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My decision was made on Yom Kippur; I was going to start smoking a pipe again after ceasing for about 20 years. This decision was brought on by seeing my friend, Jacob smoking his pipe. Not that I had tired of my weekly cigar but just that pipe smoking seemed cheaper and healthier and now I know much more pleasurable. After smoking my cute no name brand pipe for about 2 weeks yesterday I graduated to a small Big Ben pipe. Now I'm puffing away like the veritable puffing Billy.
I agree with Einstein who said: "I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs." -Albert Einstein, 1950
I took a big plunge last week into a German tour group. I had warned the agent that I didn't speak German but only Dutch, he, however insisted that he'd heard me speak German and he thought my German was pretty good. Well it was a great effort but I managed to explain things to them and they really understood what I was saying. Possibly they were just a clever group of people. It was fun and now I'm working on improving my German which is really a lot of fun. I'm getting so ambitious that I'm beginning to dream of what language I'll learn after I'm satisfied with my German; either French or Greek.
I definitely won't be learning Russian, Korean, Japanese or Chinese even though there are lots of tourists from those countries also and I confess that I wish I could speak those languages also.
One of my German tourists asked whether Hebrew was spoken elsewhere, besides Israel. I hadn't thought about this but it's important to state that the answer is in the negative and will probably remain so forever.
This might be surprising in view of the fact that Jews scattered from Israel in the course of the last 2000 years; one might have expected them to stick to the language, Hebrew, which they spoke in their homeland, Israel.
The fact that Jews didn't stick to Hebrew and each Jew learned the language of his new adopted country, with the result that a Jew from South Africa couldn't even understand a Jew fro Germany, was a sign that the Jews don't care much about forming a national identity separate from the strangers among whom they lived.
On the contrary Jews worked hard to blend in with their new home. I well remember my dear late father, who had emigrated from Lithuania, where he spoke Yiddish, to S. Africa, sitting by the round mahogany dinning room table, after the servants had cleared it of the plates from which we had just eaten the dinner, which was compulsory to attend, pouring over a Yiddish book, like the stories of Shalom Aleichem and translating them into English, carefully writing each word on the back of a springbok cigarettes box. I think he learned a word every time he took a puff. Eventually he gave up smoking but by that time he knew English sufficiently well to use it to publicly pronounce his objections to some custom newly introduced into the synagogue ritual, because he was a very conservative man and didn't want change in religious traditions.
The way the Jews became completely integrated into the society was amazing; they changed the language of the old country and anything else that would make them fit in with the new country but they remained conservative in religion. It was unthinkable to read the prayers in the synagogue in English. Prayers must be read in Hebrew. As far as I was concerned God only spoke Hebrew and it didn't matter to Him whether I understood what I was praying or not.
My father spoke to us in English, never in Yiddish. Once he was satisfied with his English and mine he was quite proud that I took an interest in Jewish literature and he used to read Shalom Aleichem with me after dinner.
Other nations sought to form a national identity and to force others to adopt it also, not the Jews. All the widely spoken international languages belong to imperialistic nations; Rome, Germany, England, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal and Arabia.
The Jews aren't a conquering nation. All those people in Israel today that wish to force Israeli rule on the Arabs are struggling for a nationalistic fervor that doesn't exist in Judaism. Judaism seeks only to rule itself and create a safe environment, Israel, for its practice. Our victories in all the wars stem from our determination to keep that environment safe, not to widen its physical dimensions.
Wishing you a great no news day.