Some sermons are better left undelivered. Consider for example the wise words of Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, who at his weekly lesson at Jerusalem’s Hayazdim synagogue last Saturday night chose to riff on the Meshaneh HaBriyot blessing. “When one sees strange creatures, one recites Meshaneh HaBriyot,” said the rabbi. “When one sees a kushi, one recites Meshaneh HaBriyot.” The word kushi meant a black person when it was first used in the bible, and still means the same today, except that some decades ago it morphed into a racial slur, not a word to be used in polite company, nor, for that matter, by Israel’s Chief Rabbi, with his annual NIS600,000 paycheck footed entirely by tax payers.
Back to the sermon. Not all black people, apparently, are rare enough to warrant such a blessing. Which kushi does justify the blessing, asked the Rabbi? “Someone whose father and mother are white, and he came out a kushi,” he answered himself. “You walk down the street in America, every five minutes you see a kushi. You’ll recite Meshaneh HaBriyot? You need a kushi with a father and mother who are white. If, you know, their son came out a monkey, their son came out like that, then you’ll recite Meshaneh HaBriyot.”
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