Purim sameyach

It’s true, I’m a Purim freak: I dress up every year, read the megilla at my synagogue and turn my house and family upside down preparing mishlochei manot and organizing a very-alcohol-heavy Purim Seudah for all my friends.
But thank goodness for Madonna, a real hero to the Jews, because if it weren’t for her no one outside Israel (and the religious Jews living elsewhere) would ever have heard of Esther. Talk about publicizing the miracle. But other than a vague idea that Esther is some sort of Jewish heroine, and you should trust me on this: no one knows about Purim – even most non-observant American Jews have never heard of Purim. Likewise, all those Purim words you might like to use when talking to friends and colleagues abroad are pretty nearly untranslatable. That said, you can use the following options when you are trying to talk about Purim to anyone who is either not Israeli or Orthodox.

  • Purim = Jewish Halloween
  • Raashan = Rattle
  • Oznei Haman = Cookies
  • Mishloach Manot = More cookies (or maybe fruit basket)
  • Matanot Le’evyonim = Money
  • Megilla = Bible scroll
  • Seudah = Dinner

The bottom line is that it’s not Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur or Hanukkah, so you should probably just keep it in the family…

And yes, I’m just looking for every excuse to talk about Madonna right now 🙂


If every meal were just desserts…

Do you hear what I hear?

I got an email from an old friend, someone I consider an English speaker, and he made what I thought was a pretty common mistake in English.
He wrote: just deserves.
I always thought that it was just desserts, referring to the fact that if you do something lousy, you get something appropriately lousy in return. (I imagined that if you acted badly, you deserved really awful dessert in return, like really soggy tiramisu. Ach – I can’t stand tiramisu.)

After spending a few elated minutes congratulating myself on my superior English, I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and look it up.

It turns out that we were both wrong, but he was actually closer than I was.

The real phrase is “just deserts.”  It’s a phrase we say in English when we want to say that someone got what they deserve – sometimes we say it in a nice way, and sometimes we don’t.
But it’s pronounced like desserts (קינוחים) not deserts (מדבר).

The original Latin term was “deservire” and apparently deserts once meant something you deserve, not just dry sandy land where cacti grow. Go figure.

However it’s spelled and pronounced, it’s a really useful idiom which actually does mean getting the rotten recompense you deserve.

  • After yelling at her employees all day, Sandra got her just deserts when her throat was so sore that she couldn’t speak at all the next morning.
  • John had cut corners and taken the cheap route throughout the project and got his just deserts when the final product fell to pieces in front of the customer.
  • After making an obnoxious, sexist comment about women drivers, Raviv got his just deserts when he spent twenty minutes wandering around the parking lot and still couldn’t remember where he’d parked. (Yep, this is the one from the email, and as a feminist, I should’ve replied to the email with some soggy tiramisu.)

Just remember, no matter how it’s spelled, it’s pronounced like warm chocolate soufflé covered with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with fudge sauce.
Now that’s a worthy dessert.