I am peeing in my pants I’m so excited. Okay, I’m not actually peeing. But wow am I excited.
I just bought a shas. (complete set of the Talmud). And more.
Part of the thing we rab students do this year is go crazy buying books for our love, our lives, our long-term libraries. As my teacher R. Dan Shevitz instructed me, “Buy all the books you can. They will never be cheaper.” And we are, after all, People of the Book(s).
Today was going to be the day. A bunch of us are shipping books home by boat (slow, but hella cheap) and how many boxes it’ll be, etc. needs to be figured out in the next week or so. I mentioned to my friend Yoshi this morning that I had made an appointment to talk to the guys at the store where they’re really nice to us (despite apparent handicaps, like being women, or Conservative Jews, or both) about a price for such things, figuring I’d drop more or less 1500 shekel on some gemara and Rambam. And he informed me that there was a store up by where I do my belly dance classes that sells used sets of stuff for good prices, maybe I want to check there. I’d bought a number of used books over the course of the year, but it had never dawned on me that people might have complete sets. Cool, OK, worth investigating. The neighborhood there being what it is, I put on my best bas yisroel gear (long skirt, long-sleeved shirt with my licentious collarbones strategically hidden and walked up there, practicing saying with a straight face, “Hi! I’m here studying for the year and I’m supposed to buy some books for my brother. Do you have….?” It was particularly interesting when I arrived to that street, since usually I walk around there in a tank top and yoga pants. In any case, the store was closed. Rats. So I headed over to the part of town with the other store to keep my appointment, figuring I might just go back to plan A.
I had a couple of minutes before the appointed time, so just for the heck of it I ducked down a side street on the same main drag that I had passed many times. I knew there was a bookstore there, but from the sign I had thought that it was just another religious bookshop with not-very-reasonable prices. It was, in fact, a used bookstore, run by some wan, hipstery Israelis who looked like they spent a lot of time in coffee shops.
“Hi, do you have…. holy books (sifrei kodesh)?”
“Yeah, what are you looking for?”
I named a few things. They consulted, and whipped out a tractate of gemara (Talmud) for me to peruse. They told me how much and my jaw dropped to the floor. It was dusty, but the pages seemed untouched, with a slightly worn, soft, brown, buttery leather cover, gold writing on the front, several tractates together in each volume, clear printing, Rishonim (commentators) in the back. Just the right size, about 10×14″. Like a gemara should be. As I was standing over it, drooling, they brought me a volume of the Mishneh Torah (Maimonedes’ halakhic code), also utterly perfect in every way. Smaller–7×9″ or 6×9″, crispy crispy clear printing, pretty black leather cover and the delicious smell of libraries. I started jumping up and down. The proprietor smiled.
“Have you seen the downstairs, yet?”
It was a little overwhelming, frankly. Lots of good sifrei kodesh, and lots of solid, useful, basic stuff–not the obscure teachings of the Tjncfeiorvnuea8%#mce Rebbe from the town of GmcuiohNE, if you will. And lots of stuff in English.
I walked back upstairs.
“The question is, where have you guys BEEN all my life?”
Without missing a beat: “No, the question is, where have you been all of our lives?”
I walked out of there with a shas, a set of the Mishneh Torah, the two-volume Torah commentaries of Rebbeinu Bachya and Buber’s two volume Tales of the Hasidim (the last item was in English) for…. are you ready?
600 shekels. Today, $137.70.
I was so happy I tipped the cab driver (which we do NOT do here in Israel) a coupla shek.
Yay for me.