Day 8 of the Omer
I think I should be long asleep, but here I am, finally trying to let you know what I’ve been up to. Be warned that this may become a long post, given in order of the books I finished reading, and with related events discussed with them.
103. Just a Week to Go! by Yeshara Gold
This is the book I gave the kids last year when I stayed with them, and apparently they still like it lots, which is great. I got asked to read it to them a couple of times, and it’s still a good retelling of a child’s approach to Passover. They seemed to like this year’s book (the frog one), and the toys I made to go with it as well, so I was most gratified.
104. The Rav Shach Haggadah by Rabbi Asher Bergman & Rabbi Yaakov Blinder
I was thinking of just putting down the plain Haggada text as my book, seeing as I read it twice (once on each of the first two nights of Pesach), but then I challenged myself to read the entire commentary this year, rather than just some of it, as I normally do, so I’ve put the specific edition here. This isn’t a highly academic edition, whose comments more often use an anecdote or story by or about Rav Shach to make the point than give over a specific one of his teachings, but when read in its entirety has a lot to give over. I was well into Chol Hamoed before I finished it, but certainly didn’t find anything that would only be relevant on Seder night.
105. The Capital Ring by Colin Saunders
I finished walking the Capital Ring last Wednesday, and I have lots of pictures to put up of the walk, although I amn’t convinced I’ll get them up tonight. I’m really pleased to have done it, and in doing so to have finished the book too, of course! I think I’ll focus on the Thames Path next, and I’m going to count the overlap I did last week as part of that, considering it was about three miles, rather than a few hundred metres.
106. Stories of Spirit and Faith: Fascinating Tales from Life in Aleppo by Rabbi David Sutton
Now this is an interesting read, for the history, the interest, the inspiration and the wonder it inspires. It consists of anecdotes and true tales of the Jewish community of Aleppo, or Aram Soba as it was also known, in Syria, of the 19th and 20th centuries (of the civil calendar), and the members of that community (and their descendants) who moved to Israel, America and other places. Certain Rabbis and other community leaders come up over and over again, and these are given a brief biographical sketch each at the end of the book, but even so enough information is given in each story that one should be happily able to dip in and out of the book as one wishes.
My own style of reading such books tends to be to open it at random once or twice, and then if the book catches my attention to read it from cover to cover, but I think part of the reason books of short stories and inspirational pieces do well in the Jewish community is that they can be perused in so many ways, to suit each reader, especially those who do not have/take the time to concentrate on a longer work.
I didn’t manage to see more than snippets of the recent widely acclaimed BBC production of Mrs Gaskell’s novel, but I picked up the new edition produced to go with it, and I’ve really enjoyed the tales therein. The narrator’s voice is always well judged and very telling, whether overtly but oh-so-gently sarcastic (as much of that narrator as of those others described) in Cranford or “Mr Harrison’s Confessions” or in remembered loving obsequiousness in “My Lady Ludlow”.
We are shown small worlds where social form pretends to be the most important thing, since so often financial status has not kept up with inherited social rank, and yet personal relationships can win out in the end, so long as the niceties are not all pushed asunder in one fell swoop. These small islands of feudalism (particularly in “My Lady Ludlow”) are inexorably being pushed away, or at least remoulded, by a changing wider world of Revolutions political and Industrial, and I find it fascinating to see the downsides of these put so forcefully, coming from an education system (across several countries) which has always put these forward as wholly positive.
As someone who does fibre handwork by choice, I can appreciate that industrial spinning and weaving were great threats to those women who made a living through decorative and useful piecework, and yet as someone who has never yet used handspun yarn, let alone made it herself, and the vast majority of whose clothes and other fabrics are machine made (even if I do by either fair trade or second hand wherever I can) I would not want to entirely turn back the clock on this progress. Regulate it for workers’ safety and environmental impact, and ensure those workers are well paid, definitely. Educate people to know where their food, clothing and shelter comes from, probably. Stop technology going further than suits me personally, certainly not!
But what really struck me, from both this book (a story within “My Lady Ludlow”) and A Tale of Two Cities is how differently these middle and upper class English people saw the French Revolution from the way I learnt about it (mostly in modern France, it must be said). In both books we are shown that episode mostly as it affects minor French nobility, and given as our heroes good people who happen to be aristocrats and were not involved in the excesses cried against all of their kind, who have earned the loyalty of faithful retainers and whose main objective is to get their families out of France. While Dickens does show some right among the revolutionaries, and Gaskell uses a very clearly biased reporter, certainly neither is showing quite the version I was told aged eleven, in Paris on Bastille Day…
108. Overheard in Dublin Again edited by Gerard Kelly and Sinead Kelly
Just to lower the tone a little… ;p
I was given this by my dear brother, and it is funny. Rather un-PC, but usually in an affectionate, or at least accepting way. At least, that’s the way I choose to read it. It’s a selection of entries made to the Overheard in Dublin site, which is apparently one of a whole stable covering cities and countries around the world.