He was my first customer this morning at the bookstore. I knew he wasn’t there for books because he marched right up to the counter to peruse the stuff we keep at the register. He picked something up and scowled at it.
“A granola bar. Wrapped in Shakespearian insults, to aid the digestion.”
“Oh. Ha ha.” He squinted harder. “Well at least it’s kosher. At least it’s not that Muslim thing.” I returned my eyes to the screen. I could tell this wasn’t going to be nice. “What’s the word? That Muslim word that means something like kosher?”
“Um….” The market near my house is called The Halal Market. They have really good lamb. “Halal?”
“Yeah, that’s it. At least it’s not halal.”
“Halal is from the word hallelujah.” I was hoping to steer the conversation somewhere else. “I mean, I think the words come from the same place. I love that word: hallelujah. It’s so joyful.”
“Is that so? Well, I won’t buy it if it’s halal. That word has no real meaning.” The bookstore is full of books but he was standing right in front of me and I couldn’t walk away. “You know it’s meaningless, don’t you? You know the term kosher has been around forever, that it obeys a strict standard. It’s thoroughly regulated. But anything can be halal. Halal means nothing at all.”
“I don’t really know about either process. You know, it’s a little early in the morning.” I tried to smile. “I haven’t had my coffee yet. Have you had your coffee?”
“You don’t believe me? You think halal means something?”
“I think it means something like kosher, to a Muslim person.”
“Oh, no, no, it’s not kosher at all. Kosher means clean. They follow strict rules and procedures. The word halal has only been around for about ten years. Halal is meaningless.”
“The word is probably a lot older than that. Maybe we’ve only just started learning about it.”
He was leaning closer, his head looming over the computer screen. He held the granola bar up. “No, it means nothing. If it’s not kosher, it’s probably dirty.”
He had me trapped. I couldn’t help myself. I said, “The truth is, that kosher granola bar has been sitting on this counter for at least a year. It’s probably beyond stale by now. Look–the package is sort of dusty. I wouldn’t buy it if I were you.”
“Well, I can see where you stand.” He put the granola bar down, shook his head, and stalked out.
From Wikipedia: In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. The first part, hallelu, is the second-person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hallal. However, “hallelujah” means more than simply “praise Yah”, as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God. Hallel could also refer to someone who acts madly or foolishly.