January 25, 2016

Rabbi (Rabbie) Burns

O my Luve is like a red, red rose
   That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
   That’s sweetly played in tune.

 Today marks the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s favourite poet and national bard, affectionately known as Rabbie Burns. His birthday, January 25th, is celebrated as the biggest night of the year in the Scottish calendar

Across Scotland, people gather for a Burns Supper of whiskey, haggis and poetry.  Traditionally, guests sit around a table, whisky in hand and haggis is brought out on a large tray. The host stands up, and flourishing a ceremonial knife,  he recites Burns’ poem on Haggis.
Introducing a new 10-pound note in honor of Robert Burns.

Hang onto your haggis….how does an observant Jewish woman from Toronto know about this? And what’s the connection between Burns Day and life in Israel?

Ay. Israel is the home to Jews from all over the world. We have Anglo immigrants from every continent here and they all bring a wee bit of home with them when they make aliyah.  

The Americans take their Thanksgiving dinner very seriously, serving a classic roast turkey with cranberry sauce. In 2011, the Brits here went bonkers over the Royal Wedding and some held a special English Afternoon Tea in honour of the event. 

The South Africans import biltong (beef jerky) and have their own grocery store here in Ra’anana called Meatland--just in case they run out. For many Australians, the Aussie barbie is a sacred Thursday evening event. As for us Canadians, well, we keep a low profile, but tend to know the Leafs' standing in the NHL.

And the Scots? Well, here is a wee look at what happens when Glaswegians come to Israel….

On Saturday, we were invited to a Shabbat Kiddush after shul. This was not your average Kiddush; it was to honor Rabbi (aka Rabbie) Burns on his upcoming birthday.
Far from R'anana...Burns' cottage in Alloway, Scotland.

We warmed up with standard kiddush fare, eating herring, chopped egg and hummous. Suddenly, our hosts marched from the kitchen with a large tray. Here we were, Americans, Canadians, Brits and Australians sitting with our whiskey on a Shabbos morning in complete awe. Grasping a carving knife, Ellis started to recite Burns’ poem on Haggis and we sat spellbound as he eloquently delivered the rich words of the Bard.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,

Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Traditional (not kiddush) haggis.
Our delicious mock haggis was a kosher, vegetarian rendition. One of the guests then stood up and recited A Red, Red Rose to his wife, explaining that this was his favourite poem in Yeshiva.

We all come from many places in the world and now that we are living in Israel, we share, learn and become enriched from each other’s rich cultures.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o’ life shall run. 

Thank ye Ellis and Susan


  1. Very nice. Thanks for the mention! But most of all, glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Ya Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie!!!!


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