Thursday, November 15, 2007


This time of year, as often as not, our Saturday morning synagogue services will include a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. It’s a function of how many kids are in Hebrew school and how many weeks there are in the year. (A few years ago, we were even doubling up as often as not, with two B’nai Mitzvah sharing the service. Now, not so much.)

When there is a Family Occasion like this, there will usually be a substantial number of non-Jews in the congregation. Family friends and such. It’s easy to spot ’em: The men wear no tallit; and both men and women will spend the entire service looking at the little circular that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family hands out - the one that explains the order of service, synagogue customs (“we do not eat cheeseburgers during the morning service,” that sort of thing), and why Uncle Manny is standing on his head in the corner (he’s insane) - instead of looking in the prayer book and trying to follow along in the English translation.

I sometimes wonder what these people make of our prayers.

I mean, Hebrew is gibberish to plenty of Jews, never mind Gentiles. When they hear it, is it just a confusing babble with the occasional familiar liturgical word sprinkled in (“Amen,” “Hallelujah”), or do their minds try to recast the unfamiliar sounds into words that sound like English?

I don’t know...but let’s try to imagine, shall we? In a completely different context, anyway. Instead of Hebrew davening, let’s take a look at...Indian pop music! A richer source of mondegreens would be hard to imagine.

Take your basic Bollywood music video [No, it’s not in Hebrew, in case you were wondering] and try to make sense out of the completely alien words. Transliterate ’em as best you can. You might end up with something like this [Note: NSFW]:

Hmmm. I wonder how “Adon Olam” would look...

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Meryl Yourish - who celebrated her own Bat Mitzvah two weeks ago and who is having a Major Birthday today! - for finding this little gem.]

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