Today is Purim!

Friends, today Jews the world over are celebrating Purim, a holiday over 2,200 years old that reminds us to this day that even when our circumstances seem hopeless, our dreams can come true in the blink of an eye.

On Purim, amid much merrymaking, we give delicious treats to our neighbors and alms to those in dire financial straits. In lieu of sending you goodies via cyberspace, allow me to present you with some of my favorite sayings about charity and about food:

  • Charity:
  • “My poor are my best patients. God pays for them.” – Hermann Boerhaave (1668 – 1738), Dutch physician and humanist

  • Charity:
  • “The noblest charity is to prevent a man from accepting charity; and the best alms are to show and to enable a man to dispense with alms.” – The Talmud

  • Charity:
  • “When justice prevails, charity is not needed.” – Ralph Nader

    [I can't help but wonder if Mr. Nader knows that the Hebrew word for charity (tzedakah) is etymologically linked to the Hebrew word for justice (tzedek).]

    And now, from the sublime to the mundane, on to food:

  • Food:
  • “My mother’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.” – Buddy Hackett

  • Food:
  • “Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” – Jim Davis, ‘Garfield’

  • Food:
  • “The two biggest sellers in bookstores are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it.” – Andy Rooney

  • Food:
  • “The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day you’re off it.” – Jackie Gleason

  • Food:
  • “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” – Orson Welles

    Happy Purim!

    The Red Bridge Plate (or, Murder on the Long Island Rail Road) — Part 1

    A good twenty years ago, my husband Michael and I treated our seven-year-old nephew to a Mets game. I don’t remember the final score, who won or even against whom the Mets played. However, one incident occurred that day at Shea that I’ll never forget. And although the subject of this essay is an event that took place just last December, the Shea Disaster seems as good a place as any to start.

    Like 55,000 other Mets fans, we had one objective when the game ended: getting home. But unlike most of those 55,000 fans, Michael (who is blind) and I (whose arms are paralyzed) could not drive or (at least in the 1980s) take the train or subway to our destination. So we headed for a pay phone (when did cell phones arrive on the scene?) and called a local car service. We were told where to wait and assured that our car would arrive in 15 minutes.

    Thirty minutes later, we were still waiting. Cars bearing the correct logo arrived with great regularity, but the name the drivers shouted was never ours. We trudged back to the pay phone and were assured that the very next car was ours — guaranteed. When it came into view, we rushed toward the driver but before we could utter a word, a burly man hurtled past us, yanked the car’s rear door open, got inside and immediately leaned forward, shoving something into the driver’s hand. “Wait!” we sputtered as the driver dutifully pulled away. As the car gained speed, the passenger rolled down his window and barked, “Life is tough!”

    Yes, we were furious, but part of us wanted to genuflect and exclaim, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” A New Yorker was treating us like dirt. Was this not the ultimate sign of emancipation?

    Two decades later, you’d think I’d be impervious to impudence. So would I. But on December 28, 2005, smack dab in the middle of what Western civilization calls the season of peace and good will, I suffered two indignities within a span of two minutes — and it happened on the Long Island Rail Road.

    To be continued…