After months of negotiation with the authorities, a Talmudist from Odessa was finally granted permission to visit Moscow. He boarded the train and found an empty seat. At the next stop, a young man got on and sat next to him.
The scholar looked at the young man and he thought: This fellow doesn’t look like a peasant, so if he is no peasant he probably comes from this district. If he comes from this district, then he must be Jewish because this is, after all, a Jewish district. But on the other hand, since he is a Jew, where could he be going? I’m the only Jew in our district who has permission to travel to Moscow.
Ahh, wait! Just outside Moscow there is a little village called Samvet, and Jews don’t need special permission to go to Samvet. But why would he travel to Samvet? He is surely going to visit one of the Jewish families there.
But how many Jewish families are there in Samvet? Aha, only two – the Bernsteins and the Steinbergs. But since the Bernsteins are a terrible family, so such a nice looking fellow like him, he must be visiting the Steinbergs. But why is he going to the Steinbergs in Samvet? The Steinbergs have only daughters, two of them, so maybe he’s their son-in-law. But if he is, then which daughter did he marry? They say that Sarah Steinberg married a nice lawyer from Budapest, and Esther married a businessman from Zhitomer, so it must be Sarah’s husband. Which means that his name is Alexander Cohen, if I’m not mistaken.
But if he came from Budapest, with all the anti-Semitism they have there, he must have changed his name. What’s the Hungarian equivalent of Cohen? It is Kovacs. But since they allowed him to change his name, he must have special status to change it. What could it be? Must be a doctorate from the University. Nothing less would do.
At this point, therefore, the scholar of Talmud turns to the young man and says, “Excuse me. Do you mind if I open the window, Dr. Kovacs?”
“Not at all,” answered the startled co-passenger, “But how is it that you know my name?”
“Ahhh,” replied the Talmudist, “It was obvious.”
Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.
thanks to Miriam Schwab