It's high time we recall how important and how powerful the homentasch is,
and to praise the Lord and pass the ammunition for the blessing he has
given us at this season. It is easy, of course, to forget the "lowly"
homentasch, because our good neighbors, and some who are, loy oleynu, not
so good, nebekh, have khapt onto it as if it were their own. We gave it to
the world gladly, knowing how much good it could do--and do we get any
credit for it? A nekhtige tug! Take the Egyptians, for example. Take them,
takeh. Yosef hatzaddik (Joseph) explained the importance of the homentasch
to Pharaoh. He pointed out that the step pyramids, such as those at
Sakkara, were utterly useless, and were doomed eventually to fall into
ruin, which has happened, as anyone can see.
Make a pyramid with four sides of perfectly symmetrical homentaschen, he
said, and you've really got something. Nu, Pharaoh, y'makh shmoy v'zikhroy,
decided to experiment with the grand homentasch design and what did he do?
No sooner did he have the secret of the homentasch firmly under his
belt--it should only have stuck in his craw--than he promptly forgot Joseph
and turned on his people, enslaving them and forcing them to build his
great four-sided homentaschen, which stand proudly to this day.
Every schoolchild learns the Pythagorean theorem. I wouldn't, kholileh,
want to take away from Pythagoras or the Greeks any of the glory they used
to have. But we have always believed that the ethical thing to do is to
give credit where credit is due. The fact is--I'm not making this up--that
Pythagoras studied at the yeshiva of Beys Hillel. Moreover, I have it on
good authority that when he was a boy, his father, realizing that he was
not getting such a good education from the wandering sophists, who even
then were serving as private tutors, since very few of the Greek cities had
public schools, decided that a good day school education was what he wanted
for his son. There was no better school in those days than the local Hillel
Day School. Since Mr. Pythagoras was a widower, nebekh, he sent the boy to
live at the yeshiva. Pythagoras Jr. was a pretty good student, according to
fragments of records that were destroyed in the great fire at the
Alexandrian library, though he was often guilty of bittul toyreh, since he
liked to strum on his harp and dream up theories about musical instruments.
But I digress from my story.
He used to take his meals at the homes of Mrs. Shapiro, Mrs. Goldberg, Mrs.
Melnick, and other kindly Jewish ladies in the neighborhood. Essen teg they
called it in those days. Nu, came Purim, and naturally Mrs. Shapiro gave
her young guest a few homentaschen. He inquired of his rebbe the next day
about this remarkable delicacy, and the rebbe took him aside (for the
arcane secrets of kabboleh are not revealed in public), opened the holy
sforim that deal with the homentasch and its great powers, and started the
lad on his way to greatness. What is called the Pythagorean theorem is in
fact nothing more than a simple formula for squeezing the greatest number
of homentaschen onto a single baking pan, which every Jewish housewife had
been taught by her bobbeh.
But listen! The kid made a fortune selling pamphlets about the right-angled
homentasch and became one of the yeshiva's biggest supporters, serving on
the board for many years. You have to have to give him credit, he really
knew how to market an idea, and no one had a copyright on it anyway.
Incidentally, it was Mrs. Melnick's cholent that Pythagoras ate every
Shabbos that convinced him that beans have such serious side effects that
he declared them non-kosher when he founded his own yeshiva years later.
If you want to know why the dollar is still the strongest currency in the
world, just check it out carefully. On the back side of the greenback you
will find the homentasch. When Jefferson designed the great seal of the
United States, believe me, he knew what he was doing. There's the
four-sided homentasch that the Egyptians learned was the most powerful door
to eternity; and above it, winking its eye, is the divine homentasch
itself. As long as that homentasch is on the dollar, we're in good shape.
By the way, the early geniuses of finance knew precisely what they were
doing when they settled on Wall Street as the site of their business,
locating it in Tribeca, a homentasch-shaped section of Manhattan, and
therefore naturally the most powerful financial district in the world.
When our government needed a powerful, fast, invisible fighter plane, to
whom did it turn? To none other than the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zikhrono
livrokho, who was not only a great talmid khokhom, but also an engineer who
graduated from the Sorbonne. "No problem," said the Rebbe. "You should have
asked sooner." And he prepared blueprints of a fighter jet built in the
shape of a homentasch. A few little adjustments here and there, and we had
the Phantom Jet, which they call "delta wing" because for them, homentasch
is a mouthful. Nu, kinderlakh, may we all have a joyous Purim as we spin
our dreydlekh, shake our lulavs, hear the shofar, enjoy a latke or two,
have a little schnapps . .