Tuesday, August 14, 2007

La question juive (What is a Jew?)

Rabbi Eliza would always say, Which comes first, the egg or the idea? as a way to stop a conversation she felt was coming too soon to a conclusion. One very hot afternoon, Rabbi Omar asked Rabbi Eliza to trace the origins of her favorite maxim. “In a roundabout way,” Rabbi Eliza began, looking up from the passage she was studying, “it’s related, to Rabbi Yukel’s so-called Rule of the Index Finger: Don’t put all your chickens in one egg, which itself is a variant of the saying, attributed to Rabbi Raj, and which we chant on the first half moon of Winter, One egg is not the world. On hearing this, Rabbi Omar loudly protested, noting that several centuries before Rabbi Raj, Rabbi Not-Enough-Sand-in-Dessert-not-Enough-Water-in-the-Sea had insisted that the central question to ponder on nights-without-visible-rainbows is Which comes first the basket or the idea of the basket?. “Exactly,” Rabbi Eliza said with a triumphant laugh, “without baskets or eggs we would only have words and without words only mouths.”

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