Columns - 1999

    The observation deck

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Shofar Columnist

    This month I present to you several anecdotes, antecedents, corrections, and ideas that came from the observation deck of a luxury liner on the Pacific Ocean. But since I'm only daydreaming about the ocean liner, I better make this fast or my boss will catch me with my feet on my desk again.

    First, a correction. The management would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused by an error in last month's witty, intellectual column that discussed at no length the lesser-known yet equally unprovable origins of the parts of the Passover Seder (Yiddish for "this family will still sit down for dinner together at least once a year! And twice in the diaspora!").

    Apparently, as has been pointed out by almost 50 percent of our loyal readership, it was inferred in the column that after the second washing of the hands, the blessing for washing the hands is not said when, in fact, it is said.

    The obvious reason for this error is that we put in a secret, unannounced error in the column as part of an extravagent contest for our more attentive readers. But since you obviously don't buy that, we'll simply blame chance. If you put enough monkeys at typewriters (Yiddish for "old writing machine") they will eventually write Shakespeare, and perhaps even some of his greater works, but they'll probably make mistakes in their first drafts.

    But if you did buy the first excuse, I have some stock in Compaq to sell you.

    The real reason is that there were several humourous possibilities to explain why the blessing would not be said at that point, only one of which you were presented. There is nothing funny about saying the blessing then. Not a thing. It only makes it longer until we eat. Where's the humour in that? Of course, there is humanity in that, sparing us from the unleavened experiment results of the year reported by the Manischevitz labs in Science magazine's recipe supplement.

    The rest of the witty, insightful hypotheses will, of course, trickle out over the next several years so that I don't have to think of anything original then. After all, in a few years I'll turn 30 and I don't want to trust that my mind will still function properly at that age. (Though this is no doubt another occasion wherein my mother will remind me that I've always been an early bloomer.)

    If this misinformation in our Pulitzer-snubbed column caused any harm, inconvenience, or insufficiently blessed hygiene at your Seder, please accept our most humble apologies. Unfortunately, if you did indeed follow this mistaken procedure, your Seder is no longer valid and you must go through it again. For subsidies to defray the cost of two additional Seders and the videotape necessary to record May sweeps therein, please contact your local Chabad Center.

    Secondly, the management would like to apologize for the previous apology, which contained the inference (Yiddish for "blatant self-aggrandizement") that brashly asserted that last month's column was both "witty" and "intellectual".

    Thirdly, at a Passover service this year, a rabbi referred to a recent study which stated that Israeli Jews put on an average of seven pounds during Passover. This prompted the instant reply "does that mean Jews in the diaspora put on eight pounds?"

    Fourthly, the management would like to apologize to you and Mr. Stegner for the use of non-existant adverbial forms such as "thirdly" and "fourthly" in this column.

    Fifthly, is a very hard word to pronounce if you have a lisp.

    Sixthly, a recent bar mitzvah student of mine was blessed with the portion of Tazria-Metzorah. For those of you majored in Leviticus in college, you three will recall that these portions deal heavily with skin disease and other such pleasant subjects. So my student, unbeknownst to me in advance but knownst to everyone in attendance that bright Saturday morning, said in his speech that at first he was rather disappointed with the subject matter of his reading, but that after a while it grows on you.

    And finally, though life is there to be looked at with amusement and levity whenever possible, and this column will break from its four year tradition of journalistic excellence and start indulging thusly next month, sometimes levity is not possible. That's why there is none here right now. Need a reason? Look no further than a high school outside Denver.

    Every place that is "someplace else" for one person is right here "where it could never happen" for someone else.

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley who can't imagine trying to be amusing after ending on that note. Even he has limits. (No joke.)

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.