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Sunday, October 11, 2009

How do you say "kiddush"? (a chiddush?)

Growing up, even when nobody was frum, we only ever said "kiddish" at home. Like to rhyme with Yiddish. Kiddush (aka "kiddish") was what it was, period.

The other way, the rabbi way, was "kee-doosh." Given my range of experiences growing up, I came to associate that pronunciation with every phony overblown Conservative rabbi who ever stood in one of those slippery black robe-and-hat deals at the front of the shul, way up high on the bima (okay, I guess I'm specifically thinking Beth Tzedek here). Kee-doosh was their way of pretending to say kiddush, just like they mispronounced every possible word, in English and in Hebrew.

I don't remember much about Portnoy's Complaint (mercifully), but I remember that the rabbi in there is referred to, not with love, as Rabbi Syllable, for his knack of drawing out every possible word, every possible nikud, every syllable, in any possible language.

That's what the rabbis I knew growing up all sounded like.
So of course they wouldn't just say Kiddish. Of course they wouldn't say Roshashana when they could say Roe-shhh, pause for a bit, then say Ha. Then wrap it all up with Shah-naaaaah.

Blaaaaah.

I just can't bring myself to talk like that.

I doubt my Bubby would have known what "kee-doosh" was when she stepped off the boat from Poland; maybe not "Shah-bat" either. Sure, they didn't love yiddishkeit, had no committment to it, but they knew what it was (or thought they did). The shul they'd only go to over their dead bodies (or for their sons' bar mitzvahs) was definitely an Orthodox one.

(their daughter, my aunt, was offered dance classes instead of a bar mitzvah, I believe)

So my confession: Ted's kiddush hurts my ears. Not just the pronunciation, which is neither ashkenazi nor sefardi but just plain English.
It sounds dead, it sounds like he doesn't know where one word ends and the next begins.

My Hebrew is no great shakes, you understand. But his... it has no soul. It hurts my heart.

Karov Hashem l'chol korav... I really believe that Hashem is close to anyone who reaches out to Him, in any language. Some people in my family bentsch in English and I think, "cool; this is a good thing."

But the Hebrew, well, it sings; it resonates, it means the same but at the same time, it means more. It's the "kiddish" my zeidy would have heard as a child; to me, that's not just rosy-eyed nostalgia, that is an important link in a chain. It's the kiddush I want my kids to be able to say for themselves.

And I know it's not a contest, but my kiddush, when I say it myself, more closely resembles that idealized version (comes pretty darned close, if I say so myself). Ted's does not.

I once asked Elyse Goldstein about that once, about going places where men were fumbling to do things "for" us that we could do infinitely better ourselves. I don't remember that she had a fabulously insightful answer - other, perhaps, than "how the heck do you think I feel???" With all her education and training and ongoing study, she's still not qualified to lead kiddush at most of the shuls I daven in.

Instead, men fumble through and we softly chime "l'chaim" and "amein" and "yehei shmei rabba" (whoops, that's kaddish, not kiddish) and mostly they pretend they don't hear that our words in Hebrew come more quickly, more smoothly than theirs ever will.

Why am I saying all this here?

Because I'm feeling guilty.
I made my own kiddush last night; I made kiddush for our family, and I'm not proud of myself. It was late, we were tired, Ted was more than tired from hakafa after hakafa (hakafos!). It was not an easy kiddush, it was complicated by havdalah, and I just didn't feel like sitting through it again.

Oy. I just realized, just as I wrote this, just this second: I forgot to light last night. How arrogant and misguided is that??? Losing one of the three precious mitzvos we're told are entrusted to Jewish women... while grabbing one from my husband that, well, isn't so clearly mine.

I think I am getting arrogant, or disaffected or something. After all the care and trouble I've put into Yom Tov this year, I forgot to light twice - Yom Kippur and Simchas Torah. Not to mention that on Simchas Torah I am already supposed to light an extra candle because of the year, many years ago, when I had my foot infection and missed lighting because I had to get it checked at sunset.

There's a lesson in all of this but I'm too tired to think about what it could possibly be.
The kitchen is messy, my nose is stuffy and I'm going to watch ER in bed.

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