Friday, June 09, 2006

This is how I study for Tanach

So this past Wendesday was my Tanach exam. Tuesday night at around 11 PM, I had just wrapped up studying, when it hit me: These stories are exceptionally stupid. So, in order to point this out, I went down to my room, and began typing. Three days later, while other's were studying for chem, I had produced the following:

“Are you sure we should do this?” Jacob said, in his typical nasally voice.
“Yes, for the love of God, yes,” Rivka snapped, irritation clearly present in her voice.
“Not so loud! You know He could hear you!” he retorted, taking up the matter of fact tone that made you think he was lecturing a Canaanite. “He IS omnipotent! Duh!”
“Jacob Nimrod Ben-Yitzchak, do NOT take that tone with your mother.”
Rivka rubbed her temples. Of course she should have anticipated this, she thought to herself. Nothing was easy with this child. Turning to the heavens, she wondered what she had done to deserve a son like this. Well, except maybe for that one time when she and Laban went down to Sodom for that weekend, and after a few barrels of that Manishevitz…and those goats…but no, even then she’d done penance for that.
Glancing skyward, she wondered how she even got roped into this whole crazy family. One minute she’s standing by the well, shooting the shit with Batshel about that scandalous new episode of ‘Desperate Midwives’, when this raggedy looking man pulls up with this caravan of camels. She could still remember that day. He was just sitting there, muttering to himself about ‘a sign’ and ‘what a crackpot job this is’. He looked tired, windswept, and exceptionally thirsty.
“Excuse me sir,” she had said, “you look very tired and thirsty. Would you mind not collapsing around the well? We need to get at it to survive.” “Please,” the stranger had responded, “could I get some water?”
“Uch, fine, come over here and drink out of the sheep’s trough”
She remembered the wide-eyed stare that he had given her. She felt a chill going down her spine. She suddenly had a premonition that this man would be trouble. She was right.
“Umm…,” he started, timidly, “are you sure you don’t also want to give my camels a drink?”
“No,” she had responded curtly, “we need every drop for ourselves.”
“Are you sure? They’re awful thirsty…”
“No, quite sure. Water’s precious around here, in case you didn’t notice.”
“Positive? Because it would be veryyyyyy nice”.
“No, look, I told you – we’re in the desert! Hello? Miles of sand?
“Pleaseeeeeeee? I’ll be your friend”.
“NO! Now leave me alone!”
Her gaze had drifted to the bundles on the camel’s backs. Only then did she first notice that they were carrying enough jewels to fill an ark.
“Hmm…well, I suppose I could be inclined to give them some water…if you were to part with that silver nose-stud and those two gold bracelets. I need something to wear to go clubbing down at The Be’er Naked this weekend.”
His gaze drifted a moment to the camels. He shook his head, and responded.
“Ok, fine. Now would you give them a drink?”
Rivka bent over, and picked up a bucket out of the well. She threw in down in front of the camels, where they immediately began drinking. The second their lips touched the bucket, the stranger sprung up, a wild look in his eyes.
“AHA! It’s just like the sign I told God to give me! You are the one!”
“Huh? I didn’t want to I just-,”
“No, you did it! I saw. They all saw!”
“Lalalalalalala. Can’t hear you. Divine sign.”
After a few minutes more of this, Rivka had relented, and admitted that it was probably a sign from God, just for the sake of shutting the guy up.
“You must take me to your family,” the stranger commanded, “it’s urgent”
“Don’t you even want to know my name?” Rivka said, puzzled.
“Not important. I only need you to marry some guy”.
“Look, my name’s Eliezer. I work for Abraham. He needs a wife for his son.”
Rivka nodded. She knew about Abraham. He was her eccentric great uncle. Famous in the family for two things: upping his whole family and moving to some Godforsaken strip of land in the middle of the desert on a whim, and his impression of Noah using a pitcher of water and a few dessert rolls. She had been told to steer clear of him at all costs.
“Umm…well, I’m Rivka, daughter of Bethuel, but I don’t think-“
“Daughter of Bethuel?” he interjected, “do you know Elisha ben Zona”
“Ya! He goes to school with my brother! How do you know him?”
“Oh, I took camel riding classes with him”.
