Friday, May 18, 2007

by: Schvach Yid

It’s only the middle of May. We’re halfway between the Ides of March and my favorite holiday. Ruminations abound thanks to Yo Yenta’s blog about the election of Sarkosy, and with a liberal sprinkling of French (syntactically correct, I assume – she even knows fou) invoked thoughts of the not quite yet forthcoming celebration of revolt and revolution. It’s two months away and I’m foaming at the mouth. No, not one of the Jewish festivals on which occasion we greet one another with ‘Hag Sameach’. Nope! It’s the National Holiday of France, Bastille day.

I love Bastille Day, the celebration of July 14, 1789 when the everyman got to kick aristocratic keester by storming the French prison, The Bastille, to free his imprisoned compatriots, thus asserting the rights of the everyman over the prerogatives of kings (there’s only one King, and no mere human has any business usurping His place – right?). This event of human freedom somewhat conjures up the memory of the Haganah (or was it the Irgun?) attacking the old Turkish prison in Acco during the last stages of Britain’s Mandate over the Yishuv, an event depicted in the film version of ‘Exodus’.

Bastille Day, a great temper tantrum turned into a national observance, yielded chaos, which in turn brought ‘The Directorate’, which gave France Maximilien Robespierre’s ‘Reign of Terror’ and the famed guillotine. I abhor capital punishment and murder. The failure to show rachmonas and provide tzedakah were no excuse for separating heads from aristocratic necks. Robespierre’s sequel to Bastille Day provided only one favorable legacy – the legend of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The original literary piece wasn't published until 1905, and contains a hefty contribution to the annals of Jew hatred. I know of three cinematic treatments of this great classic (sans Jew hatred), and in each there occurs a great moment of revelation – Madame Blakeney’s discovery of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s true identity as her husband, the ostensibly limp-wristed fop, Sir Percy Blakeney. And of course, now is the time we Jews commemorate our great revelation from the Aybischter at Mt. Sinai, the giving of the Ten Commandment, the Aseres HaDibros, Shavuos.

So come Shavuos, we’ll all eat dairy. And this coming July 14th, do yourself a favor and take the day off. Pack a picnic basket. A bottle of wine (maybe French, but mevoshel), some semi-soft Normandy cheese (Camembert, Brie, Pont-L’eveque - kosher equivalents of course), and a loaf of bread(a baguette, the name of which reminds me of the name of Barak in the Book of Judges, which recalls the triumph of Jael over Sisera – talk about revolt – which in turn invokes the image of Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People– go Figa!). And bring your own knitting. You never know when you’ll run into a show. Hag sameach!


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