Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Josh Waxman to the rescue

Josh Waxman has a very excellent post about yesterday's nutty gematriah, one that tells us all the things we wish ArtScroll had bothered to mention. For example:

1 - The word chet/sin infrequently appears in the Jerusalem Talmud without the letter aleph. Using this old and little used spelling, the math works. If ArtScroll had mentioned this, instead of ignoring the difficulty, much mockery might have been averted.

2 - Josh also suggests that it at one time it might have been the practice to distribute nuts to children in shul, especially on yom tov. This activity would have disturbed the davening (Think candy men and rustling wrappers.) Josh hints that the original ban on nuts may have been related to this.

3 - Josh additionally suggests that the gematriah was supplied after the fact as a way of making the prohibition go down more smoothly. Though Josh doesn't go any further then that, I wonder if the business about the phlegm was also a way of making the ban more palatable. (I can't find anything that connects mucus with nuts) If I tell the candy men to knock it off because their jolly largess is creating a ruckus someone gets insulted. Its far gentler to say, "We greatly appreciate all of you've done to make the shul-going experience so enjoyable for our younger members, however, because of allergies or tooth decay or numerology we regrettably must discontinue it.")

See how much more sensible the reasons behind the minhag are when this extra and necessary historical information is provided? Nuts aren't banned because of how the word is spelled in Hebrew, but because they were once a cause of poor shul decorum! Fie on ArtScroll for leading me down the path of scorn and disrespect with their dimwitted, no-context commentary.

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