“Then you must know Machriel ben Shachtar”, and ummm…Pichol the Egyptian”
“Oh yeah, oh yeah, great guys. Really funny.”
After a pause, Eliezer piped, “That aside, I have to see your family right away,” and immediately grabbed her, and started to drag her to the city.
Well, one thing led to another, and before she could say anything, Rivka was whisked off to her home. After placating Laban her brother and her father with some jewels, he said that he had an urgent message for them but that some people (and at this he made sure to gesture at Rivka who was standing at the door) couldn’t hear it. They kicked her out, but she managed to stay at the keyhole, catching snatches of the conversation.
Turned out that things between good-ol’ Uncle Abe and his son weren’t going so well. Ever since an unfortunate incident where Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac in the middle of Eliezer’s bachelor party (Abraham maintained that this was commanded by God, although one wondered how clear God’s word was at the bottom of three goat’s bladders of wine), the two had drifted apart. Isaac spend all day alone in the field, drawing in his papyrus notebook, writing in his journal, and listening to bands like Something Bedouin and Panic! At the Kotel. To top things off, Abraham’s wife had just died, and he was ruing sending away his Egyptian mistress just because Sarah ‘heard from Michal who spoke to Sheba that Hagar was saying how that new dress she sewed made her hips look huge’. Abraham was lonely, Eliezer said, very lonely... (at this he trailed off, and Rivka could only hear something about a ‘hand under his thigh’ and ‘an oath not to tell anyone’). So, in order to reconcile things with his son, Abraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for his son.
“So you see,” concluded Eliezer, “I need to take your daughter to be his wife”.
“Why my daughter?” roared Bethuel, “and why should I give her to a dweeb who doesn’t have the cajones to pick up a chick himself?”
“Well, your daughter fills all the stipulations: She’s a member of his family, she’s female, and she’s not a sheep.”
“What about looks?”
“That won’t be a problem. Isaac is…how shall we say…ass-ugly, and is in no position to choose”
“Ok, what’s in it for me?”
“Umm…hello?! Did you not see that giant caravan of jewels? All yours for the simple price of your daughter”
At this Rivka had barged into the room, and snapped, “Daddy! You cannot be serious! There is no way that I will-“
“Ah, you hear that?” Laban stepped in, “she said she will. Let’s send her off on her way.” Without another word, the transaction was complete, and without so much as a kiss goodbye, Rivka was whisked off to her new life with Issac.
Rivka remembered how enraged she was, and how she covered her face the first time they met, so that maybe he wouldn’t recognize her, and she could slip off with the next Ishmalite caravan to freedom. But, little by little, his nerdy endearing nature had worn off on her, and she eventually consented to marry him.
It wasn’t all sweetness and light, Rivka reflected, but it was fine enough. She wasn’t sold on the whole “matriarch” thing, thinking this was just a phase of his, like the well digging, and he had a tendency to fold like a cheap tent whenever someone tried to take his property, although he continued to insist that he was just ‘being the bigger man’. But overall, it was a good life, but for the kids.
The kids. Rivka had to surpress a groan whenever she even thought about those two, starting even from their birth. When she went into labour, it felt like someone was exploding themselves in her belly. For almost 36 hours, she sat there and struggled, racked with pain, and of course, Isaac had forbidden any form of epidural herb, saying “These are the next generation of Jews you’re giving birth to. I don’t want them being druggies!”. Well, if those two were the future of the Jews, then she wanted to cash in her stake in that particular following now.
Esau, the firstborn, was a nutcase. Completely hairy, even from birth, he was tormented by the other kids, who called him ‘The Hairy Hebrew’, ‘Wolfyid’, and ‘Sheepfucker’. As a result, he grew up as an angry kid. As soon as he could walk upright, he had his hands on a bow and arrow, and whenever he was angry, he would go out into the wilderness and “let out his emotions” on a few dozen wild stags or hares. But for some reason, Isaac took a shine to him. Rivka thought it was because he saw in Esau all the characteristics that he didn’t have: strength, passion, and vitality. Lord knew Rivka didn’t get enough of those from Jacob. The two of them could always been seen out in the field together, trying to hunt, even though the closest thing Isaac had ever come to hunting was pinning his own hand to a tree while trying to fire a bow.
