Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Washing Your Hands with the King
On Motsei Shabbat (Saturday night) Josh and I took the opportunity to hear the recent Noble Prize winner, Professor Yisrael Auman. He spoke at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, 20 minutes from our home. It was awe inspiring to be able to listen to a religious Jew talk about his experience only a few weeks ago receiving the Nobel Prize (in Economics for his work on Game Theory) from the King of Sweden. He was extremely jovial and engaging in his address and spoke about what it was like to be a Jew receiving such an award. This is a man who escaped Nazi Germany with his family when he was 8 to move to America, picked up 50 years ago to move to Israel, lost a son in the Peace for the Galilee war in 1982 and has now received the Nobel Prize. He spoke about how accommodating the dinner was to his family’s needs and how they were able to have a beautiful experience – while keeping their traditions with Shabbat and Kashrut. He spoke about a disco club where they were taken and how, after a Nobel Laureate doctor got on stage to sing a song about ulcers (don’t ask!), he and his sons got on stage to sing a Hebrew song about the whole world being a bridge. He spoke about being moved by the Israeli flags that flew everywhere he went throughout Sweden and how moving it was to represent this country. It was really amazing to think that we live in a place where people like this receive the Nobel Prize with such humility – and we have the opportunity to take in lectures of this sort.
Prof. Auman spoke about the moment when he was deciding how he was going to wash his hands (we are obligated to ritually wash our hands prior to eating bread) in the presence of the King and not have a major protocol faux pas. Just as he was contemplating his situation, he noticed a waiter walking toward him with a pitcher and a basin. He quickly realized that the people in charge had not left one issue to chance and had dispatched waiters to the tables where the various Aumans (Prof. Auman was joined by 35 members of his family) were sitting throughout the room.
He also mentioned the powerful moment when he rose to speak before the 1,000+ guests at the dinner. There is a special bracha (blessing) that one says when receiving extremely good news that will benefit oneself or others and Prof. Auman started his 2 minute speech by pronouncing this blessing and was awed when he heard all the members of his family spontaneously saying 'Amen' in unison from throughout the hall.
We feel blessed to have heard this wonderful man speak and that this is the type of person who represents us (Jews and Israel) to the world.