it is not, based upon what has been and will soon be said.

Remember also what I told you last year about my buying a wedding ring for the woman who is now my ex—my ex-fiancée, that is, may her life today be flooded with blessings? It is probably the one piece of information—the business of the fiancée and the ring—in that story based even vaguely on something even minimally truthful. Of course, that is why that story was and still is called a Purimspiel and not, say, a historical narrative or, as the academics would say, a hagiography, such as this narrative, which heaps praise on its subject or subjects. If you don’t remember, it’s still on the Boulder Jewish News web site, so you can refresh your memory, which as with most of us, probably has declined over the last year, even if just a little. Nothing personal here, mind you.

At any rate, recently I seemed to remember—though I could be wrong—that an associate of the rabbi-mohel-jeweler who sold me the ring took me aside after the purchase and offered some advice on the whole megillah of engagements and weddings. A mohel, in case you don’t know, is a Jewish guy who does ritual circumcisions to, depending on your point of view, fulfill the biblical commandment intended to create a covenant between Jewish men and God or traumatize male Jewish babies and both physically and emotionally scar those same Jewish men they grow up into for life. The author—that is, yours truly—was, for the first time in his life—ready, willing, and able to listen to, accept, and even take such advice. For what it’s worth, the whole transaction took place a quarter-century ago, so remembering anything about it or even that I was engaged, is remarkable, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, something of a cloud appeared during that tête-à-tête, muffling the sound, distorting the sound, totally obliterating the sound, so that not one word from the esteemed associate entered even the most outermost parts of his—my—ears. And this communication issue, I can assure you, from personal and intimate knowledge of the whole embarrassing business, was the reason the engagement—if it happened in the first place—fell through, the bride-to-be splitting faster than a mouse chased by a hungry cat, leaving the poor bereft author once again a single, unconfirmed or perhaps confirmed bachelor, however much some of his critics thought he deserved what he received or, if you prefer, received what he deserved, in case you think there’s a difference. Nevertheless, in her haste the poor woman forgot her diamond, or dropped it, so that he—I, that is—could return it for a full refund, at least on the diamond, not on his hurt and disappointment—that is, on my hurt feelings and disappointment. As you know, no refunds are given for these kinds of things.

But, as the advisor in the jewelry store told me when I returned the ring: “It probably was all for the best. It wasn’t meant to be. It’s God’s will”—the kinds of unhelpful words and phrases she probably also used when discussing, say, the Spanish expulsion over a glass of sherry.

And the diamond ring—did its change of hands and eventual return signify anything deeper? Are diamonds really a girl’s best friend, as the title of this story asks? In this case, some smart people have told me, it indeed was this girl’s best friend, and mine too, though they hesitated to tell me their reasoning, forcing me, since I can say no more, on the advice of one of my trusted advisers who is the mistress of tact. To once again use a tried-and-true cliché, however, I am allowed to say that “sometimes a diamond is just a diamond.” If you don’t mind, let’s just leave it at that, okay?

Eichah—Alas!—we Jews say on the saddest day of the year, Tisha b’av, when the destruction of the ancient Temples, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and other specifically Jewish calamities are piled up so that we don’t become buried in grief and drown in our tears the rest of the year. For yours truly, however, the pain of regaining his temporarily lost bacheloric status—confirmed or unconfirmed—overshadowed the pain of all those other tragedies, although some of his so-called friends did say, based upon so-called observational studies, that he actually should have been relieved to regain that status. Of course, some women and even some men were less than relieved upon learning of this change in status, confirmed or unconfirmed, though not for reasons anyone might be able to think of.

Nevertheless, let us return to Arle de León, the medieval wise woman, who many in the halls of academia believe shared a lot of important genes with her relative or younger brother Moses and wore them well, considering that in those days women’s genes, however loaded with DNA, didn’t express too well, or if they did, we don’t know anything about such expression. In her case, however, she wore her genes well, perhaps because her ancestors were of the tribe of Levi—pun unintended. No, her brilliance, like that of a diamond, was no laughing matter.

