Courtesy of Hirshel Tzig
To the Hebraically challenged: the above is a greeting in a charity brochure. Since charity receptions and the occasional dinner are the best we have for going out in the evening, for men that is, the charity brochure is the equivalent of the society pages in Tatler. Not unfortunately who’s going out with whom as it happens so quickly round here that you’ve barely kissed the mezuze to go out and it’s time to come back in for the l’chaim announcing the engagement.
Besides being the only distraction from drawn-out speeches by speakers internationally renown from their lectern-thumping histrionics, the brochure is also an indicator of who’s going places. ‘He? Last year he had a silver page and this year a diamond! Not bad. What’s he into?’ And ‘Where’s he, didn’t he have a platinum last year? Nebech, men hot im baganvet. I hear his wife’s started a playgroup.’
It is customary in such instances for pages to be donated for the elevation of dead souls. Or rather the souls of dead bodies since we’re generally dualists in matters of body and soul. So if while you’re alive they’ll smite your body to benefit your soul, when you’re dead they’ll feed on others for the same purpose. As Bob Dylan might not have said, ‘they’ll stone you when your trying to earn some bread/they’ll stone you when you’re try’na be so dead. Everybody must get fleeced’ Besides, you cannot really write ‘In Loving Memory’ as we don’t do love plus it’ll make you sound like a United Synagogue member. What next, gravestones in English?
For similar reasons while your wife can join you at the bottom of the page as ‘Joe Blogsovitch and his missus’, first names are verboten. Females round here generally get first names for 3 reasons: for use in supplications when their child is ill (or if they’ve committed a misdemeanour, when they’re older), for matrimony and for when they’re dead. Other than that they might as well be numbered since you don’t really need a first name to cook supper or give birth even a dozen times.
The page above is from just such a brochure taken out by one of the great and good of the community whose wife is a scion of an even greater and better family, especially if these things are calculated by bank balances. The souls being elevated are of a man and woman both whose names are given in full. But instead of the greeting, or whatever you call such elevations, ending with ‘X and his companion’, ‘companion’ or ‘pair’ being acceptable Hebrew metaphors for one’s better half, some copy writer with a sense of mischief substituted ‘companion’ with ‘and his maid’.
‘Not nice’ I hear you say and it is indeed despicable considering his status and esteem. One doesn’t as a rule announce one’s maid in a charity brochure. But on the other hand it’s still preferable to spelling out her name in full since that could have aroused lascivious thoughts in readers even while being excoriated in sermons for just such thoughts. As the Talmud tells us, ‘Where there is a desecration of God’s Name, honour is not afforded even to the great.’