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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Lost Sunday

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a Sunday in Israel. Or more correctly, we have nothing exactly like a Sunday in the American sense of the word/day. 

Oh sure, most of us here in Israel have Fridays off and could theoretically indulge in the kind of laying about… leisurely breakfast eating… casual newspaper perusal that Americans take for granted on the Christian Sabbath.  But when theory comes into practice, this doesn't really work out since we have the pressure of getting out to the stores before they close early for Shabbat.  And, of course, there are the Shabbat preparations themselves (cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc.).

Shabbat itself is everything a day of rest should be.  But for the observant, there are synagogue services to attend, scheduled meals to be eaten, and often guests to be entertained.  In short, it's a far more structured day than the typical lazy Sundays of my past life.

But every few years the stars align and Yom Kippur will fall out on a Sunday night/Monday, causing most businesses to give Sunday off as a 'bridge day'… resulting in a long weekend and an honest-to-goodness Sunday like in the old country.

Such was the case this past Sunday.  For almost a week I was looking forward to sleeping in… eating a big American-style breakfast with the family… sitting out on the back porch and thumbing through some back issues of 'The New Yorker' that my parents had brought for us.  Seriously, that was the plan for the day!

You know the expression 'man plans and G-d laughs'?  Well, I heard the first of G-d's chuckles Saturday night right after Shabbat ended.  It sounded just like the special ring-tone I've assigned for when Ariella calls.  Ariella had been away for several days at a 'Seminarion' (a school trip), and all her reports up until Shabbat had been that she was having an amazing time.  Saturday night, it turns out, she was calling to say she thought she'd broken her finger playing catch [what is it with my kids and fingers?!].

After I'd brought my parents back to Jerusalem (they had been with us for Shabbat), and picked up Ariella where she had been dropped off with her classmates, we headed over to Terem (a non-hospital triage and treatment center) to have her finger X-rayed.  The wait wasn't too long, but by the time we'd gotten the good news that she'd only bruised the finger, it was well after midnight.

I had just pointed the car in the direction of our home when Ariella mentioned that she was starving.  I decided if we were already in Jerusalem I'd treat her to a late snack at Burger's Bar in the German Colony.  I'd already eaten at home so I sat and watched her enjoy her burger and onion rings. 

Just as we were getting ready to leave, Ariella excused herself to go to the ladies room and left me standing at the entrance to the restaurant.  There was a gumball machine there so I bought us a couple of pieces of gum for the ride home… popping mine into my mouth.

Just as Ariella walked up I heard a loud 'crack' inside my head and nearly passed out from a blinding flash of pain that was coming from the shattered place where one of my molars had been.  The gum had been perfectly chewable and soft… but apparently that tooth had decided it wasn't up to any more work and nearly a third of it had simply sheared off leaving a razor sharp field of wreckage in its wake.

I managed to drive home, but barely slept a wink that night due to the electric-like shocks I was getting any time saliva or my tongue touched the damaged tooth.    Around 8 AM I started calling my close friend and neighbor Ari Greenspan, who also happens to be my dentist (I've written about his simian exploits here).  To my frustration he didn't answer!  What the heck... where could he be at that hour?!  Suddenly it dawned on me that we'd moved the clocks back an hour during the night, and I was calling at 7 AM.  No wonder nobody was answering!  I was probably the only person in town awake at that hour!!!  So I sent him the following text message:

"Ari… I know you weren't planning on going into your office today, but I broke a tooth last night and the only alternative to immediate treatment is euthanasia"

Finally around 8:30 I reached my friend/dentist and in a sleepy voice he told me to come over to his house.  One look in my mouth confirmed that we couldn't leave it the way it was, so we made preparations to go to his office in Jerusalem.  As I left my house, the rest of my family were enjoying the casual Sunday morning I had been dreaming about… and I couldn't even have a cup of coffee!!!

Once in the dentist office, Ari turned on the lights, powered up the compressors and put me into a chair with some music.  We were alone, so I had to double as both patient and assistant; holding tools and passing him instruments while gurgling around the cotton and suction device.  To his credit the only time he actually asked me anything was to inquire if his smoothing of the edges of the broken tooth was causing me any pain.

In less than 15 minutes he'd checked the tooth, smoothed out the sharp edges, bonded a temporary cover in place, and explained to me that I'd need to schedule time with him for a full crown sometime in the next month or two. 

Luckily, instead of requiring several trips for fitting and adjusting a temporary and then permanent crown, Ari is one of three dentists in the country who has a special German machine in the office to manufacture the permanent crown and install it in one visit!

And that, as the saying goes, should have been that.

Since this is Ari Greenspan we are talking about and not your average dentist, we didn't return home immediately.  Instead, we headed over to the Buchari Shuk in Mea Sha'arim in search of a special kind of tree growth for making scribe's ink (did I mention that Ari dabbles as a Sofer?). 