It could have been worse for Esau though; he could have been Jacob. Rivka knew Jacob would be a handful right from the get-go. When she had given birth to him, he was clinging onto his brother’s heel so pitifully, and he first opened his squinty eyes that rested just above the biggest schnoz she had ever seen, he had a look that said, “Oy, it’s cold in here. Couldn’t I stay just a little longer in that womb?” Jacob was the antithesis of Esau. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob was inside counting Isaac’s livestock, and making sure that the amount of sheep correlated to last year’s Hamurabi Tax Form. While Esau skinned and cleaned the animals with his bare hands, Jacob wore gloves to brush his own teeth. Esau would play ‘Hunter’ with his little gang of friends, Jacob would play Druze’s and Dragons with the three neighborhood 20-year olds who still lived in the basement of their parent’s tents. He would be the kid who went outside in two robes, even in the middle of the desert, just because he was afraid of catching the plague.
Still, he was loveable, in his own ‘sad-puppy-that-no-one-wants’ way. And besides, he was a bright kid. He had studied the Torah so much, that he had memorized it verbatim. Of course, it was only 27 Chapters at the time, 12 of which was just his family tree, but still, you had to give him credit. And sure enough, when he wasn’t bugging her about whether she had gotten full value for the five shekels she had just paid for her goat cheese, Rivka grew to love him more than Esau. At least with Jacob, you knew what you were getting, not like Esau, one minute laughing and joking, and the next threatening to kill you because you asked if there was a hair in your lentil soup.
Of course, lentil soup was one of his sore spots. Contrary to popular belief, Esau hadn’t originally wanted to sell his birthright for just a bowl of lentil soup. At first, Esau had wandered into Jacob’s tent, about to mess around with him by slinging his freshly killed gazelle carcass on his study table (an action which Esau knew would make the finicky Jacob blanche and run for his disinfectant) and jokingly asking him how much the carcass would fetch for. Upon hearing a reasonable price cited by Jacob, though, he decided to pursue this transaction further.
“Okay, so you’ll give me ten shekels for the hide?”
“Well, ok, for you, and this is only because I like you, I will take your birthright off your hands also”.
“My birthright?! Why that?”
“Are you kidding? Do you know what you’d have to pay in Damescus? At least twice this! And I’m letting you give me all of this for only 5 shekels”.
“Five? Wasn’t it just 10?”
“Okay. For you, seven. But you have to give me your firstborn child too”.
“Ok, if you don’t want to make this trade, I know this lovely couple up the Jordan who would just love to get their hands on…”
“No, wait! Okay, seven shekels”.
Their negotiating eventually progressed to the point where Esau was giving Jacob his carcass, birthright, first and second born son and the reins to his new camel, while receiving in return Jacob’s thermos of lentil soup (lentils being the only thing that Jacob’s sensitive stomach could stand). Esau walked out of the time thinking that he was getting a shrewd deal, but upon talking to his mother, he realized how ripped off he got. Esau stumbled off, swearing revenge.
Which brought them back to today. Isaac, who was getting on in years, had decided to confer upon Esau his blessing. Esau had gone to great lengths to remind Jacob that it was he, not Jacob who would receive the blessing of his father, engaging him in such conversations as “Hands up if you’re getting divine rewards” and “Hey, remember that time you got blessed with the dew of the heaven and the fat of the earth? Oh wait, that was me”. Rivka had seen all of this, and had seen enough. Maybe it was her intuition that no good would come out of Esau, maybe it was because she had just had a fight that night with Isaac about him doing nothing but sitting on his ass (he had been riding around all day on his donkey), maybe it was just because she was having ‘her special messiah’ come visit her that month, but she knew that Isaac couldn’t be allowed to bless Esau. And so, when Esau left to go hunt the blind Isaac some food, she dragged Jacob out of his tent, and told him the plan. Needless to say, the timid Jacob was far from convinced.
