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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

So this rabbi walks onto a plane.

I decide to be a good Hebrew student today and take my Hebrew books to study with on the plane–passing up the chance to learn 15 new ways to please my lover from Cosmo or Glamour.

I had an aisle seat and started working in my new Hebrew workbook–Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way. It assumes basic reading ability and focuses on grammar and vocabulary. As a result of chapters one and two, I can now say things like, “He is the father. She is a mother. This is the land. He is the king.” I know, you are jealous.

Then this older man with two hearing aids walks by to go to the bathroom. I notice him going again soon after the beverage service. On his third (or fourth) trip to the loo, he stops behind me. “How’s that going for you?”

“Huh? Good, I mean, I’m teaching myself.”

“You’d learn it better if you moved to Isreal. What book is that?”

Then he closes the book to see who wrote it and who sanctioned it. “Did you live in Isreal?” I ask.

“I’ve been many times, the last time was for three months.” He laughed, “But I’m a rabbi.”


“In Chicago.”

I tell him what congregation I belong to and what Rabbi I am studying with. I also mention our Rabbi Emeritus. “Mwaw” he kisses his fingertips like an Italian grandmother over a pot of sauce, “Rabbi Schaalman is wonderful.”

There was also a sentence or two in Hebrew during the conversation. I just stared at him and blinked. I love this, though, running into Rabbis at bars and on planes.

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