Perfect Family Tales And Other Trivia

The art of the short-story writer is that of the cartoonist. It is the magical craft of creating entire worlds with a few simple strokes of a pen. Tales told by an idiot? Maybe! But my tales are also a mix of reality and fantasy; truth and lies; some based on my own family; others, not. Readers must guess which characters are real; who are inventions - and who are an amalgam of both. Please draw the boundaries for yourself.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

‘Strange Fire’

Rabbi  Silverstein  was feeling quite uncomfortable.

Mimi Ruben, a teenage girl on the back-row, kept asking him daft questions which bore no relation to his latest book.

“Was there any evidence of female circumcision among the ancient Hebrews?

“Could the concept of the Shechina  – the feminine  aspect of the Almighty  – be construed as idolatrous?

“Secular food publications often referred to ‘kosher’ salt. Why did non-Jews eat  it?

“As it is forbidden  to use  a computer  on  the  Sabbath, did he (the rabbi) ever  write things down in his  head?”

Yonah Silverstein  avoided  addressing  women’s groups. It was considered ill-advised for a strictly Orthodox rabbi to mingle with women, even in public.

But he had agreed to meet the Derby Jewish  Women’s  Literary  Society  to  promote An  Alternative  Orthodox  View Of Progressive Judaism.

This was to placate his publisher and to please  the  group’s senior  president,   Eva Gluck,  who was widely revered for her knowledge of Tenach – the Hebrew bible.

But  now  he  had to quieten this infant trouble-maker who  had fairly frozen the others present into abject silence.

“My dear young lady, I appreciate your enthusiastic attendance so I’ll refrain from asking why you are here on a school day.

“Instead I’ll tell you about myself. At your  age, my  late  father regularly beat me for reading secular books.  These included the works  of  the  18th  century  English poet,  Alexander  Pope  who wrote: ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing.’

“Your questions have been pert – which I’ll define as ‘high spirited’; but they have not been pertinent – relevant to our discussion. Indeed, they have been  impertinent – quite improperly bold in their line of thought. Moreover, they have been expressed before ladies who have a thousand times your knowledge and life-experience.

“But as I find you a challenge, Miss Rubin, I’ll offer you one. Please  make an appointment to see me here at synagogue where I may better answer some of the conundrums you have posed.”

Mimi blushed red-hot. “Thank you so much, Rabbi.

“But I thought that you offer private interviews only to people like my brother, Sammy who says he’s gay.”

Fedora.HatRabbi Silverstein paled and as he bowed over the table where he sat, only the crown of his hat was visible beyond his clasped hands.

But as the chairman, Mrs Freeson rose to short-circuit the affair, Mr Johnson, the caretaker came in and passed her a note.

“Ladies,” she said. “We must vacate the premises. The Sabbath kettle has inexplicably blown and badly scorched the surrounding kitchen worktop. Mr Johnson assures us that he has cleaned the area and has ordered a health and safety check for tomorrow. Meanwhile, he suggests we leave immediately.”

As the crowd shuffled in a daze towards the entrance, the rabbi lingered.

“Ladies”, he called after Mrs Gluck and Mrs Freeson. “I’m sorry to ask you both to stay. But it appears that even in synagogue, a man must always be seen to be chaperoned when with women.

“As you are both family friends - and you, Mrs Gluck, are a noted Torah scholar - I’m taking you into my confidence. I shouldn’t quote from secular sources, but I am forced to say this once:  “there are more things in heaven and earth …”

Mrs Gluck chuckled despite herself.

“Ha! Rabbi, please pardon some further impertinence – this time from an old girl. 

“As you and Mrs Freeson both know, the Torah portion to be read in synagogue this coming Sabbath includes the  story of  Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu and how they were killed by God’s fire for  sacrificing their own without His permission.

“Some interpretations suggest that their sin had been that of trying to outperform the Almighty at His most glorious. They were guilty – unwittingly perhaps – of spiritual hubris.

“We know that the Almighty describes Himself as a ‘jealous God’ and as a perceived threat to His power, Nadav and Avihu had to be summarily executed.Strange.Fire

“Our  little Mimi reminds me harshly of my teenage self. So with her mother’s permission I will  take her in hand, bringing her version of Heaven very much to earth. The first thing she’ll learn is not to play with ‘strange fire’.” 

Natalie Wood

(Copyright – Natalie Irene Wood, 02 March 2012).

 

 

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