Perhaps as a result of these genes, she also, according to legend, was able to solve the enigma posed by the famous sage Rabbi Akiva in a tractate of the Talmud. That tractate says that four rabbis entered paradise and then that Rabbi Akiva, who was one of them, told his three companions: “When you come to the pure marble stones, do not say ‘water, water.'” This is the enigma.

You undoubtedly have heard this story, since on it is based everything mystical now taught in our Boulder synagogues and homes, whatever the denomination of their members or owners, respectively, since there is a serious outbreak of kabbalah classes in Boulder and its surroundings. The Talmud then says that one of the sages died, one went mad, and one rejected his religion, becoming what is called an apostate, which could be translated “apostle of disbelief.” Only Rabbi Akiva escaped these unpleasant outcomes, some say because he was married, causing him to be more grounded than the other rabbis, although of course one could interpret marriage in other ways, creating the need for an alternative solution, and it is this solution, along with the understanding of Rabbi Akiva’s enigmatic statement, that our medieval wise woman came up with, though again we lack the details.

However, here and there in badly damaged manuscripts recently found in Girona, on the eastern coast of Spain north of Barcelona, and on display at the Nachmanides Institute there, the careful observer can find subtle references to an interpretation in an unknown hand that says, in so many words and with tremendous self-confidence, the marble stones were really—yes, you guessed right—diamonds, and not just any diamonds, but of the highest quality. As you know, we Jews, because we were always on the run, often held our wealth, if we had any and could, in diamonds and other precious stones, which are light and compact, can be carried on our person, do not lose value, and are valued the world over, which may explain why they are valued so highly in a country like India, which as you know has had—or rather, had—a Jewish presence at least since medieval and possibly also since ancient times. Of course, metaphysically speaking, it also could be said, and was said by Arle, that we should value our souls as if they are diamonds, and our diamonds as if they are souls.”Brilliant!” the British would say, and boy does one hear this Britishism a lot these days in our republic, from highly educated people who should know better. By the way, in case you’re wondering, Nachmanides was a famous medieval Spanish Jew—a rabbi, biblical interpreter, mystic, and community leader, and the supreme Jewish authority of his day—but although he was brilliant, he never used the word in any known language.

Arle—to return to her—had been married and happily so, but one day her husband set sail for the Orient—possibly India, though that country is not in the Orient, if there is such a place—on a trading adventure and never returned, leaving her in halakhic limbo, one of the unfortunate twists and turns of Jewish law in those days that continue to our own day in many circles. Fortunately she was, in addition to being an astute exponent of midrashic exegesis, an astute businesswoman, known in particular for successfully and, one might be excused for saying, brilliantly managing her own brand and thus branding everything in sight, creating a kind of harmonious oneness in her sphere, so she wasn’t in danger of starving to death. But, even if starving to death had been in her cards, Arle de León was not intent on remarrying, especially to her late husband’s oldest brother in a ceremony called chalitzah in which she could refuse by throwing one of her shoes on the ground, which she did. Other men were interested in her, too, but legally they were forbidden from approaching her, and she from approaching them. Just in case the teeth of the law became dull or the authorities turned a blind eye or the eleven other brothers decided to propose, she kept a large collection of shoes handy.

Yes, she was a desirable woman, since in addition to being supremely learned, she was beautiful, kept an almost obsessively tidy household, raised two beautiful sons mostly on her own, had three lovely young granddaughters, and cooked a mean cholent. Yes, you heard me right—cholent, that quintessential Jewish Shabbat stew or casserole featured in last year’s Purimspiel that seemed to work magic on people harboring longstanding animosities and suspicions, like the Hasidim and their opponents, the mitnagdim Litvaks and others of their ilk, no offense meant, since you probably are not a Hasid, and I wouldn’t want to alienate you, at least not too much, at least while you are still so engaged in the story at hand. Remember too that this story is not a Purimspiel, whatever you might think.