“Jacob Nimrod ben-Yitzchak,” she repeated, “you are going to go along with this plan, whether you like it or not.
Jacob blinked his eyes in the bright sunlight, and whined, “Ema, I look like a bloated ram with this stuff on”. Jacob was wearing Esau’s best clothing, that Rivka had picked up off the floor of his tent next to his hamper. However, Esau being more ‘festively plump’ then Jacob, the clothing hung limply over his scrawny figure, about four sizes too big.
“Nonsense, you’ll grow into it,” dismissed Rivka, “and the sheepskin brings out your complexion”. To emulate Esau’s hairiness, Rivka had also covered his arms with sheepskin. “But I have allergi-ACHOO,” sneezed Jacob, “wool makes my eyes water, and gives my skin a very nasty rash”.
“The back of my hand is going to give your head a nasty rash if you don’t get going! Now, do you know the plan?”
“Sigh, yes mom. I go in there, give him the meat and tell him its venison, even though it’s in fact sheep”
“Tofu sheep substitute, actually, we were all out of regular sheep. But honestly, you can’t taste the difference.”
“Fine, I go in there, get the blessing, and then hightail it out of the tent before he catches on”
“Perfect. Don’t let me down”
“You know, I still don’t think this is smar-,”
Jacob slinked off, meal in hand, into his father’s tent, while Rivka waited by the entrance, to savor in her triumph.
When Jacob entered the tent, Isaac yelled out loudly to him, “Rivky? Is that you?”
“No father, it’s-,”
“Hey Honey! Remember that time when Abimelech walked in on us when we were being intimate? What a square!”
Rivka rolled her eyes. She remembered that night well. Everyone in the city had thought that they were brother and sister, and for the rest of her stay, she had gotten condescending smiles and comments of how close she and her brother were.
“No dad,” Jacob insisted, “it’s me. Esau. Your eldest.” He immediately turned heavenward and muttered, “you see! You see! I never admitted to anything. I wasn’t trying to trick him, it’s a misinterpretation is all”.
“Esau! Back so soon?”
“Umm…yes, the hunt went well.”
“You were gone for two minutes”
“I said it went really well”
“Well, what have you got for me?”
“Umm…it is…er-ah, fine…umm…dish…of v-v-v-v-…”
“Never mind, just give it here”
Jacob grabbed the bowl in Jacob’s trembling hands and began devouring the contents immediately. After thirty seconds, he belched loudly and threw the plate on the ground.
“That was delicious son! Much better then that drek your mother cooks”
An audible sigh emitted from the front of the tent.
“What was that?” exclaimed an alarmed Isaac.
“Umm…that was me…emitting….gas”
Isaac let out a boisterous laugh. “Hahaha! That’s my boy!”
Jacob laughed nervously. Already he had begun to break out in a hot sweat, and a large rash was developing on his back, which he knew wouldn’t go away, even with his special cream, if he didn’t get out of the sheepskin soon. How did Esau do this for his whole life?
“I suppose you want your blessing now?” Isaac remarked, cutting off Jacob’s thoughts. “Fine, fine, come over here.”
“Oh, dad, tha-a-a-ACHO!” sneezed Jacob.
Isaac snapped up, and said, “Esau never sneezes like that. Esau isn’t a weakling
like my other son, Jacob”.
“I am not a…”
“What’d you say?”
“I…said…I’m not a weakling…like Jacob. I’m all man.”
Isaac paused for a moment, inhaled deeply, and said, “Well, you certainly smell like Esau. Like a man, you know, blood, sweat, B.O. Not like Jacob. He smells like fish and hand cream.
From the mouth of the tent, Rivka muffled a chuckle. Well, it was true. Jacob was a soft one. If only he’d been like his middle-namesake, Nimrod. Now there was a man, Rivka reminisced. Nimrod had been Rivka’s great-great-great-great-step uncle, who had lived out in Babel. He had had a dream to construct a large, high-rise condo in the middle of the town, and charge top dollar for rent. Well, construction had gotten a little out of hand. Nimrod kept saying, “well, just one more floor, and I could be pulling in 3 more G’s”. Of course, after a while, the Moabite and Hittite workers started fighting about who cooked the better shwarma, one of the Amorites insulted the mother of one of the Girgashites, and before you could say ‘Jihad’, the whole darn thing had come falling down. Ah well. Rivka was sure one of her kids would have a better time in real estate than him.
