…the real thing?

can you speak for 3 minutes on any subject?

Ear­ly in our stud­ies at rab­binic school, one of our class­es intend­ed to make us bet­ter pub­lic speak­ers. Our instruc­tor was Hol­ly­wood actor Stan­ley Wax­man. He would often assign us the task of speak­ing extem­po­ra­ne­ous­ly for three min­utes on any sub­ject he would present (usu­al­ly offer­ing one word). This par­tic­u­lar morn­ing in the autumn of 1973 he called on a class­mate and sug­gest­ed the word Torah. Our class­mate, who had a sense of humor the size of his stature, of over six feet, stepped to the front of the class and said (I para­phrase all but the first three words):

Tora! Tora! Tora! is the name of a movie I saw recent­ly.

We all thought he was incred­i­bly fun­ny, but Stan­ley (עליו השלום) was not impressed.

التوراة 虎 torah

This sto­ry came to mind recent­ly as I con­tin­ued to fol­low the Twit­ter feed for #Torah.
I saw numer­ous mes­sages in Ara­bic script men­tion­ing #Torah and #Mubarak. I did not think they had much to do with תורה.

some find torah liberating… others find it confining

I checked the loca­tion of the Tweet­ers. They were from Egypt, so I searched for Torah and Mubarak and found…

Mubarak’s Sons in Torah Prison

And Google Maps shows (though the Eng­lish spelling shifts a bit now and then):

Torah Mahk­oum Prison

Torah Mahkoum Prison

Torah Mahk­oum Prison
the Nile is on the left
the entrance appears to be at the inter­sec­tion of
Police Man Insti­tute & Masr Hel­wan Agri­cul­tur­al Street

Torah Mahk­oum prison is one of the places used by Min­istry of Inte­ri­or to uphold detainees “await­ing” sen­tence. They keep get­ting re-referred to pros­e­cu­tor every 15 days who either extends their deten­tion or release them. Such wait­ing peri­od and exten­sions could be legal­ly extend­ed to a max­i­mum of six month. For this rea­son it is usu­al­ly used to pun­ish and deterr [sic] polit­i­cal pris­on­ers who can spend up to six months in this place with crim­i­nal pris­on­ers and/or under inhu­mane con­di­tions with­out sol­id charges or court sen­tence.

This is the con­fin­ing lim­it­ing space of التوراة on the nar­row con­strict­ed green strip that is Egypt.

tyger tyger

What of our classmates “tora”?

To para­phrase William Blake:

Through what dis­tant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dared they aspire?

As they came upon Pearl Har­bor dur­ing the night of Decem­ber 6–7, 1941, the Japan­ese pilots reput­ed­ly called out 虎 虎 虎 (which is pho­net­i­cal­ly “tora tora tora”) and means “Tiger, tiger, tiger” indi­cat­ing that com­plete sur­prise had been achieved. You could say that the Japan­ese came upon the US naval fleet as fly­ing tigers, iron­i­cal­ly the name of an Amer­i­can Vol­un­teer Group of the Chi­nese Air Force at the time.

One of my con­tacts in Japan checked with some Japan­ese lin­guis­tic pros about the phonol­o­gy of “tora 虎 トラ”, because it did not sound par­tic­u­lar­ly Japan­ese in ori­gin. They did not know the word’s ori­gin. My friend sug­gest­ed that:

It is an Indone­sian loan word that came in with the orig­i­nal south­ern strain of Japan­ese DNA many years ago which the Japan­ese don’t like to talk too much about because of the sup­posed puri­ty of their blood line. Tora, me thinks is Indone­sian, orig­i­nal­ly. Proof below, maybe:

how bright is torah?

The sun­light reflect­ing off moun­tains of snow can often be blind­ing­ly bright. And the smile of the young woman who car­ries the name because her par­ents under­stand it to mean “bear­er of great mes­sage” match­es that bril­liance. She was brought to my atten­tion by Efraim Fein­stein on Twit­ter @efraimdf, a bio­physics post­doc, coder, and self-pro­fessed litur­gy geek who, when he learned about our inter­est in “Tweet­ing #Torah to the Top” tweet­ed:

Answer: #Torah trend­ed on twit­ter in Feb 2010 when @torahbright won the gold for wom­ens half­pipe at the Win­ter Olympics @JewishPub

bright Torah Bright

Torah Bright of Aus­tralia flash­es her trade­mark smile at the U.S. Snow­board­ing Grand Prix Ladies Qual­i­fi­er in the Main Vein Half­pipe back in Decem­ber at Cop­per Moun­tain, Col­orado. Pho­to­graph by: Doug Pensinger, Get­ty Images, Can­west Olympic Team; Can­west News Ser­vice

will the real torah please stand up?

When we raise the light of Torah up and cause #Torah to trend begin­ning at 7:42 in the evening of the 6th of June, 2011 (5th of Sivan, 5771), how will we know which of these var­i­ous “torahs” is “the real thing”?

In these words by Rab­bi Rami Shapiro

In each age
we receive and trans­mit

At each moment we are addressed by the World.

In each age we are chal­lenged by our ancient teach­ing.

At each moment we stand face to face with Truth.

In each age we add our wis­dom to that which has gone before.

At each moment the know­ing heart
is filled with won­der.

In each age
the chil­dren of Torah
become its builders
and seek to set the world firm
on a foun­da­tion of Truth.

Each moment “we are addressed by the World” is a moment of rev­e­la­tion. Please join us as, around the world, peo­ple of all faiths tweet their thoughts on Torah, shar­ing the wis­dom and knowl­edge that has been revealed to each of us.

this project has been mentioned in various places on the Web

And a spe­cial tool devel­oped by the Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety enables any­one to break a Torah text into Tweet­able sized chunks:

…the real thing

the real thing

Torah …the real thing

I have begun wear­ing this but­ton. I received it many years ago when liv­ing in Los Ange­les. I do not know the who made it, or for what pur­pose. I have a sim­i­lar but­ton with an old (no longer active) Los Ange­les phone num­ber. I thought I knew who had pro­duced it, but it has no iden­ti­fy­ing text.

Date: late 1960s or ear­ly 1970s
Size: 5.6
Pin Form: clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text Learn
Trade Mark Reg
“It’s the real thing”

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

This entry was posted in judaica, lapel buttons and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to …the real thing?

  1. Paul Kipnes says:

    Great post. Fun­ny what means one thing here means anoth­er there.

    • davka says:

      Thank you Paul, yes, we live in a strange world of odd coin­ci­dences, mul­ti­ple pos­si­ble mean­ings, and, the need to con­stant­ly con­tex­tu­al­ize.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.