As I was saying, Arle was able to hold out until one day she happened upon a distant ancestor of the author of this narrative, whose name by now, over the centuries, has been lost in the mists of time, but who was well known in his days as a brilliant writer and performer of Purimspiels, and to whom she took a fancy. No, not my name but my ancestor’s name was lost. This man—the ancestor—was the total opposite of her husband. For one thing he was scrawny, unlike her husband, whom women today might call a “hunk.” He also was slovenly, easygoing, simple in his habits and thinking, religious, and ungrounded—otherworldly, in short. In spite of his creative brilliance, he tended to be silent more than he spoke—in short, resembling a simpleton, no offense meant to any of you. Silent except when he got going, in which case no one could shut him up. Here he differed from her husband, who never spoke.

Still, Arle took a fancy to him, wondering if she might be able to shape him up but still making sure she was somewhere else when he revved up, at which times she began to miss her husband. And when she did, she sometimes began to wonder if her husband—who had disappeared—also had had a secret, loquacious side to him, did reach India, and decided to stay so that he could constantly stay revved up. More likely, of course, he had fallen overboard on the way home or contracted malaria and was rotting away in some tropical hospital while she was doing her wondering. At those moments she began to wonder also whether she should send her new man to India when he became overly talkative so that he could do his revving up there and perhaps find her husband and report back to her what he was up to, if indeed he was up to anything, or even up. Although I’m sure you have a sense of humor, since there’s a fifty-fifty chance you’re Jewish, you probably won’t like my saying that Arle was, if nothing else, yes, a wondering Jew.

Please do not think I am being cynical or skeptical or sarcastic or snide in my portrayal of this remarkable woman, who clearly was operating on all her cylinders—levels of soul, you mystical types call them, and in all the four worlds, you mystical types might say—for I am not. It is just that she was a complicated human being, a complicated woman, a complete woman and human being, who in every way was so far above her fellow human beings—men and women alike—that her description sounds like caricature, although it is not, and the language used to describe her only sounds ironic.

To illustrate further the depth of her intelligence, I must tell you that Arle de León also was known to have contemplated, in a very deep way, the mystery of what happens to our soul after we die: Do we or do we not retain our individuality? She apparently argued, according to some more recently discovered kabbalistic manuscripts, this time in Ávila, Spain, and dated to the time of her relative or younger brother Rabbi Moses de León, that just as the word duality is embedded in the English spelling of individuality, our soul maintains its individuality after death. Of course, she didn’t speak English, but I present this idea in a familiar language, rather than in one you probably won’t understand, however many advanced degrees you have and smart and linguistically proficient you are or think you are.

She also fully understood and explained a serious contradiction in how the extra Shabbat soul is described in the rabbinic and kabbalistic literature, namely, that one text says we gain an extra soul—the neshama yetira, or neshamah yetirah, spelled with a final “h,” which the perfectionists among you may prefer (or even some combination thereof), although it doesn’t matter, and you know it doesn’t, whatever you say to the contrary, which you probably do just to show off or be contrary, which is more likely—and another text says our soul ascends to be close to God and have a taste of the next world. The contradiction is: Why eat for an extra soul if there might not be one? This was something scholars had been aware of for nearly a millennium and, until the discovery of this manuscript, was a pressing question both in rabbinic seminaries and in secular universities, including the University of Colorado at Boulder, where a whole contingent of scholars and their students had been working on the problem for nearly twenty years and even hosted an annual conference on the subject, held, of course, on Shabbat so that the participants could test their various theories. Unfortunately, this whole industry went kaput, leaving the scholars and students devastated and forlorn, having to reinvent their lives and find a new purpose to live.

Her reading was quite simple and anticipated the argument used years later by the French philosopher-mathematician Blaise Pascal, famously known in metaphysical circles for his wager that it is better to believe in God and act accordingly, than not to—just in case. According to the aforementioned manuscripts, she supposedly said it is better to eat as if we will gain an extra soul on Shabbat. In other words, don’t take any chances. Apparently Arle herself always cooked extra cholent, a whole pot of it, in case there was an extra soul and it was extra hungry, or overweight, or a glutton, or brought along a friend or two. Sometimes, knowing a Shabbat guest was argumentative and might tangle with another guest, she would throw in a special ingredient. Yes, if you remember, a special ingredient was at the heart of last year’s Purimspiel, but whether Arle’s special ingredient was the same one is anybody’s guess, and of course the story of Arle is not a Purimspiel, so attempting a comparison is like trying to compare apples and oranges. And speaking of that taste of the next world, just one small bite of her cholent gave the taster such a taste, without having to involve that pesky and possibly nonexistent additional soul.

