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David Ben Gurion (archive photo)
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Secrets of the Jewish mind
Can Jewish memorization techniques improve our maligned leadership?

Many years ago I met a Jew who performed amazing memory and comprehension exercises on television. His name was Chananel Mifelew and he was nicknamed "Chan Canasta."

 

As opposed to all sorts of spoon-benders and magicians who use various tricks, Chan Canasta did not claim he had supernatural powers, but rather, made sure to explain some of his abilities. Among other things, he spoke about "Jewish techniques" he developed for boosting his memory, including some Passover songs like "Had Gadia" and "Echad Mi Yodea" that relate numbers to stories and digits to figures, thus making it easier to absorb the material and remember it.

 

Chan Canasta passed away about seven years ago. This week I again thought of him when I read in the newspaper about a book called "Secrets of the Jewish Mind" by Eran Katz (the English version is called "Jerome Becomes a Genius".) This book too, according to the story, includes memory exercises of this type, and the writer even made note of various Jewish physical exercise techniques.

 

For example, he noted that the back-and-forth swaying of yeshiva students improves the flow of blood and oxygen supply to the brain, as does studying and thinking while walking.

 

Regrettably, I did not yet have the opportunity to memorize material while swaying back and forth, but I immediately thought of former Prime Minister Ben Gurion's habit of doing a headstand and the explanation he gave for this – the very same explanation.

 

And indeed, today, when we bemoan the conduct of various ministers and prime ministers and compare their wisdom and their decisions to those made by Ben Gurion, we become even more saddened.

 

The true secret

After all, we could have fixed all those problems in a very simple manner. It would have been enough to make them do a headstand before embarking on the Lebanon War, for example. It would have been enough to sing "Echad Mi Yodea" and improve their math abilities before they capitulated to the settlers and approved the first settlements. And had they swayed back and forth in cabinet meetings, everything would be better.

 

But all this has a more serious side. The endangered phenomenon known as "the Jewish Mind" is not only premised on Jewish body movements or the soft Jewish singing of numbers and names, but rather, a whole worldview centered on education.

 

This was the true secret of the Jewish mind, and not all kinds of memorization tricks. All of us would have been happy to solve Israel's education problems through an oxygen tank and some singing and physical exercises, but apparently a more serious effort is needed here, or alternately, the personality of Gen Gurion.

 

Boosting property value

The Prime Minister's Office director general informed residents of Gaza-region communities that they must partly finance the reinforcement of their homes against rocket attacks. The reason for this: This would also boost the value of their property.

 

I checked this with a contact at the Prime Minister's Office and as it turned out, the director general said those things without swaying
back and forth or doing a headstand. It's a pity, because had he improved the oxygen flow to his brain he would reach a higher level of thinking and remember that the need for reinforcing the homes was created by the government in the first place, and therefore local residents must not only finance this, but also pay the government for creating such a wonderful opportunity for them to boost the value of their home.

 

This same logic raises another question: Will the government be paying residents for the decrease in the value of their homes in that very same Gaza region? But why do we need to be petty? It is better to praise the director general's decision, because its logical continuation is to demand that settlers finance IDF operations in their area. We are talking about more than just mere boosting of property value, and there is no reason to burden all Israeli taxpayers with this injustice.

 

The rabbi has spoken

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu said earlier this week that Reform Jews are at fault for the Holocaust, and further explained that the Reform Movement started in Germany. There is no doubt we have here before us a true, super-talented Jewish mind with superb memory who is familiar with and applies all the known Jewish methods for improving his intellectual capabilities.

 

Yet in the meantime we too learned those tricks, and our own memory has become clearer and sharper. Immediately we remembered that ultra-Orthodox rabbis, rather than Reform rabbis, were the ones who abandoned their followers to die in the crematoria.

 

Later we let some more oxygen flow into our brain and remembered that it was Rabbi Eliyahu who told former Gaza residents that the disengagement plan would not be implemented.

 

We swayed back and forth some more and recalled something from the distant past namely, Rabbi Eliyahu's membership in an underground group called "Brit HaKanaim" (Covenant of the Zealots,) which aimed to introduce Jewish law in Israel by force. Rabbi Eliyahu was imprisoned for his membership in the group.

 

Yet we were unable to comprehend just one thing: How did such man become the National Religious Party's spiritual leader? But then we did a headstand, waited until our mind became truly Jewish, and realized that this is in fact very natural and logical.

 

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