From there we noticed a second floor balcony in the heart of this ultra-orthodox neighborhood littered with antiques and junk of every description (did I mention that both Ari and I are inveterate junk hounds?), so we went down an alley, climbed a flight of stone stairs and basically forced our way into someone's home to check out their hoarded goodies.  The Hassidic family who lived there were very gracious, letting us poke around their tchotchkes… and even gave us cold drinks while we invaded their privacy erev Yom Kippur!  Ari asked our hosts if they had any Brit knives lying around (did I mention that Ari is a trained mohel?) – as if this was something that most people keep in their homes – but sadly we struck out on that front.

Once we'd finished with our home invasion exploration, Ari got a call from a friend who was in the area… asking if we could he meet him to slaughter some chickens (did I mention that Ari is also a certified Shochet/ritual slaughterer?). 

We ended up walking around a few corners to where his friend was parked.  They grabbed a hand-full of chicken from the back of the car and headed over to a small vacant lot.  Ari's friend waved the bird over his and his children's heads in a small ceremony which was a tad too close to Santeria for my taste, and then Ari did a quick check of the bird… a more thorough check of the knife… and within a few moments the chicken had been dispatched in front of a small crowd of curious onlookers.

Finally we hopped back into Ari's ancient VW (painted to look like Herbie, the Love Bug) and we went back to Efrat.  I was exhausted from lack of sleep and famished from lack of food… so I had a banana and some eggs (over easy) and went to lie down for a little while.

No sooner had I gotten comfortable when Zahava reminded me that Gilad had spent the night at my parents the night before... and I would need to be picked up.  I badly needed a nap, but after a glance at my watch I heaved my carcass into an upright position and put on my shoes. 

As I was coming up the stairs, the doorbell rang.  It was a neighbor from across the street reporting that a swarm of bees had alighted on a bush in front of the entrance to his apartment building and nobody could come or go.   Would I come and help them?

I put down my car keys and turned to get my veil and gloves form my pile of beekeeping gear.  On the way out I grabbed a 'nuc box' (basically a half-sized hive) and headed across the street.  Sure enough, even though it is less common for bees to swarm at the end of the summer than in the spring, there, hanging from a vine was a humming ball of bees about eight inches in diameter. 

Half the neighborhood was gathered (at a respectful distance, of course), and a few pundits started asking why I wasn't in my full bee suit.  The truth is, I really didn't need the gloves or veil at all.  Most swarms are very docile. 

If you've ever seen a circus performer make a beard of bees… it is the same thing.   swarm is not usually a dangerous thing.  A queen outside the hive with a large number of loyal workers clinging to/around her have almost no defensive instincts.  They have no hive to protect and are simply waiting for the scout bees to report back that they have found a new home for the colony to occupy.  However, since that search for a new home can take days, and the swarm is a frightening thing for people to encounter near their homes, beekeepers often get panicked calls to remove them.

I put down the nuc box on a wall next to the bush where the swarm had alighted.  I grabbed the vine on which they were hanging and in one quick snip, removed the branch and put the entire swarm into the box.  When the top went on the box and I took off my gloves and veil, the crowd was shocked.  They were expecting a pitched battle between man and nature.  What I had done must have seemed like a card trick.

As I walked back towards my house with the box of bees, one of the neighbors asked what I was going to do with them.  I hadn't really thought that far ahead, but I gave him the obvious answer:  I told him I'd take them out to my bee yard and start a new hive with them. 

And that's what I did. 

On my way out of Efrat to pick up Gilad, Yonah and I stopped off at my hives and he watched closely as I set up this new swarm of bees in a full sized hive and stole a little honey-filled comb from a neighboring hive so they'd have something to eat while they began foraging their new territory.  The whole transfer took less than 20 minutes.

By the time I got back from picking up Gilad, it was an hour before the fast was to begin.  I quickly helped Zahava get dinner on the table…we stuffed ourselves to the point of discomfort (a mistake a promise myself every year that I won't repeat), and then showered and dressed just in time to run to shul.

So much for my restful, American-style Sunday.


Posted by David Bogner on September 29, 2009 | Permalink


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For better or for worse, you won't have Erev Yom Kippur again on a Sunday for another 11 years.

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Sep 29, 2009 4:06:59 PM

I'm exhausted just reading about your day!

Posted by: Raizy | Sep 29, 2009 4:18:11 PM


Perhaps not a typical American Sunday but very much a typical Erev Yom Kippur. We find that no matter how much we plan, and no matter how early we schedule the seudah hamafseket (final meal before the fast), things are always crazed leading up to candle lighting. This Sunday was no exception. Despite all our plans, we walked into shul just as the chazan was starting Kol Nidre. I don't know why it is, but it is definitely a Yom Kippur thing.

