My Machberet

“Machberet” is the Hebrew word for notebook. Since it’s also (appropriately) one of the very first words I learned in my first Hebrew school in Brooklyn (and, until I returned to language study well into adulthood, one of the few conversational Hebrew words I still remembered), I’ve chosen it to title this blog, where I offer write-ups on Jewish news (especially of the literary sort) and occasional commentary.

Words of the Week: Sarah Wildman

“As a child, I tuned out the more awful potentials of the [Unetaneh Tokef] prayer’s plaintive cry — and there are many, and they are terrible, assigning an agency to God I find uncomfortable at best. Instead I was drawn to the sentences that enjoy less notoriety than the others: ‘Who shall be at rest and who shall wander,’ the poem asks. In Hebrew, that sentence is a play on words, a single letter altering the meaning from ‘rest’ (yanuach) to ‘wander’ (yanuah). It goes on: ‘Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued? Who will be calm and who will be tormented?’ To be forced to wander another week, another month, another year is physical and also spiritual, literal and also emotional. In almost three years of cancer and pandemic, I have wondered how my family can find rest as we wander. It has been, and continues to be, I think, in these small in-between moments, in the noticing.”

Source: Sarah Wildman, “I Don’t Need My Life to Be Remarkable” (The New York Times)

Words of the Week: W.E.B. DuBois

“There has been no tragedy in modern times equal in its awful effects to the fight on the Jew in Germany. It is an attack on civilization comparable only to such horrors as the Spanish Inquisition and the African slave trade. Adolf Hitler hardly ever makes a speech today without belittling, blaming, or cursing Jews. Every misfortune of the world is in whole or in part blamed on Jews. There is a campaign of race prejudice which surpasses in vindictive cruelty and public insult anything I have ever seen, and I have seen much.”

Source: W.E.B. DuBois, quoted in the first episode of Ken Burns’s latest documentary, The United States and the Holocaust (beginning at 1:21:40). I did a bit of digging: DuBois wrote these words in 1936.