Friday, 20 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Holy Machloikes

At midnight tonight, all will be revealed when the final Harry Potter book is released. The suspense will finally come to an end.

Children and adults across the world will be queuing up to get their hands on a copy. This is, of course, everyone except for Israelis. Why? Because the launch is on Shabbat and Trade and Industry Minister, Eli Yishai, has threatened to fine anyone who opens to sell the book. So we’ll have to wait a few hours longer...unless we go to Steimatzky in the old port of Tel Aviv, where they are proudly advertising a midnight Harry Potter celebration.

But in case you’re concerned that this gross violation of the holy Sabbath will turn into a celebration of everything secular and anti-religious in Israel, do not fear.

No doubt passing most readers by, the advert makes a subtle reference to the holiest of holies in Judaism – the Unetanneh Tokef prayer, composed by the medieval sage Rabbi Amnon of Mainz. “Who will live? Who will die?”

The legend goes that Rabbi Amnon, after refusing the local bishop’s demand to convert to Catholicism, had his hands and legs amputated. At each amputation, Rabbi Amnon was again given the opportunity to convert, which he refused. As he lay dying, Rabbi Amnon asked to be carried to shul for the Rosh Hashana service, where he recited Unetanneh Tokef with his last breath.

When I first made aliya, I was always aware that in this country, state and church often find themselves getting mixed up. But one thing I’m sure of is that two bearded men - Rabbi Amnon and Prof. Albus Dumbledore – never expected it to get mixed up quite like this!

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1 comment:

ifyouwillit... said...

Nice post, and props on noticing that.