What is it? What does it mean?

kipa1The Rabbi Nachman slogan appears in so many places. Tonight is the anniversary of its “discovery”. What is is it? What does it mean? Does it mean anything?

I’ve written this modern midrash to explain it.

One day R. Nachman got a phonecall from his mother, who was in a chatty mood. While she spoke R. Nachman’s mind wandered and he doodled on a scrap of paper. He wrote:

na, nach, nachma, nachman

starting with the first letter of his name and adding one more letter each time till the name was complete. Then – noticing that his town of birth matched the progression – he added:

Mi’Uman (from Uman)

He thought it looked rather neat, and used the scrap as a bookmark in his siddur for many years.

After his death, the scrap was discovered by one of his students. However, instead of discarding it, or preserving it as a private keepsake, the student publicised it as a good-luck charm.

Because it was so obviously devoid of any meaning, it was an instant success with people of whom the same was true, and before long pseudo-religious Jewish hooligans were graffiti-spraying it onto public property all over the world.


Tonight, 23 Tammuz 5775, is the 93rd anniversary of the discovery of the “Petek” [note], called by some “Chag Hapetek” (The festival of the note). It has even been said in all seriousness: “Basically the whole universe stands on the holy Petek”.

Although I am far from being a rationalist, I find it worrying that this kind of lunacy – quite apart from the associated vandalism – is coming to be associated with mainstream Jewish observance.

chag petek


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