Thursday, March 10, 2005

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

So I was on my way to the Siyum HaShas at Continental Airlines Arena a week and a half ago with my two brothers. My older brother was driving and I had shotgun. My father let me borrow his new – and very cool – digital camera, which I highly recommend. We were planning on arriving at the Meadowlands early so we could "tailgate." No such luck as 1/9 has got to be one of the worst marked highways in the tri-state area; we ended up taking a tour of Jersey City. By the time we found our way towards the Arena it was getting late – and that meant traffic.

As we ever so slowly inched our way forward I noticed a very large chopper (security?) hovering over the area with search lights and to make the most of the situation I whipped out the camera and started snapping photos of it.

Then I started taking pictures of the traffic – which actually turned out to be a lot trickier than it sounds because it was getting dark and the cars were moving (albeit slowly). Anyway after playing around with the settings, I stuck my hand out the window as high as I could reach and snapped away. Other cars must have thought we were nuts.

At the last second, as we passed under that “SIYUM HASHAS” highway sign my bother in the back seat said, “hey, get that!”

“I did already – but okay I’ll take another one.”

It would make a nice picture anyway, especially with the “RACETRACK” sign lit up next to it and I didn’t know if the other shots I took came out either. And sure enough most of those other shots were blurry.

So I posted 40 of the 117 pictures I took of the Siyum online a few days later. And the photo (above) known as “IMG_0931.jpg” turned out to be a hit. Very sweet! It is still circulating around the world via e-mail. I received it from five different people myself. It was posted on several blogs. (It even made the cover of "The Five Town Jewish Times!") The most popular caption for it is of course – “Onu Ratzim Veh'em Ratzim” – which is what we declare as we make the Siyum – “we run” toward spiritual everlasting matters - and “they run” towards worldly vanities. (Of course in the more zoomed out shot you can see the racetrack arrow points in the same direction.)

Though I think there is another appeal to the picture. This is America! You don’t see the words “SIYUM HASHAS” lit up on the highway every day. It’s like spotting someone in the Daily News wearing a yarmulke. It makes you stop and point and say “hey, look!” Of course nobody opens a Jerusalem Post and starts pointing out every yarmulke they spot. And I think there’s an important lesson in that. “SIYUM HASHAS” is something unusual on Route 3 - West in New Jersey. But it wouldn’t be so strange to see it posted on the Begin-North highway in Israel.

Because in one country we are guests and in the other we are Home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

very funny story and so true about us being strangers in america

7:35 PM  
Blogger yingele said...

Pinchas, I think you should sue all who used your pic ;-)
Great pic indeed!

4:55 PM  
Blogger Pinchas said...


Thanks! Glad you liked it.

And I'm glad people are sharing my pictures. That's why I took and posted them. (The only time it upset me was when someone posted their company logo in the corner - implicitly taking credit for it. But that version has been drowned out by all the others.) ;)

7:44 PM  
Blogger Barnea Levi Selavan said...


Sitting in the Old City of Yerushalayim, I have to tell you I got more nachas out of reading your comments than I did from the picture.

I sent it out as This is soooooo good - once in 100 years FW: "Onu Ratzim Veh'em Ratzim"

At the same time the entrenchment and glee of doing these things in North America concern me. May you be blessed to come and build your bayis here!

4:02 PM  
Blogger Pinchas said...

Why thank you very much! Amen, Kein Yihee Ratzon!

And I agree those concerns are well founded.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely to find the story behind the picture!

In my family we bounced this photo around with the sub-tag,

"Veheim Ratzim quite literally, aka watching the horses run" or something like that.

I am putting this in the Hillel Highlights newspaper of Hillel Yeshiva as a centerpiece on the Siyum HaShas. Check it out online I think in about a month or a few weeks, I think the Highlights is posted on

Tizku L'Misvot!

G Reich

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh, and I just found out via reply email to your forwarded blog address that my aunt's niece wrote the caption originally to attach to your great photo...
anu ratzim...etc.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Pinchas said...

G Reich - Thanks!

1:09 AM  
Blogger yingele said...

Btw PInchas, in one of those free Jerusalem papers. Called Hashovua I think, they printed your pic. Honestly.

9:16 AM  
Blogger yaak said...

It's now discussed on .

4:57 PM  
Blogger Pinchas said...

Thanks Yaak!

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pinchas, so glad I found you (through Arutz Sheva online. I also don't know what "Siyum Hashas" means ... and I AM Jewish (though possibly you would not agree).
I am not a "blogger," but will soon have a website on which I will do some "blabbering" (among other things).

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw this post (in fact I just saw your whole blog for the first time). I got your Siyum Hashas picture by e-mail and responded to the sender with the "anu ratzim veheim ratzim" comment right away. Within minutes I was getting the picture along with my response from tens of people. I guess it made its round to you eventually also!

2:53 PM  

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