The story of Rosh Hashana / Talk Like A Pirate Day
There was once a tiny shtetl in the old country; so inconsequential that no one bothered to persecute it, so unremarkable that no one gave it a name. And anyway, the elders argued, how can you order a pogrom on a place when you don’t know what to call it? Sure, the mail was always lost, but who wrote to them anyway? Not their good for nothing sons, that’s for sure.
One Rosh Hashanah, the esteemed rabbi of the little town stood in front of the shul. The rabbi’s emotion on the holy days was greatly renowned, and the whole town – from Abram the mostly-honest butcher to Shlomo the skill-less liberal arts major (may your family be spared such indignity!) – packed the shul to witness the rabbi's single dramatic tear as he beseeched the Lord God to forgive his people for not setting foot in His house since the previous Yom Kippur, and would He remind them of the Sisterhood potluck next Shabbos as well?
As the rabbi finished a thinly veiled comparison of the binding of Isaac to the binding of his digestion – thanks to the prune rugelach offered by certain congregants in lieu of membership dues – a commotion was heard outside the shul. People were gathering at the door.
“Uch,” thought Abram, “the lazy-bones are only showing up in time for the Part With The Stuff They Know."
“Uch,” thought Shlomo, “I could have slept later after all.”
“Uch,” thought Carlos the shabbos goy, “I hope they don’t ask me to tear their toilet paper.”
A rough voice outside shouted “amen!,” and “amen,” the congregation hastily assented, with a caterwauled descant provided by Chandleh the thinks-she’s-a-soprano show-off. “Arrrr, men!” repeated the voice with clearer diction, and a strong scent of highly un-kosher grog filled the air as a crew of pirates shoved into the shul.
The pirates were ill-shaven and well-armed, apart from the hook-handed one who was well-shaven and ill-armed, and their captain tottered atop a wooden peg leg.
“Ahoy, me hearties!” said the pirate captain.
“Oy, my heart!” said Ephraim the kvetch.
“We be needin’ some assistence from ye landlubbers. We may be the meanest, dirtiest, ugliest blackguards ever to sail the seven seas,” the pirate said (“You should see my wife,” added Samuel who-thinks-he’s-funny), “but the scurvy czar (may he prosper on someone else’s back) be refusin’ to issue us a general pillaging license.”
He paused for a moment of general tutting and commisseration.
“So we be sailin’ under the radar, pillagin’ only that which the czar don’t bother to pillage himself." The pirate smiled with black teeth. "And we be noticin’ that this speck of barnacle is long overdue for a good pillage.”
There were cries and gasps, and a few of the women in the balcony took the opportunity to get better seats by fainting onto the lower level.
"On to the ship!" cried the pirate. The townsfolk were herded towards the door, though in a moment of highly uncharacteristic bravery, Tevye the milkman took a swing at the pirate, who tripped his attacker with a well-placed peg leg.
“You fight like a dairy farmer,” the pirate spat. “Now come along, so's I can make ye walk the plank.”
But at that moment Mordecai the whittler grabbed the pirate's peg leg.
“You have this peg long?”
“Arr. A mosquito bit me thigh." Mordecai looked up. "It was me first day with me hook."
“You think that’s bad? You should see my goiter,” said Ephraim.
“That peg’s not gonna last long, way it was constructed. Allow me.” And Mordecai grabbed the arm off the end of the pew, and quickly whittled it into a fine new peg leg.
“This be a fine new peg leg,” cried the pirate, dancing a little jig. “But don’t be expectin’ that will save ye from the plank.”
“Oh no,” said Mordecai. “For the Cossacks, sure, a leg will cost an arm and another leg. But for you? For you, I make a deal.” He gestured to the rabbi to come forward.
“This is our rabbi, the wisest scholar in our land. Pose him a riddle. If he cannot answer it to your satisfaction within three days, we will happily offer up our plunder to be pillaged. If the rabbi can solve the puzzle, then we request that you allow us to remain un-pillaged. I’ll even throw in an extra peg leg."
The pirate thought for a moment, but finding himself unaccustomed to such strain, he slapped his knee in consternation and cried "shiver me timbers!"
"We accept!" said Mordecai.
"Huh?" said the esteemed rabbi.
"Wait, that warn't any riddle" protested the pirate, but Mordecai put up a hand.
"Captain, let me offer you some counsel, free of charge. If even you don't know the answer to the "riddle," how can our rabbi hope to solve it?"
The pirate paused. "I accept! Rabbi, ye have three days to shiver me timbers." (The wife of Samuel-who-thinks-he's-funny pre-emptively smacked her husband) "I'll go ready me plank."
The pirate stomped off.
Mordecai turned to the rabbi with a smile, expecting praise for his quick wit and genre savvy. Instead, he was met with several dozen pieces of stale prune rugelach flying at his head.
For three days and three nights, the rabbi prayed. For three days and three nights, the rabbi studied. For three days and three nights, the rabbi fasted, not that his other options were much better. And after three days and three nights, the pirates met the townsfolk at the shul, and awaited the esteemed rabbi's solution.
The rabbi stepped up to the bimah, and began to speak. "The Rambam wrote of the many names of the Lord our God," he began, and proceeded to argue that if "shiver" is broken down into its numerological designation... but we’ll never hear the brilliant conclusion that proved "shiver me timbers" to be the lost fourteenth attribute of Hashem, for by that point all in attendance were fast asleep.
T'kiaaaaah! A loud horn bleat from outside woke congregants, pirate and Jew alike. T'kiaaaaaah!
"What fool is blowing the shofar three days late?" the rabbi muttered, throwing open the doors of the shul to chastise the tardy horn-blower. But when he looked out into the town square, he saw none other than the whittler Mordecai, cheeks blushed scarlet from blowing a strange-looking shofar.
"So this is your plan, Mordecai?" demanded the rabbi. "Lead us into the hands of the pirates while you sound the battle cry on your cheap knock-off shofar?"
"Actually, rabbi, I completely forgot about the riddle. But I was poking around the pirates' ship, looking for lost dubloons, when I saw a beautiful plank of wood just hanging off the edge of the deck."
"Me plank!" cried the pirate. "Me beautiful plank!"
"And I couldn't help myself - I had to whittle it. But look at this beautiful horn I made! It works, too!” T'kiaaaaaaaaaah!
The rabbi was all set to strangle Mordecai with his own payyis, but he was distracted by a strange wheezing sound. Coming from the pirate.
"Hee hee hee," said the pirate.
"Hee hee hee?" asked the rabbi.
"Your Mordecai - he took my plank and he... He shofar'd me timber!"
The resulting mass face-palm was so extraordinary that the descendents of the townfolk have had crooked noses ever since.
And the pirate was so taken by this extraordinarily clumsy and painstakingly set-up pun that he spared the village, asking only that Mordecai continue to entertain gentiles for the rest of his days. And so he and his descendents did, inventing musical theater and running Hollywood and generally ruining every nice social gathering, unto this very day.
[re-posts okay, with credit]