Yesterday I went for a walk and saw a man across the street, wearing a small hat. It looked very much like one of these:

Photo (cc) by Meg Stewart

Oh, I noted to myself, a Jewish guy.

There aren’t too many Jews in my little corner of an ethnically diverse area. We have Russians, Lebanese, Iranian, Syrian, Hungarians, Greeks, Italians, with only a few token WASPs and Jews sprinkled in. I myself am Jewish, although I’d have to say I’m very lapsed. 😉 )

Anyway, as the fellow walked on by, another thought came to me.: Wait a minute… that yarmulke (yarmulke in Yiddish; kippah in Hebrew) looks a tad larger than they usually are… maybe… maybe he’s Muslim? Could be; they wear caps that resemble yarmulkes, but they’re a little bit bigger.

And then… as I looked back, still squinting at his hat, trying to figure it out – I had another thought, which was: “What the hell difference does it make?! It’s just a hat!!

And then… this reminded me of the Jewish teacher I had when I was eight years old. My parents thought I should have some knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish, so they hired this little old lady, Mrs. Garfinkle, to come to our apartment once a week and tutor me.

“De boy und de gerrl,” she would intone, in her thick eastern-European accent. I would then dutifully say the phrase in Hebrew.

“De men und de vohmen.” “De dog und de ket,” and so on, until one phrase stumped me: “De et on de et.”

I pondered. What?

She said it again. “De et on de et.”

It was no clearer the second time. Ay yi. My brow crinkled; I just couldn’t figure out what she was saying. (Well, of course you know, thanks to the context above! But I had no context! Nada!) Anyway, finally it came to me in a flash when Mrs. Garfinkle gestured around her hair – The hat on the head! Well, naturally. Vat else? Right?

Anyway, silliness aside, my little point that I’d like to leave you with is this: All those little hats are basically the same! As Shakespeare put it so eloquently in The Merchant of Venice:

Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?

11 thoughts on “Hats

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