Posted by: MoC | Sep 29, 2009 4:21:42 PM

I don't understand the title. It was an eventful and interesting day, wasn't it? You probably don't remember those days when you asked yourself on a Monday morning what had happend to you Sunday, because not having done anything remarkable you feel empty. This I would call a lost Sunday.

Posted by: Kurt | Sep 29, 2009 4:24:47 PM

Look at the bright side- it was the gumball that did the job on your tooth the night before; better than if it had been some item in the seudah hamafseket a few minutes before the fast was to begin!

Now that I'm in Jerusalem, I'm looking for a dentist. Ari Greenspan is looking more and more appealing...I'm even connected with the Tekhelet organization (as a tier)! That's got to be worth something, right?

Posted by: Nachum Lamm | Sep 29, 2009 4:34:49 PM

I guess its never a dull moment with your dentist, huh? Or your kids. Sounds very entertaining.

Posted by: Baila | Sep 29, 2009 4:58:08 PM

Well, guess what? In four out of the next five years, you will enjoy a Sunday erev Yom Kippur! Of course that also means that you will "enjoy" a 3-day Rosh Hashanah-Shabbat holiday as well the week before :-)

Let's hope for no more damaged teeth on those days (or any day, for that matter!).

Posted by: Mark | Sep 29, 2009 5:17:58 PM

I'm an idiot, ignore most of my previous comment (... Yom Kippur is Shabbat, of course, during each of those four out of five years!!!!!)

Posted by: Mark | Sep 29, 2009 5:19:44 PM

Sounds like quite a day- Got to run I think that I want to brush my teeth again just to be safe.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 29, 2009 5:46:48 PM

Hello David Blogner! Things definitely happen on EYK. IMHO it was really strange for you to compare an Sunday EYK to an American Sunday. Basically apples and pears. My experience of 39 years in EY, some of which included having to go to work for a couple of do-nothing hours, taught me neither to plan nor expect anything out of EYK except the minimum of eating, davening a long mincha and going to the mikveh (with a long line). Otherwise hunker down. BTW, I'm surprised that you didn't have anything to say about the J-Blogger affair. Shana tova and hag sameach.

Posted by: Yehoshua Friedman (alias goyisherebbe) | Sep 29, 2009 6:29:41 PM

First of all...as an Israeli musician who shall remain nameless said to me last week..G'Mar Chaticha Tova. (Ok, now guess who the musician was) I thought a mohel couldn't be a shochet, and vice versa? AND...I hope the dentist took an x-ray to make sure you shouldn't have root canal first..

Posted by: Marsha, in Paramus at the moment | Sep 29, 2009 7:43:53 PM

You seem to pack three lifetimes into every day. Thank you for making mine. I am sorry about your tooth, but happy that you had a fossicking opportunity with Ari. The incident to Mea Sherim sounded like a Sunday Car Boot Sale. I was hoping that at the end of that story you would have found something really unusual / precious / bizarre. Perhaps on another day?

Posted by: Noa | Sep 29, 2009 8:09:43 PM

loved the euthanasia comment! :) You're SUCH a drama queen sometimes, bro! :)

And yes, it was tiring reading about all that your dentist does. And i think you should don cape & tights for the next bee rescue (yellow, of course!)

Posted by: Val | Sep 29, 2009 9:29:09 PM

"the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley." - from a poem by Robert Burns.

gang aft agley = often go awry (in Scots)

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Sep 29, 2009 10:10:16 PM

Your day sounds like something out of Candide, where the 'moral' of the story is that there are times that thinking too much is a disease, and the only safe thing to do is to buckle down and work hard.

Posted by: Barzilai | Sep 29, 2009 11:32:28 PM

I thought you were being overly dramatic until you said 'no coffee.' And to think there was a loaded gun nearby. Anyway, glad it all turned out alright, and I'm sure there was a part of you grateful that no one could call or otherwise disturb your Yom Kippur. I'm also thinking I might need that neighbour of yours: no, I don't need a mohel. Wishing you and the family a sweet and healthy - especially fingers and teeth - new year. שנה טובה

Posted by: morey | Sep 29, 2009 11:35:02 PM

My dentist, Dr. Amini, performs miracles.

In the eighties I had a dentist who should have been an architect. The fillings on the back teeth were impossible and did not stand the test of time.

Dr. Amini opined that those three teeth were unsalvageable, we decided to rip 'em out, and it took less than half an hour total. Three gaps, cotton wool, no shards or jagged edges.

Prescribed painkillers for when the watchamacallit wore off, warned me not to eat solids for a week. No smoking, either!

No solids? Okay......
Dined on whiskey that evening.

Shoved a fine-mill snuff up my nose in lieu of smoking my pipe.

Five days later I was going batsh*t.
You try avoiding solid food for five days.
There's only so much yoghurt a rational person can take.


