Photo Credit: Jewish Press

“You can drop the routine, Honey!” I laughed into the receiver, “I know it’s you!”

This scenario repeated itself weekly, with only slight variations on occasion to keep it more interesting and challenging. Sometimes it was the “gas company” calling; at others the “phone company” was on the line. What all of these impromptu callers had in common was that all of them were male Hebrew speakers and they all sounded suspiciously like my son. Most likely because all of them were actually my son!


After falling for his ploy a couple of times and hearing his peals of laughter at my expense, I eventually wised up. Within a sentence or two I would call his bluff, and we would revert to having a normal conversation… in English.

This morning, however, he persisted in the charade for several minutes, claiming repeatedly that he did not understand English. Until I suddenly experienced a very belated light bulb moment, and asked the caller in Hebrew, “Excuse me. Where did you say you’re calling from?”

When he responded, “The printers…” I knew that the jig was most definitely up… and that the joke was most definitely on me!

I mumbled an apology in Hebrew, and tried to explain that one of my sons pranked me regularly by pretending not to understand any English. He laughed (or at least pretended to), and after my requisite face-palm, I hurried downstairs to accept delivery of four hot-off-the-presses cartons of my husband’s latest sefer.

The two delivery men were still laughing (no doubt at my expense!) as they drove off, while I was justifiably muttering under my breath about the punishment I was planning to mete out to my practical jokester son who had gotten me into this embarrassing mess in the first place.

My youngest daughter had dropped off her toddler son for Savta’s free bubbysitting service before heading to work for the day, so she was privileged to witness the entire fiasco in living color, down to my crimson cheeks. Needless to say, all ten of my kids would soon be privy to every excruciatingly mortifying detail of this morning’s events. In fact I told a few of them myself, both to mitigate the fallout and to ensure that they would laugh along with me instead of at me. Needless to say, they, my husband, and especially my joker son found the entire episode absolutely hysterical.

But enough about Hebrew and English for now. By far the best part of my day was in Amharic, a language I admittedly neither speak nor understand.

While I do not profess to know even one single word in Amharic, it is the native tongue of my friend Avraham, an elderly Ethiopian gentleman who has been employed by the local block association to sweep the streets in my neighborhood for as long as I can remember.

For the two-plus years that I headed our block’s Vaad HaBayit, I was responsible to collect dues from the residents of my street and pay Avraham his monthly salary. I also brought him a drink every week when he swept our block, and I regularly purchased a modest gift for him, at my own expense, in advance of each of the Jewish holidays. Over the years he and I established a wonderful and mutually respectful relationship, and we greeted each other warmly whenever we would see each other on the block or around the neighborhood. I particularly appreciated the way he inquired about my well-being each and every time we met, always asking, “How are your children? Your grandchildren? Is everyone well?”

By far my favorite aspect of our friendship, however, the proverbial icing on the cake and the cherry on top, were the lengthy and sincere brachot that Avraham would bless me on a steady basis, which increased exponentially in both length and intensity before Rosh Hashana each year. Despite the fact that I did not understand a single syllable of his blessings, I stood at attention for the duration of his soliloquy, a slight smile playing on my lips and the hint of tears in my eyes, until he finished and returned my smile with a shy but unmistakably sincere one of his own. Then I gratefully responded with a hearty “Amen!” and wished the same to him and his family.

And although, after nearly two-and-a-half years in that thankless voluntary position, I was beyond ecstatic to finish my overlong term as Vaad HaBayit head, at the same time I was genuinely disappointed to no longer be the recipient of Avraham’s special brachot on a regular basis. In fact I rarely saw Avraham after that, and I often lamented the fact that I truly missed his beautiful blessings.

Long story short, on the very same day that I inadvertently made a supreme fool of myself in both Hebrew and English, I unexpectedly bumped into Avraham multiple times! And, as if sensing my mood, he gave me not one, but two, long and caring brachot in his native Amharic.

The snickers have already long-since died down, but I am sincerely hoping that Avraham’s heartfelt and passionately delivered blessings will continue to shine warmth and light over my family for many happy, healthy, mazaldik, and nachasdik days to come.


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