Ask Avigail — The March of Mayvens

ASK AVIGAIL was an ancient, Hebrew SAGEette, who gave advice during the time of Moses (think Dear Abby meets the offspring of Erma Bombeck (humorous columnist) and Woody Allen.)

Ask Avigail – The Matriarchal March

Dear Avigail,

I have long admired your nurturing advice; however, I don’t know if you can help me on this problem.

On the last lunar eclipse, while we sang songs and danced around an electric heater (go find wood in the middle of a desert), one of the flock of jackasses began to speak to us. This donkey was named Mo; we found him wandering near the notorious, Hebrew-hating tribe called the AMALAKIKES*. He had been obviously abused, and welcomed the chance to start a new life, unfettered from his everyday obsession, “where did I leave my dental floss?” He seemed to adjust very well in Moses’s encampment and looked forward to sampling the daily manna, which he imagined was smoked sturgeon on a scooped- out sesame, cactus flour bagel (with a shmear*).  We were unaware of his ability to speak, although the daily papyrus crossword puzzles were always missing. Using a thesaurus, he suddenly brayed: “My last owner was a foul man, with rotten teeth and a too tight, un-elasticized gallabiyah*. I would hear him as he preached to his tribe, telling them: “Global warming has been caused by Moabites, Cellulites, Midianites and Midnights, and especially the Hebrews. Not by us. They fart CO2, while we fart purely oxygen.” Although I am only a beast of burden, I gathered that Foktheuddin*, my Master, was a product of years of inter-breeding…perhaps even cross-breeding. However, you have been so kind and protective of me, I feel compelled to share this wisdom, and to ask your King, Hashem, to change the fiber in our daily manna, so as not to blow a hole through the sun and turn the sky to a jaundiced ochre (rather than cornflower or periwinkle blue.)

We were dumbfounded. My friends and I quickly gathered together and decided to form a “March of the Mavens, *” to address the donkey’s grievances.  There were two new gals to our vestal virgins – Rashita, and the former Miss Congeniality of Somalia, coincidentally a very distant cousin, down the tree of evolution, to this Foktheuddin fella. And then, there was Linda Crankasore…we could always depend on her to grab her friends and march for anything… she loved the exercise and inane causes. Which brings me to my problem…

Although we could have taken a more direct route and landed from Egypt to New Canaan in one week, albeit light chariot traffic; instead, a self-proclaimed nudnik* had bartered his tennis balls for an ancient route of the Silk Road…there was a detour to Canaan, noted in a crease, but it was hard to read. Nevertheless, Moses took his advice, and we sojourned around and around, with no gas stations to get directions. By the time we plotzed* into the Patriarchal tent, my shoes looked like a leper-afflicted, unrecognizable road kill. It was then I vowed to myself: “I will not walk another mile for a camel, or man.” Now, I have pledged to support this march, but do not own a pair of sandals to my name. What should I do?

P.S. we are also protesting Moses, or any member of the tribe, burning bushes…You have no idea how many flora and fauna had to relocate, when the burning bush spread. And the pollen count was causing an epidemic of smoke-related allergies (I could not smell anything, though it could be taken as a positive).

Thank you so much,


Dear Shlump,

Most Nomads know that the secret to wandering through barren, desolate, hostile places…travel light. Yes, you can always travel with the intention of stopping at a bazaar, caravan, or a white elephant sale, if you are up against a wall; however, white elephants are extinct since the Ark affair. But yes, a good pair of orthopedic, closed sandals are necessary for an unforeseen deluge (though the pyramid-builders forecast did not predict a flood); nor, a sand-blowing Hamsun from the Sewerage Canal.