Jacob blew by Rivka, interrupting her thoughts. He stormed out of the tent, and hurried over wordlessly to his tent. Rivka could tell he was upset. She entered the tent hesitantly, to see Jacob throwing off the sheepskin in a huff.
“How’d it go honey?”
Jacob looked up indignantly.
“How’d it go? How’d it go?! I stand, melting in that sheepskin, while he devours the meal I brought, and calls me a weak-willed pansy. Then he has to smell me, which was NOT an experience I want to repeat. Then I had to kiss him for gosh-sakes! KISS HIM?! You married a sick man, let me tell you. Then he inhales, and says that I remind him of the fields. The only thing I could smell was the manure, which was also how I was feeling at this point thanks to the sheepskin!”
“But you got the blessing?” asked Rivka
“Oh yes. The blessing. Let’s see, where to begin listing my endless blessings? The grain of the field, and the fruit of the vine. Great to know I’ll never be sober or carb-free again. Or the dew. Great to have, if we HAD ANY GRASS IN THE DESERT! Or to have people serve me. How would I ever get by otherwise? Oh, right, with the HUNDREDS of slaves that we already have! The old man was so loopy that he even said the same thing twice!”
“Well come on Jakey,” said Rivka, trying to soothe him, “you had fun, didn’t you?”
“Fun? FUN?! That was the worst experience of my life! And now Esau’s gonna kill me when he gets home.” Rivka tried to interject, but Jacob continued. “I’m running away from home. I’m going to live with Laban in Haran.” At these words, Jacob began packing a travel bundle.
Rivka did nothing to stop him. She was used to these threats. When he was 10, Jacob had run away, claiming that he was never coming back. He showed up two days later, haggard and shaken, having had to sleep outside with, “not even a bed of straw or something sanitary to sleep on”.
In a few minutes, Jacob had walked out of his tent, and was soon nothing but a speck in the distance. Rivka watched his figure disappear. She knew he would be back in four days, a week max. Like a kid of Jacob’s mettle could stay away from home for 20 years?
But Rivka was satisfied. She knew that Jacob was secure as the heir to the Jewish people. Even if he didn’t appreciate it now, he would be grateful to her in the future, when schoolchildren become obliged to learn his name and every one of his children
Her last thought, however, was of doubt. Could this be how things were meant to be? Were the Jewish people meant to spring from this anemic, nebbish, finicky, cheap, skinny boy with a big nose who still couldn’t eat fish because it upset his stomach?
“Na,” she thought, “I’m sure God will intervene somewhere along the line and change that.” After all, what kind of Chosen People were accountants?

This is Michael Herman saying, "When someone says that something is long, hard and a pain in the ass, they're not typically referring to chemistry."

PS - "Hehe"


At Friday, June 09, 2006 2:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

herman, you're really weird. you and your weird sense of humour are weird. although, i must admit i liked how you added reference to pop culture in your little story, very nice. your english teacher would be proud of the writing. you're a very strange (not) little boy, with alot of problems. you need therapy quite badly actually. again, you're weird.

ps after reading that massive bit of work, i'd like to see how you do on your exam.

At Friday, June 09, 2006 5:46:00 PM, Blogger Michael Herman said...


At Saturday, June 10, 2006 11:48:00 AM, Blogger Chaz said...

I can't believe I read the whole thing.

At Sunday, June 11, 2006 2:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no not roth. btw chaz is right it was really long... but, it was really good. you should write a book just like that story, and send it to a publisher. (hence how you get published) i'm serious, talented you are. got to go. bet you'll never guess who i am. (hint: not a stranger)

At Saturday, June 24, 2006 7:28:00 AM, Blogger Erika said...

it WAS very long...but it did make me laugh. and your anonymous is prolly your mom or something!!


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