Ask Avigail: one man’s rights are another’s rites

Dear Avigail,

I am writing to you, as my neighbor’s son, Reuven, is driving the whole west side of Moses’ encampment, crazy. Every night, like some annoying, nocturnal ritual, Reuven decides to practice blowing his shofar. I am speculating that this horn must have sat proudly on some primordial beast, until some nuveau-erect ancestor decided it would look nice over his cave. As a matter of fact, this horn worked better than fire, to keep pesky pharmaceutical salesmen from barging in, unannounced, like a crazed Jehovah’s Witness selling Bibles, with a quota on his back. Anyway, nobody in the tribe can get any sleep, and the boy’s father has no pity on anybody else’s well-being. We even petitioned the tribal elders to stop him; however, they sided with the young, winded prodigy, citing freedom of speech and blowing loud, noxious noises of expression, whether it be internal, or external. What can we do?

Devoted to your sagacious wisdom,

Maxine Ginzburg (nee Herzog).

Dear Maxine,

First, you are not the first Hebress I have heard from who suffers from a narcissistic neighbor. As a word of caution, do not try to butt heads with Reuven, or his father. Keep in mind, since the other nations’ perception of us is that we possess horns, what would be the outcome of such a futile confrontation? I’ll tell you what; an emergency sojourn to a healer who could treat a major concussion.* Why is this so important? Note: restoring your ability to discern between the two types of man: the Jews, and those that hate us, can come in handy.

The Girl Scouts are now mounting their campaign to raise money, by selling cookies from cave to cave. When they come to your tent, how do you know if it is a REAL scout, or an Amalakite, dressed from head to toe, in faux badges? You can cleverly assess the situation by demanding to see the person’s cookies. If things appear harmless, you can love thy neighbor as yourself, and sign up for a dozen chocolate chip mints. Your face might make a nostalgic return to puberty, and the terrain of your cheeks might put you in jeopardy of being banished with the lepers and the megapimpled peoples.

But, I fear I am digressing. Let us get back to your problem.

Moses had to live with an insolent, rabble-rousing nudnik named Koreh. No healer could cure Koreh of his over-bloated ego, and his liver-eating propensity for being jealous. Koreh’s mission in life was to cause dissent, and divide the Hebrews from remaining true to Hashem*. He wanted support in the upcoming election for leader, and his campaign was a smutty one. Although Moses could beat Koreh at Rummykub, while having a hostile, flesh-eating tribe flay his back to look like a modern work of art entitled, BOOBOO, he would not stoop to Koreh’s level. He put his trust in G-d, knowing that He sometimes works in mysterious ways (an understatement, as quoted by Mrs. Moses).

Koreh was manically vexed by Moses’ attitude of restraint and serenity, although a second cousin of M’s, Mel Grossbart, cracked under the pressure and tried to commit suicide. He tried to swallow a cactus, only to recover and learn that every internal organ sprouted holes. Maybe he would have to forfeit a first dibs invite to a formal dinner party, however, if it were a lawn party-then he could be deemed as a sought after exotic persona, engaging and interacting with the higher strata, while watering their faux, plastic gardens. He could re-create himself as a human Kiddush cup dispenser. He secretly gloated with the satisfaction that he would never have to wrestle with water retention again.

Moses could not fathom the idea of giving up; playing G-d, and taking one’s own life; so, in major denial, he sent a messenger to his cousin, Mel Grossbart.

“If you had a migraine, why didn’t you just rub some aloe vera on your sinuses? By scarfing down an entire cactus, you caused a derm-abrasion on every organ. Weren’t three holes enough?” chided Moses.

Koreh organized a rally right outside Moses’ tent. He defied a court order to remain a distance of fifty feet away, and failed to apply for a permit…from Moses. Doing the Moses thing, the Hebrew leader offered Koreh a permit to protest with signs only-no chants, but Koreh just snickered.