Back to those diamonds. Knowing, then, that the paths and streams in paradise may be lined with diamonds and that souls are like diamonds, Arle, according to one passage in those kabbalistic manuscripts, apparently had posited that the only substance that could polish a diamond was another diamond and eventually decided that my ancestor, with whom she was smitten, would make a good husband but needed quite a lot of polishing in order to create clean-cut features, so she sharpened her own edges and facets in anticipation of secretly asking the shadchan—the matchmaker—to subtly encourage my ancestor to propose to her—Arle, that is—though her family and some of her friends did not understand her motives or why this man or type of man so interested her, in spite of her clear statements to that effect. Of course, she needed to bypass the restrictions imposed upon women in those days who could not remarry because their husbands had disappeared for any reason whatsoever. Jewish law did not, and today in some circles probably still does not, distinguish among causes or motives. Not a problem, of course, with that special cholent ingredient at hand.

Here is one last example of her intelligence, perhaps the supreme example: Arle also was said to have penetrated both mysteries laid out by the great medieval Spanish-Jewish rabbi-philosopher-physician Moses Maimonides—the secret of the work of the chariot—metaphysics—and the secret of creation—physics—with the help of the enigmatic Enoch described in the apocryphal and pseudepigraphic literature—just after he was transformed into the angel Metatron—who came to her in a dream and explained to her mysteries that never before had been explained and that never again would be explained to any human being. Unfortunately, since her discovery was not written down, all we have is the tantalizing generality that she had penetrated the secret of secrets, surpassing in brilliant insight even that of Maimonides, of whom it was said: “From Moses to Moses, there was never another.” Perhaps, then, we should say, “From Moses to Arle, there was never another.”

Do you see where all this is going, dear friend? If not, neither do I.

I now need to say something that might or might not surprise you. That man of whom Arle was so enamored—he was not only a distant ancestor of mine but also a less-distant one of the baby introduced in last year’s Purimspiel and whom I promised I would discuss this year. This is the baby all the fuss was made over with Reb Chaim of Volozhin, later, Brisk, the Brisket rebbe, or Brisker rebbe if you prefer, who as a result of his failing sight almost sliced off the whole nine yards of the poor baby he was about to circumcise, if you get my point. Fortunately for many of us the mitnagid mohel who subbed for Reb Chaim insured that the baby, after he grew up, would be able to observe the first biblical commandment—”Be fruitful and multiply.” If you have forgotten or are unfamiliar with what I wrote last year, you know just what to do. Just remember that this story is not a continuation of that story, which was a Purimspiel, while this story is not, although you might think otherwise, which of course you are entitled to do. After all, it’s a free country, but even so, you still would be flat-out wrong.

Some of the distinguished women in our community today who in no way are related to any of these people have told me that had I married the woman to whom I gave the ring and from whom I received it back, I never would have met the woman to whom I am presently not engaged, a woman who, like Arle de León, does not want to get married again, especially to someone like myself who, like my distant ancestor, is not a hunk, and who shares other similarities except for one: I like to talk a lot and can’t be shut up, though in my own defense I will say the gift of gab is highly valued in the Jewish world, where strong and silent does not facilitate survival among the brutal and noisy of this world. Oddly, I sometimes think I should head to India when I feel the urge to prattle, though I am afraid of what I might find—for example, some heretofore-unknown ancestors, or news of Arle’s first husband, or Indians who do not understand English. I also am worried I might fall for one of the Indian gods—say, Vishnu, or one of his avatars, like Krishna—and wind up in the same spot in Golden Gate Park I was in fifty years ago when I was chanting “Hare Krishna” when I should have been davvening in Shlomo Carlebach’s House of Love and Prayer in Berkeley. One of those distinguished women I just alluded to—the same one in fact who wrote about medieval and ancient medieval wise women—titled her  book The Receiving, which though not directly inspired by my experiences, sounds as if it is, which is flattering to someone like myself who might think otherwise. Of course, you all clearly understand the connection between this title and everything said up to now. If so, please drop me a line.

