Sunday, December 18, 2005

Your Grandfather Kicked out Mine

R' Yona Metzger, chief rabbi (Ashkenaz) of Israel spoke at the Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst this Shabbos. He had a number of interesting things to say.

Once, while in England for a rabbinic conference, he was asked by someone what bracha should be made when one sees a Chief Rabbi. R' Metzger answered, that since he was the first chief rabbi who was born in Eretz Yisroel since the founding of the state, the correct bracha was "boreh pri ha'adama."

The second story, was more humorous, but took guts. While in Spain on the occasion of the 800th yahrtzeit of the Rambam, R' Metzger met the King of Spain. As a gift, he brought the King a shofar. The King asked what it was, and R' Metzger replied (paraphrasing):
"About 500 years ago, your great great grandfather was the King of Spain. And my great great grandfather was probably a citizen of Spain. And your grandfather kicked my grandfather out. [talk about guts!] And, as you are aware, many Jews become marranos, practicing Judaism in private. But there was one problem, Rosh Hashana, when we blow this ancient instrument, the shofar. One of the marranos, who happend to be in charge of the King's orchestra, had an idea. He told the King he wanted to make him a concert with only ancient instruments. The King loved the idea, and the marrano scheduled it for the largest ampitheater he could find in Spain. And chose Rosh Hashana as the date.

"The King, his ministers, and the government were sitting in the front row, and hundreds of marranos were behind them. The conductor got up and told the King that this was an ancient Jewish instrument, that they would blow once a year. Before they blew it, they would say the following sentance. The conductor then made the brachos on the shofar, the marranos quietly saying amen. And then he blew the shofar.

"So now you know how we worked to keep our traditions. 500 years ago we blew our shofar under the table. But with everything you've done to help the Jewish community in Spain, I now give you a shofar. Over the table."