I can recommend a great shoemaker, The Hermit of Lipshitz. He is a bit of a shmerrel* everything he touched turned to un-rendered chicken fat. He lived near the fertile crescent where the soil was quite rich and moist. One day, he absentmindedly started toying around with a stick. Suddenly, his eyes bulged, as if he remembered that he left the oven on, and feverishly toiled in the mud, and he molded shoe souls in various sizes; he even formed corns and bunions for a perfect fit, at no extra charge. He laid these mud pies under the hot, scorching sun, until they were as dry as the nebulous remains, inside the still-cooking oven. He also fashioned straps from reeds, and he called them EARTH SHOES. He wanted to name them after his mother, but YETTA’S SANDALS didn’t have the same marketing appeal. He advertised and got rave reviews from as far as Mongolia. “A perfect fit. ME & the MEsus adore those fallen arches. Best of success, Genghis and Shirley Kahn. He already had back orders, and he could hardly cope with the in-coming orders. He marveled at his lucky streak. And then, he thought of another product to offer. A storage accessory you could carry on your head– a Streimel*hat, made from his Aunt Dora’s petrified brisket!!! It looked like a foe* fur frisbee. At first, neighbors eyed it with suspicion. It came in different sizes: small=the hedgehog; medium = turkey platter for 27 shnooring* relatives; and, the big KaCohena: the Umbillicella – a hat with a hook up, for toddlers to crawl by.

Everyone in Shtetl* society wore the new inventions – men, women, children and even some beloved livestock. You’re surprised? When horse shoes were affixed to the animals (and a few unlucky kids), they hobbled, painfully. Now, everybody walked with their heads held high, although sometimes they forgot to look down, and occasionally met with poo Lucky for them, dinosaurs were allegedly extinct.

The Hermit was no longer alone; he was invited to every event, and even landed a date with the Rabbi’s daughter. However, the Hermit forgot to consider one thing….

At first, there were but a few drops of rain; then came the storm; then came hysteria, as people ran around looking for an umbrella or a helicopter. None to be found. As the rain pummeled to the ground, the Earth Shoes seemed to go to mush; the streimels shrunk, as if the pot roast had been cooked by Yetta. The people started to go after the Hermit – even vindictive vegans were out for blood.

Nobody knew the whereabouts of the Hermit, who had taken an alias, Ernest Lipman. Rumor has it that he took shelter in a cave, which he shared with a family of baboons. There was fierce fighting, accusations and symbols thrown helter-skelter; but, eventually, the baboonii packed up and moved to a better neighborhood. The property value of their former abode had devalued, an “undesirable element” had moved in.

Still traumatized and cautious of human contact, he now has a mail order catalogue, which has been translated into local languages and dialects – there is even one in Hieroglyphics!!!  He sells the same sandals, hats, etc. but they all come with a waterproof guarantee.

You tell him that Avigail sent you, and maybe, he will give you a tribal discount.


Amalakikes: an ancient, evil enemy composed of self-hating Jews.

Shmear: a symbolic measure, no bigger than the Sphynx, and no smaller than an armadillo, whose life was cut short by an un-licensed Chariot jockey.

Gallabiya: an unrestricted tunic found in male order catalogues.

Foktheuddin- (pronounced fuk the yuddin). A religious cleric, who lived in that era. Just a quick reference note: nobody desired to make playdates with his spawn.

Mayven: self-professed OMNIPOters.

Nudnik: related to the Mayven; the one who transformed the Mayven’s word, and turned it into practice. This action usually wound up in Small Claims Court, ruled by the Sehedrin (not to be confused with the pill that took away sinusitis).

Shmerel: somewhat loveable/pitiable; loser

Streimel: a religious hat, able to balance household possessions, and one’s whining mother-in-law, in case of a spontaneous rape and pillage by curious neighbors. Was given praise by             NOMADS TODAY (AND MOST LIKELY TOMORROW).

Shnoored- the act of manipulating something for nothing.

Plotzed: falling, unlike a graceful Giselle.

Shlumptzion: the messy sister of the ancient Hebraic Queen, Shlumtzion. The Queen was a Greek convert to Judaism, and the wife of Alexander the (not so) Great.

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.