It looked like a multi-extravaganza, BANG ON A CAN festival. Noach, the scribe, was there to cover the event for the local tablet, THE DAILY SHNORER*. Anyone who owned a tent near Moses’ abode lamented: “There goes the neighborhood. The value of our property just plummeted, with all this raucous commotion going on. Who will buy our tents, but only the deaf? And could they get a mortgage? We can’t eat, we can’t sleep; we can’t even mate. Can you take this outside….way outside…in the middle of the desert?”

Moses emerged from his cave. He spoke to Koreh and his followers and urged the community to meet in the desert, at the foot of Mount Hebe, when the first three stars, NOT PLANETS, appear in the sky.

About a half hour before the official gathering, the whole tribe gathered. Some came early to get good seats; others took advantage of the free salsa lesson, given by Jose, from the tribe of Asher.

When Moses arrived, he bore a pained expression, not unlike the one stemming from a week of eating matzoh that binds. He had a flashback to another time, when he descended from Mt. Sinai, carrying the Ten Commandments, etched in G-d’s handwriting (script), and heavy as a hernia about to happen. There, he watched the lascivious, drunken men dancing around a golden calf. He shook his head in disbelief. How much melted gold was needed and wasted to build this bovine idol; who hired a choreographer to dance around it? How much of the molten gold was donated directly for worship, and who burned his pockets from hot ore? How much gold would it have taken to make, for example, a golden armadillo- the amount of a cavity filling? Stung by their wonton, reckless penchant for waste, he threw the Big 10 and shattered it, in anger…

Koreh challenged Moses. Other than the entire Hebrew tribe, and the sojourners from the North who frolicked in the sand and played beach volleyball, they were isolated from the world. The Slavic sounds of the pasty-faced tourists kept distracting Moses; he had never seen such white-complexioned people before. Little did he know that, someday, a merchant named Benyamin Moorstein would name a white pigment after them? It would be called Ashkenazi White. The only shade lighter would be Embalmers White, named after one of the professions a slave could toil at, under the watchful eyes of his malevolent task master, Grr.

Koreh had a prize to reveal-a noise-making megaphone. He bought it in the Shuk from a retired British rugby coach, who followed the caravans twice, monthly. He lifted this object to his mouth, and started to taunt and insult Moses. Koreh’s supporters acted like a cacophony of blowhards in a Greek chorus. Moses remained calm and undaunted, even though an annoying pebble got lodged in his sandal. Moses trusted in Hashem, and was secure in the knowledge that they stood directly on the line of a major earthquake fault.

When Koreh challenged Moses to let G-d decide who was a more adept and worthy tribal leader, Moses felt a slight tremor beneath his left foot and cautioned his people to take three steps back, without question.

Not unlike the sound your stomach makes when leaving an all-you-can-eat garbanzo bean and lentil festival, the ground seemed to tremble and hum an unworldly sound. Then, the Earth etched out a zigzag design, teasingly displaying a dark abyss within. Everything which belonged to Koreh, including Koreh, disappeared, too shocked for a scream. Utensils, livestock, in-laws were swallowed up. Only one sentence could be heard from the gaping hole: “Not my Swarovski….”

And so, Maxine, you must learn that sometimes you must let our Creator hand out His judgment of rewards and punishments. May the Lord bring you a blessed outcome, and shield you from any hostile tax audit. May the Lord protect you from any spastic colon attack, while fleeing a vengeful pursuer. And when He commanded the lion to lie down with the lamb, He yearned for His fellow creatures to have unswerving love and faith in Him…that is, until the lamb had doubts and took out a hefty insurance policy.

*Concussion: Since the horn affair, it was decided that Jews should wear head coverings: a. as a sign of respect to Hashem; b. to keep the others guessing.
*Hashem: One of His preferred names; the name that appears on His credit card.
*Shnorer: One who chronically forgets his pocket change in his other pants, and lives off the exasperated generosity of his friends, soon to be ex-friends.

About the Author
Shashi Ishai is a former stand-up/cartoonist from Teaneck, N.J. She resides in Netanya with her husband, Yacov; daughter, Zehava; son Zaki and dog, Stanley .Shashi is the author of ASK AVIGAIL: Advice from a Biblical Era Sagette, available on Amazon.