Sunday, May 9, 2010

Yiddish proverbs and sleepless nights

2h30 in the morning and I cannot sleep. I think of a wrong that has been done to me recently and anger wells up in me like a flood against the person responsible. I cannot reign in that rolling chariot of anger and sometimes I think that I don’t even want to. And for what? Words.
This afternoon, to take my mind off the anger, I sorted through some Yiddish proverbs that I have been planning to post on the blog. Regular readers will know that I often post quotations on the blog and in my travels I have come across a few Yiddish proverbs. I always found them very pithy, down to earth and jolting in their ability to make you see the truth. I discovered more reading Life’s Daily Blessings by Rabbi Kerry M. Orlitzky. This one for example:

If I would be like someone else, who would be like me?

I wish I had found that one when I was 15 years old and searching for my identity.

So this afternoon, as I sorted through my Yiddish proverbs, I began to think of the people who made these proverbs: all the generations of Jews who repeated these phrases to themselves and to their children so often that they became part of the Yiddish psyche. And I began to think how small my anger was. When compared to the possibilities of wrongs that one person can do to another, the wrong I had suffered was small. ‘Fleas are not lobsters.’ If you cannot sleep because of a few miserable words, what would you have done if you had lived through the Second World War for example, where wrongs done were counted in loved ones taken, imprisoned, killed?

I saw in these Yiddish proverbs, that wrongs have always been and will always be and that my wrongs are not something out of the ordinary at all. Every proverb is a witness of the experiences and wisdom of many people in times gone by. It took away some of the sting.
But still I won’t rest well until ‘the wheel turns round’ and truth comes out.

The entire world rests on the tip of the tongue.
Truth never dies, but lives a wretched life.
Truth is the safest lie.
When the light is crooked, the shadow is crooked.
Half an answer also says something.
A half-truth is a whole lie.
A word is like an arrow - both are in a hurry to strike.
A slap heals but a harsh word is remembered.
He who puts up with insult invites injury.

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond