Saturday, March 15, 2014

me' khapt a nosh/ a homentash...

Purim sameakh/ a freylikhn purim, y'all. What are you doing reading this? Shouldn't you be pounding shots in a dark room in a terrible wig?

But, since you're here, and we're in a Purim mood, let's talk about hamentashen. What the heck is a hamentash (singular)? Is it from the Yiddish for Haman's (boo hiss) Pockets?

Not so fast, smarty pants. According to best-selling Canadian author Michael Wex:

Hamantaschen–pronounced homon-tashn in Yiddish–were originally mon-tashn, poppy seed pockets, that were eaten on Purim. The similarity between mon, Yiddish for poppy seeds, andHomon led to the name change, and with it a raft of after-the-fact attempts to explain what the pastry had to do with Haman, the villain of the Purim story. Variously said to represent Haman's ears and nose, his hat, and even his pockets, hamantaschen are more convincingly explained–if there is any explanation beyond homophony–by a pun on the various biblical verses in which the Children of Israel are said to have eaten ha-mon, the manna, which would also help to explain the popularity of the poppy seed filling.

Sorry, poppy seed h8ers. Go argue with tradition. And before you diss this tricorner classic, keep in mind its important place in Yiddish sexual euphemism:
The general appearance of  the hamantasch and its cousins in geometry, the knish and the pirogi, has given all three a special place in colloquial Yiddish as slightly coy vulgarisms for the human vulva, roughly equivalent to "pussy" or "beaver," neither of which is even vaguely kosher. Pireg–pirogi–is the most vulgar, hamantasch the cutest. Its triangular shape and varicolored stuffings make it a natural. Knish occupies the sort of middle ground that allows it to be used informally between consenting adults of either sex.

 esen a trois, anyone?

One last Wex related Yiddish factoid: Many years ago Wex taught me that in Yiddish, a nun is a monaskhe. Surely there's some interesting resonances there, or at least puns to be made, given the wonderful symbolic depth of the humble 'montash. Which brings me to our next hamantash related destination...

Over at Lilith magazine, there's an exploration of the hamantash as a symbol of ancient feminine fertility and power.

If Judy Chicago has never made a branded hamantash she really should

A must read is Susan Schnur's classic reclamation of the hamantash as the Womantash. As a feminist, it made me rethink my distaste for mon. After all, the little classic seed represents the fertile potency of Spring and is a powerful symbol of the feminine within the springtime stories of peril, triumph and rebirth. Can your apricot jam do all that?

Now go get drunk, seriously!!!

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