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Yiddish Proverb for Chanukah Night #5
Mia's grandmother had this expression:

When everyone puts their pekelach in the middle, you take yours out.

When I had her and her husband over for supper Saturday night, we played dreidle for pennies, ate sufganiot, and drank copious amounts of red wine (hence the absence of a fifth entry on Sunday). While she could not dig up the actual phrase in yiddish, she did correct my interpretation.

I had always thought the pekelach was the self, that it had to do with our desire to define ourselves against the masses. You know, you make a bold choice, thinking it unique to you, and throw your package in. Next thing you know, everyone else is throwing their packages, extolling the virtue of the middle and suddenly it's no longer appealing, no longer feels like it's yours. So you take your pekelach out.

As someone allergic to most forms of groupthink, this expression applied to me perfectly. Until now. I had it totally wrong. It turns out to have a much more old-world meaning (my initial impression was *so* post-shtetl):

You think you have a hard life. So you put your package sorrows in the middle. 'Look at me. My life is so hard. What I have been through. What I am going through…'

And then everyone else puts their packets of tsorres in the middle, and suddenly yours don't seem so bad. So you take your pekelach out. And push on.

Update: I described this expression to my mom, and she has another interpretation. She says it is more about family. You think your family's crazy, but look at everyone else's family closely, and you want to take yours back.

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12.7.2010
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post #1514
bio: adina
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12/7/2010
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