Finally, I need to interject one last time—Arle was known to have obtained precise knowledge of the influence of shamanic rituals and yoga on the development of kabbalah, as could only be speculated by the preeminent scholar of Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem, in the twentieth century. How we know she knew this, is a riddle of its own, but legend has it that she was visited by a maggid who was an incarnation of Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, an earlier Spanish-Jewish mystic, a maggid who in previous lives had traveled widely in India and Siberia, picking up esoteric information and practices from yogis and shamans, and who had pieced together an account of the development of kabbalah that scholars today—and there are a lot of them—who reject the study of comparative religion would poo-poo if they could, which they can’t since maggidim can’t write and only transmit information to select human beings like Arle de León, and as has been said, all we know about what she knew is that she knew something we do not know since most of what we know about her is based on rumors, stories, legends, and what scholars call secondary sources, which even nonscholars like the rest of us know are bupkis, like the notion, for example, that in India this maggid located Arle’s missing husband and filled her in on his activities. As an aside—I hope you don’t need to be told what a maggid is, since the meaning should be obvious from the context. If it’s not, you probably know someone who does know. What about those kabbalistic manuscripts mentioned earlier? They are, of course, secondary sources, but in their case they seem pretty reliable, though of course the information cannot definitively be verified.

Why this story has taken so long to tell, and why it has taken such a circuitous, meandering, wandering, longwinded path, is something whose answer I am sorry to say you will have to wait for until next Purim, when I will spill all the beans, assuming I have any left to spill. Remember, too, that writers, like mohels, don’t like to cut things too short, even if other people may feel they are too long.

And no, the answer has nothing to do with brisket, or circumcision, or Reb Chaim, the star of last year’s Purimspiel, but again, hold on to your seat until the time comes for full disclosure. And please do not forget, for the last time, that although what I wrote last year was and indeed still is a Purimspiel, this new story most definitely is not, since I have provided numerous caveats when the facts are not known, rather than idle speculations of the kind indulged in by many of my friends in Boulder who should know better, who value intuition over facts, preferring to sing “la de da” loudly in order to convince their skeptics that they—the skeptics—should be skeptical of their own skepticism.

But—and I am so sorry—again I digress, but fortunately for you, it will be the last time.

Oh—did Arle de León eventually marry the man, and if she did, did she polish the diamond in his dowry of family jewels so that he became the mensch he was meant to be, or not to be, or became, and that we will never know anything about due to his anonymity? Will the woman in my life who does not want to get married be able to polish my rough edges and turn me from an uncut diamond into a clean-cut one that is her best friend? Will I make the cut, so to speak, so that I can speak a little less without risking the survival of our people, or do I too need to go to India? That, too, will require waiting, since as everyone knows, just as a watched pot—watched pot, not watched spot or watch pot—never boils, so does cholent require a long time to prepare. Oh and by the way, did I tell you that these two women share not just personality traits but genes? If not, you probably guessed or knew it already, undoubtedly through your infallible intuition.

Oh, I forgot. Last year I said that this year you would hear a familiar story about Rabbi Jay Feder, formerly of Denver—you remember him, the cutter of diamonds and foreskins whose name I deliberately omitted from earlier in this story, for fear of a lawsuit. Well, you have just heard the story, but I hope you will agree when I say it probably was not especially familiar, even if you happen to be my ex-fiancée, since all those blessings may have flooded your memory circuits. I also said I would say more about the baby who escaped a possible hatchet job by the illustrious Reb Chaim of Volozhin, the famous Brisker rebbe, or, if you prefer, Brisket rebbe. Unfortunately, I have just been told I have run out of my allotted time and space, so, again, you will need to wait until next year. Please pray that I retain enough brain cells to perform this sacred duty. And yes and no, next year’s story, also will not be a Purimspiel, just like this year’s, which as you should know by now, most definitely is not.

-fin-

About Henry Rasof

I have been writing poetry for over fifty years. During this time, I have worked as a musician, chef, book acquisitions editor, and creative-writing instructor.

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