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.