Nor in kholem zaynen mern vi bern.
I can imagine you have a lot of questions. Why, you ask, would anyone need to be reminded of this seemingly obvious fact? And who is the intended audience of this saying? Who might possibly hold a vested interest in the carrot’s growth potential or lack thereof? Was this proverb the resentful and forlorn proclamation of a people suffering through an epidemic of a beta carotene deficiency? Is it possible that the author of this proverb (or someone he loved) had a paralyzing case of Lachanophobia? (Totally a real condition.)
OK, so both are a little far-fetched. The truth is, we may never know the answers to these questions, but there is one last query that proves more fruitful (well, as fruitful as we’re going to get). The question is: why specifically the carrot and the bear? Why not a turnip and a squirrel? OK, I guess that wouldn’t be a very dramatic comparison. Well, how about a beet and a giraffe, then? The answer is simple and, well I hate to admit it, but, painfully boring. The mystery of this proverb’s particular characters all comes down to the fact that in Yiddish, the words “carrot” and “bear” rhyme. I told you. Cute, but a total snore-fest. Wait! It just occurred to me! What if it wasn’t vegetables the author (or, again, someone he loved) was so deathly afraid of but something far more sinister?! Think about it: if carrots were as big as bears, imagine the rabbits! (Leporiphobia: also a totally real condition.)
Fun Fact! Alaska’s John Evans and the UK’s Joe Atherton hold the record for the heaviest and longest carrots ever grown, respectively. Both men are featured in The World Carrot Museum. (Also totally a real thing and very much worth checking out.) But despite these men’s impressive achievements, rest assured, my dear phobics, neither carrot came anywhere close to the size of a bear.
Halfway through the fourth reading of her favorite bedtime story, little Rebekah is finally drifting off to sleep. Her grandmother closes the well-worn, food-stained book, gently tucks Rebekah in, and turns off the light. Just before tiptoeing out of the room, Bubbe kisses Rebekah on the forehead and softly whispers…
Bubbe: “Remember, my Bubeleh, Only in dreams are carrots as big as bears.”
Over three decades later, Rebekah, still unhappily single and largely oblivious to the lasting effects of her Bubbe’s seemingly benign ritual, kvetches to yet another therapist…
Rebekah: “I don’t know what to tell you, Doc; ever since I can remember, if I come within 100 feet of a crudite platter, I start to hyperventilate.”
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