On Saturday, Sept.19, people all over the world will celebrate a special holiday—a holiday beloved everywhere, full of deepest meaning.
I refer, of course, to International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Created in 1995 by two guys, Cap’n Slappy (Mark Summers) and Ol’ Chumbucket (John Baur), International Talk Like a Pirate Day emerged from near-total obscurity when humorist Dave Barry wrote a 2002 column touting the holiday. Since then, it’s taken off like wild cannon fire.
Sept. 19, 2009, is also the 1 Tishrei 5770. This will be the first time in history that International Talk Like a Pirate Day falls on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Thus, the insistent question: How to integrate the observance of these two important holidays?
I wrote to the Southern California Board of Rabbis, asking for guidance. Inexplicably – unbelievably—they never responded. Unfortunately, neither of the International Talk Like a Pirate Day organizers is Jewish. So we’re on our own.
Start with your clothes—that sets the tone for the day. Instead of your usual tallit, you can take a Jolly Roger (the black flag with grinning skull and crossbones) and attach tzitizt to each of the four corners. Voila, you’re swashbuckling now!
Your kippah can also be adorned with the skull and crossbones, or, better yet, replace your shtreiml with a three-cornered hat. A hook or a peg leg is a nice touch. Only wear a single earring (both for men and women). And there should be a parrot on your shoulder. (If it’s dead parrot you’re veering into Monty Python territory, and things will be weird enough for you anyway.)
Now you’re ready to start talking like a pirate. The basic unit of pirate talk, the urtext of piratish, is “Aarrgh!” Throw that around liberally. Rather than “amen,” try “aarrgh-men.” But “L’Shana Tova Tikatevu—aarrgh!” might seem a bit forced; try “Ahoy Vey, Matey!” instead.
The cantor plays a crucial role on Rosh Hashana/Talk Like a Pirate Day. Piratical music should infuse the nusach of the day, and creativity is called for. “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” is good for “Adon Olam” (but then, what isn’t?). Not everyone realizes that “A Muppet’s Treasure Island” has some great tunes. And of course, you can always draw from “Di Yam Gazlonim”—“Pirates of Penzance” in Yiddish (“I am the very model of the modern Jew from Hollywood…”).
The rabbi’s drash is the highpoint of the day. But if you fear that your rabbi can’t rise to the occasion, fear not: Your average rabbi can write a sermon on any topic. There are bunches of pirate stories in the Talmud—these can be twisted into lessons about judgment, kingship, repentance and that sort of thing with minimal effort by the practiced rabbinical imagination. Mentioning Bernard Madoff isn’t obligatory, though it couldn’t hurt.
(By the way, those doubters and scoffers who frown on mixing piratism and Judaism should take a peek at Edward Kritzler’s “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean.” Perhaps Jewish piracy doesn’t have the longest or most glorious history, but we’ll take what we can get.)
Yes, this year on Sept. 19, Jews are doubly blessed. If everyone gets into the spirit of the day with proper pirattitude, no one will have to walk the plank.