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Have You Ever Been ‘Bageled’?

Have You Ever Been ‘Bageled’?


Dear Readers,

I was in the airport with my husband, and we were “bageled.” My husband looks obviously Jewish with his long beard and flowing tzitzit. Perhaps that’s why this happens to us often.

A teenager with multiple tattoos casually approached us and disarmingly wished us a “Shabbat Shalom!” Though it was a Wednesday afternoon, the teen was obviously letting us know that he, too, is a member of the tribe.

Jews have a powerful urge to connect with one another. You could “bagel” someone by telling them outright that you are Jewish. But often, bageling has more subtle forms, such as inserting a Jewish phrase into a conversation to determine whether another person is Jewish.

So, at the currency exchange line, an elderly man may whisper to you, “I could use more Chanukah gelt!” Or, in the supermarket, a nearby shopper picks up an item and says, “These remind me of my Bubby's matzah balls ...”

What makes us feel the need to bagel? There are many theories.

Here is mine. When we see another Jewish soul—irrespective of how religious or affiliated we may be—a strong, inexplicable, perhaps mystical urge awakens our desire to connect with another part our own Divine core. It makes no difference if we are different ages, from different countries or at different levels of observance. We feel that intrinsic connection.

This week’s Torah portion, Tazriah, teaches us how deep that connection is with the commandment of circumcision.

On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (Lev. 12:3)

The Midrash Rabba describes an interesting exchange between Isaac and Ishmael.

Said Ishmael to Isaac: “I am more beloved to G‑d than you, since I was circumcised at the age of thirteen, but you were circumcised as a baby and could not refuse.”

Isaac retorted: “All that you gave up to G‑d was three drops of blood. But lo, I am now thirty-seven years old, yet if G‑d desired of me that I be slaughtered, I would not refuse.”

Circumcision is just one mitzvah that teaches us what being Jewish means. When a baby is circumcised, he is completely unaware of its significance. Circumcision is done precisely at an age when it is a non-experience because, explains the Rebbe, it is attesting that the Jew’s relationship with G‑d goes beyond what a person thinks, feels or does.

Jewishness is a fact that applies equally to an infant or a sage. It is a not a common race, culture or historical experience, nor is it a matter of life-style or self-perception. It is a state of being. We are Jews because G‑d chose us.

Whether or not we practice our Judaism—whether or not we even feel affiliated—there is something in our inner core that inexplicably whispers to us a fundamental, unchangeable truth: “I am a Jew!”

And bageling is one of the most interesting ways of showing that!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Jules Scher Monroe Twp, NJ April 27, 2017

Unfortunately, I am not a very observant Jew.

However, I enjoy wearing a big Jewish Star that is always visible. I purchased it in Jerusalem, and vowed that I would never take it off.

I am very proud of the accomplishments made by my fellow Jews, and I want the world to know that I belong to that religious minority. We are so gifted, and excel in so many areas.

If only the world would let us be. They would be the beneficiaries of our successes, and live a longer more enjoyable life. Someday they will get some "sachel", and realize that when Jews are left alone to do their thing, the world benefits. Next year in Jerusalem!!! Reply

Ben April 26, 2017

You might bagel the homeless guy on the street corner. He could have a long beard and possibly be Jewish as well. You never know. Thanks for your article. Reply

Anonymous Johannesburg May 1, 2017
in response to Ben:

He might too by asking for some "tzedah" Reply

Abby Siegel Boca Raton, April 26, 2017

Thank you Rebittzen Chana for your explanation of the how and why we Jews always feel our connection to one another. Reply

EM NY April 26, 2017

Fascinating and should have been obvious but no one ever thought to put it in print. I comment you all and your examples are perfect. However, it serves to exclude sephardim--except for those who know yiddish speakers. Hebrew and bagels and matzoh balls are exceptions that bridge that gap. MUCH APPRECIATED. Reply

Barbara Australia April 26, 2017

I grew up in London and I always told people I was Jewish from a very young age. I did so because antisemitism was rife and especially at school. If any one had issues with my religion I told them so they could walk away if that was their preference. To this day, I am now 65, I let people know that I am Jewish. If I think they might be Jewish then I automatically bagelha them. It brings a smile to my face and theirs. Reply

Alizah Sydney, Australia April 26, 2017

Whether or not we practice our Judaism—whether or not we even feel affiliated—there is something in our inner core that inexplicably whispers to us a fundamental, unchangeable truth: “I am a Jew!”

AMEN!!!~ Reply

SARAH LONDON April 26, 2017

sometimes in the strangest places: when my husband z.l.was saying kaddish for his father we were in Hong Kong and it was Friday and he said to me that he hoped we could have a minyan tomorrow,next thing we knew three American business men came over and said they were organising a Friday night and Shabbat service in room... and not to worry there would be a minyan!Talk about connection! Reply

jim dallas April 26, 2017

good for bageling...and being a jew. Reply

Howard Wright Jacksonville April 26, 2017

Jews are blessed with the love of God and His love is unfailing. Thank God for His great love for all. It might seem to be rough times here and there but He has promised to never leave or forsake His people. When He put the Jews under other nations, the Jews always left a message to that nation by changing some of them and also God punishment those who miss treated His people. God's love for the Jewish people is forever and I only hope that we all can think of ourselves as one as the Jewish people do. When one hurt, all hurt. Reply

Shoshanah Perez Midland, TX April 26, 2017

Living in west Texas, it is pretty rare to run into Jewish people. But in that rare occasion, I find myself running down the isles of the grocery store to try to "run into" him/her and make conversation. My daughter and I never understood why we felt a sudden pull to stalk them, but now we do! This is such a beautiful explanation that I will pass on and share! Todah raba! Reply

Susan Levitsky April 23, 2017

Use of a Yiddish word is nott always a good indicator. I was on a Disney Cruise ship during Chanukah. The ship's chef made what I thought looked like unusual latkes. I asked a Caribbean crew member about it. "He used a staff member's Bubby's recipe." Reply

Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the author of Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman and four other books. Weisberg is a noted educator and columnist and lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul.
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