A couple of weeks ago I waited on a Jewish wedding party.
One of the women in the party gave me the challah (the bread eaten on Shabbat) and asked me to warm it in the oven. I was required to put it on a plate and bring it to the table covered with the traditional embroidered challot.
A young man said the blessing Baruch a-ta A-do-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-di-sha-nu bi-mitz-vo-tav vi-tzi-va-noo li-had-leek ner shel Sha-bat ko-desh.
Blessed are you, Lrd our Gd, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the Holy Shabbat.
I watched the ceremony with reverence, awe, even.
I know little about Judaism but that through the Sabbath blessing over wine and Challah, the covenant with God is manifested.
Edmund Burke said ‘Civilization is a contract between the dead, the living and the about to be born.’
What I was witnessing was a manifestation of civilization. It was an upholding of a covenant with the Lord. I was watching a culture that has been homogenous for thousands of years. It is a culture with understood, written – and some unwritten – laws by which people live. There is an ethos and an understanding of how things are done.
What I was witnessing was the sacredness of ritual and tradition .
If you want to know what a society without respect for rituals and traditions is you only have to read the newspapers. They are full of stories of destruction and violence committed by people who don’t know how to behave in a civilized society.
The tragedy of my life – well one of them – is that I wasn’t born Jewish. I am joking. And yet not.
In the early 1980s I married a man that happened to be Jewish. We lived in Linksfield Ridge on Kallenbach Drive – named after the German-Jewish architect and close ally of Gandhi.
However I was too busy being ‘famous’ to consider becoming a giyoret (female convert).
It’s hard to be spiritual when you have a Ferrari and a newspaper column.
Decades later I realized that to be Jewish is to belong to the best club in the world.
Ever seen a Jewish person down-and-out? Being Jewish means that you are part of a homogenous global family that takes care of their own. If you find yourself in a foreign country (assuming you are Jewish) there will be someone’s darling Auntie Bertha who will ask you over for Shabbos.
“Are you messhuga? We won’t hear of you staying in your hotel room!”
Jewish people are achievers. They always know someone who can ‘hook you up’ whether it’s with a part for your BMW, tickets for the Rolling Stones or a timeshare apartment in the Bahamas. Jewish people have Yiddish and they have chutzpah.
In South Africa this homogenous global family manifests itself in the community’s close ties to Israel.
Last summer an Israel solidarity event in Linksfield was attended by over 12,000 pledging their support for the Hebrew state.
Are you the marrying kind? Mrs. Levy will arrange a social introduction and the next thing you are married to a plastic surgeon, driving an SLK and ordering your personal chef to making matzo balls for Friday night.
Any old Tom, Dick or Harriet can join Match.com to find a partner. The only qualifier is that you should have a pulse.
Jewish people have a far more rigorous quality control process. Try and join J-Dating and you will see what I mean.
Sometimes the American Jewish wife has mandatory boob enhancement and so much botox that her eyebrows are like those of a startled Kabuki dancer. She has diamonds the size of gallstones. She is a nurtured woman, the embodiment of her husband’s success.
She is, as Germaine Greer wrote all that time ago, the dead heart of the family, spending her husband’s earnings on consumer goods to enhance the environment in which he eats, sleeps and watches the television.
But gentle jesting aside, how I envy her.
*Thank you to those who read this piece in the tone in which I intended it to be read. I cherish my friendships with the Jewish people I am fortunate enough to know. I have never had anything but good things from Jewish people. One of the most touching speaking requests on my book tour was from the Great Park Shul, Johannesburg .