Filled the blender with chicken broth, three TBS peanut butter, some fried meat, cilantro, parsley, and a few chilies. Whir, heat, serve.
I believe I was weeping while I drank it.

Savage Kitten watched my while I was doing this - I think she respects me less since then.
Either that or realizes that despite all my pretentions, I actually have no taste whatsoever.

One of these days she's going to feed me peanut butter blender soup, I just know it.

Posted by: At The Back of the Hill | Sep 29, 2009 11:35:54 PM

In keeping with the small-worldness of Israel, in your post about Dr. Ari and the monkeys, the vet in the pictures is my cousin Liz Kaufman :)

Sorry you didn't get to have your Sunday big breakfast, hang out on the porch swing and read day, but glad all the potential catastrophes turned out to be - well, maybe not minor, but salvalgeable. No broken finger, amazing dentist/shochet/mohel/nasa astronaut next door, bee saviour, quality hive time with Yonah...

Oh, and David, serious question: so when someone cuts off a swarm and takes them away to, erm, hive, what happens to the scout bees that have been looking for a new home? Do they join a new hive? Can they "sniff out" the old swarm and track them down, no matter how far? Or do they live out the rest of their short lives circling the bush, buzzing, "They were right. here. I know I left them here."?

Posted by: Alissa | Sep 29, 2009 11:45:57 PM

Maybe you didn't get a restfull, day, but you packed in a lot of nice chesed mitzvot before yom haDin

Posted by: rickismom | Sep 30, 2009 12:26:07 AM

Glad the tooth is under control -- the one time I sheared a molar (after my first-ever filling, in my early twenties), I never noticed until I was looking in the mirror. "Huh," I said, "I'm missing half a tooth where they put in the giant Filling." Totally painless. Go figure.

Of course, now my "back nine" look like something "Jaws" from the 007 flicks would be proud of, but that's another set of stories.

No American Sunday, but I think, at the END of such a day, one can say that one has lived a full life -- at least for that day. I get some of that occasionally, and the New Man attitude I am trying to cultivate (that service is, really, the heart of a man's life) helps some -- when I recall it.

I hope your new year is a blessed one. I salute you and yours. ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Sep 30, 2009 4:57:06 AM

I recall you telling us at the J-Bloggers' Convention that people really do care about our mundane little lives if we write them well. You write well... and your life doesn't seem to have a whole lot of mundane in it. (Lacking an Ari, when my tooth broke off similarly, I took a diamond nail file and filed the thing down. Not post-worthy; but it eased the infuriating pain in my mouth.) Two things I want to know: Does Ari wear a mask and cape with a big "S" on it? And what happens to the scout bees when they get back to their buddies and find no swarm? Refua shelaima to Ariella the Bruised, and to you.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Sep 30, 2009 6:54:30 AM

Oy, what a day! Refua shlema... and I also hope that those scout bees are all right. Please let us know what happens to them in a case like that.

Posted by: Rahel | Sep 30, 2009 11:10:54 AM

Hmmm... I notice that your "bullet" to Ari did not mention which tooth, or how you broke it. You should probably work on your bullets. :)

Posted by: uberimmau | Sep 30, 2009 5:01:28 PM

Okay, the question that seems to be in everyone's minds is 'what happens to the poor scout bees when they come back looking for their family? THis is actually a sreious questions since the bees - all of them - are indeed family. The workers are all daughters of the queen. that being said, after coming back and finding the family gone, they will circle the area for a couple of hours and then go looking for another hive. They will gather some pollen or nectar and show up at a strange hive. They will be challenged by the guard bees since they have the smell of another queen/hive on them... but ultimately if they arrive bearing food they will usualy be allowed to enter and join the hive. Within a few hours they will have the scent of their new hive. Of course there is the small chance that they won't find another hive... in which case most will probably die within a few days. But that is the risk the entire swarm took when they set out in search of a new home. they might have all died for lack of a suitable new home.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Sep 30, 2009 5:49:08 PM

Plus, Trep, would I be right in visualizing the "hive" as the organism, as ant colonies are? We ourselves are rarely moved by the loss of some of our cells... ;;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Oct 1, 2009 5:19:38 AM

I miss the laid back Sundays also, but then, I worked most of those Sundays--perils of litigation. OTOH, you have an amazingly abundent life == Sunday brunch is great....but I wouldn't want it in lieu of the interesting stuff you trip across in your life.

What does happen to those scout bees? Can they find their hive again?

Posted by: aliyah06 | Oct 1, 2009 9:05:52 PM

Have you seen this?


Posted by: Matt | Oct 5, 2009 5:41:39 PM

I hadn't... thanks!

David Bogner
Efrat, Israel


"Laying the groundwork for an insanity defense since 1961"

On Mon, Oct 5, 2009 at 5:41 PM, wrote:

Posted by: David Bogner | Oct 5, 2009 10:22:38 PM

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