The Keeper of the List (and the Free Nation)

hero image
27 Dec 2006

The six-year old and I have something in common. He’s a ‘keeper of the list’ and so am I. His father, a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of a guy, swears it’s genetic, but it must be recessive. None of the other children have inherited this charming quality.

For me, it’s a little bit compulsive. Or maybe it’s obsessive, or maybe it’s neurotic, but seeing a professional to find out for sure is just another one of those things I’ll have to add to the list. In the meantime, I sit down each morning and plot out the day by jotting down all those matters I have to take care of or all those things I need to accomplish. For the six-year old, it’s more of a journalistic endeavor. He waits until the end of the day and then he composes a list of what actually happened. But the interesting thing is that in America, you wouldn’t notice much difference. In Israel, however, it makes all the difference in the world.

So when we arrived in Jerusalem this year, just in time for the holiday of Chanukah, the lists began as soon as we got over our jet lag. My outline for the day looked like this:

  1. Go to Avis, rent a car.
  2. Stop at the pharmacy, get band-aids.
  3. Go to the bank, get cash.
  4. If passing the bakery, get bread.
  5. Stop at the corner, buy flowers from Emanuel.
  6. Go the bookstore; get a candle menorah for the 6-year-old.
  7. Find the Omega, take a ride.
  8. Go to the Yekev in Gush Etzion, order wine.
  9. Patience, patience, this country isn’t even 60 years old yet. Not all things run smoothly.

Because in Israel, where even the smallest errand can turn out to be an adventure, whatever it is you start out doing will not necessarily resemble the way things turn out. By the end of the day, the 6-year-old’s list looked something like this:

  1. Avis was out of cars. They gave us some free jelly doughnuts. The man gave me a dreidel
  2. The lady at the pharmacy said it’s good to take vitamin C in the morning. She gave me some free hand lotion. She also gave me a dreidel
  3. The cash station wasn’t working. But lots of stuff is free here so, so maybe we don’t need money. The banker gave me some chocolate coins. And he gave me another dreidel
  4. We got bread at Angel’s. They gave me some free cookies
  5. Emanuel likes my mother. He gave her extra flowers for free. He also gave me a gift. So now I have 4 dreidels.
  6. We couldn’t figure out how to put the menorah together. None of the dreidels work.
  7. I was afraid of the Omega, so we went to a sheep farm instead. I’m glad they didn’t give me any free sheep. Our apartment is too small
  8. We saw a room full of barrels in Gush Etzion. They gave my dad lots of free glasses of wine to taste. Then we met a nice man and his family. He said to call him Joe, but everyone else was calling him Senator Lieberman. He shook my hand. I gave him a free dreidel.
  9. Chanukah is the holiday of freedom. Maybe that’s why you get so much stuff for free here. Israel is a free nation.

I wonder if the Matriarchs were keepers of the list? But just imagine if they were. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah would write things like: Move to Israel. Raise a family. And a few thousand years later (at the end of an interesting day), their 6-year-old descendant might write: Come to Israel. It’s a free nation.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.