Christmas tree & Talmudic law

Learning and questioning and arguing certain points of life, philosophy, theology, etc. are central elements of Judaism. The Talmud (Jewish law with countless commentaries on it) is made up of thousands of arguments rabbis have made about everything that governs life, it’s basically a sacred book (made up of several volumes) of arguments. In yeshivas (Jewish religious schools), the Talmud is studied and the endless laws and arguments are argued about. To give you a little idea, the kashrut (the dietary laws for eating kosher) alone are made up of 613 rules!

Historically, yeshivas have only been open to boys although nowadays in non-Orthodox Judaism women are allowed as well. In the 1983 movie Yentl, Barbra Streisand decided to dress up as a boy, just so that she could try to enter a yeshiva in early 20th century Poland to broaden her learning. Her happiness at being accepted into one is a beautiful moment of triumph in the movie. It also gives you a little glimpse at what a yeshiva looks like…

Anyway, all this yeshiva explaining is just the context for the video I actually wanted to show.

My sister shared a comedy video in our family group chat that is a couple of years old but that I’d never seen before. Watching this, you just know that the comedian, Elon Gold, must have attended a yeshiva himself as the arguing of rules and regulations in it is just so typically Jewish (useful to know before you watch this: “Shecht” = ritual slaughter / “Bracha” = a blessing)…

As someone who grew up around and with Jews and has Jewish family, this just feels so familiar and is really the funniest thing I have seen this Christmas season! I do wonder, however, if it as funny to people who are less familiar with Judaism. Regardless, I thought I’d share anyway, along with just about all the basic knowledge I have of yeshivas and Talmud. And hey, if you’re not familiar with Judaism, at least you’ll have learned something, i.e. it’s a good thing Jews don’t do Christmas trees. 🙂

United we stand…

… divided we fall! Isn’t that how the saying goes? A new comedy collaboration movement has arisen here in Europe and I love it! To paraphrase a certain orange (our Dutch national colour by the way!) super-power leader:  It will be the best comedy movement in the world! It’s true! It’s huuuge! It’s gonna be great!

Almost two weeks ago this Dutch video (‘America first, The Netherlands second’) was made in reaction to Trump becoming president of the US. It’s gone viral on YouTube…

And now reaction videos to this one are being made in other countries. Germany has made a reaction video and is rallying other European countries to join in (switch on video subtitles if you don’t understand German)…

So, now there’s also a ‘Denmark second’ video. I love how much fun they make of The Netherlands in this one. They make a great point about the name of our country, by the way:

And there’s also a ‘Switzerland second’ video…

And there are more to follow! A website has been set up to collect these videos (although it’s gone down this morning, hopefully it will come back up again soon): http://www.everysecondcounts.eu/

There’s also a Twitter account to follow: https://twitter.com/itsgreateu

Ah, they have even tweeted about the website crashing:

Even the reactions to this tweet are very funny! I’ve screencapped a few…

itsgreat-react1itsgreat-react2

United in laughter we stand!

Michael Palin and Hemingway

So, the Michael Palin update I mentioned in my previous post – here it is!
There is a yearly literary festival in Utrecht (NL). The theme this year was the work of Ernest Hemingway and on a news site we read that Michael Palin would be attending the opening of the festival and do a presentation and a Q&A session. I used to read quite some Hemingway in my late teens/early twenties, I have seen quite a few Hemingway movie adaptations and as a Michael Palin and Monty Python fan and having seen Palin’s travel shows including the “Hemingway Adventure” series I couldn’t let this chance slip by. I needed a ticket to this event! My husband is a fellow Palin/Python fan (but not so much a Hemingway fan) and really wanted to come along and see Palin as well. And so, on Monday evening November 24th we found ourselves in Utrecht.
The opening part of the evening was a discussion panel about Hemingway (alas no Palin there). The discussion panel was OK. The speaker opening the evening was very promising and amusing but alas he didn’t have a seat in the discussion panel and the discussion panel was only mildly interesting to me. What annoyed me was this one guy who went on about how he couldn’t read English well enough so he had only read Hemingway in Dutch and then proceeded to quote some passage in Dutch to illustrate how weirdly Hemingway could sometimes phrase things. When I heard what he found weird I knew instantly it was weird because of the translation. Ugh. Maybe if you discuss Hemingway it would be nice to invite scholars who actually read the original texts… The discussion was OK, though I had expected something better from a literary festival, something more in depth. I’m not a Hemingway connaisseur and even I didn’t learn much new about him, it all remained very shallow.
Anyway, moving on… we were told that Palin couldn’t sign anything after his presentation (maybe because of time issues?) but that the day before he had signed a bunch of books in his hotel room and that these books were for sale. Annoying thing: the books he signed we already have and they had only let him sign his books that were translated into Dutch! I don’t want Dutch Michael Palin books that I already have in English! So, we didn’t buy those.

Michael Palin finally came after the intermission. At the end of the break we saw him take a seat in the front row with his wife whom I recognized from photos in his diaries (yes, I have been reading the diaries he published). He then proceeded to give this speech about Hemingway and how he had come to admire Hemingway and then referenced the trip he had done for the BBC following in Hemingway’s footsteps.


It was a good speech with many amusing bits that really got laughs, we loved listening to him! I especially loved when he went off text occasionally to tell an anecdote. Afterwards there was a Q&A session.

The presenter (different guy from the one who had presented earlier) asked a few questions and then let the audience have their questions. I was thinking up a question about Hemingway and film adaptations but then after only 4 or so questions, it had to end, due to the time. Such a pity!!! So, while the Michael Palin hour was really good, it was just waaaay too short, we would’ve loved to have had more time with him! The venue we were at is so big (there are about 5 or 6 stages there!) that there was no single stage door to go to… so we couldn’t wait for him there (like we had done this past summer in London at the Old Vic when we shortly met Richard Armitage). So, back home we went to relieve our friend of her babysitting duties.

Bottom line: it was really really great to see Michael Palin in the flesh and hear him speak and it cements why I love this man so much: he is funny and warm and smart and so nice. We had great seats and my husband took some good pictures. So, though the evening didn’t quite live up to expectation with the time available (and no chance for a meet and greet) what we did see and hear was good, we were happy we had been there.