Mitzvah

By Mariani, Paul | First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, October 2019 | Go to article overview

Mitzvah


Mariani, Paul, First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life


A Saturday night, late February. Eileen and me

in the back of the cramped car, Julie driving,

Bruce riding shotgun. We're heading down

to Amherst for an evening of Borscht Belt vaudeville,

Fifty Shades of Oy Vey at the local Jewish temple,

and Julie's taking all the back roads, so that, though

I've lived here for fifty years, I'm already lost,

when we see a car stopped, lights dimmed,

stranded at a crossing like some lost sheep.

Julie stops, pulls over, walks over to the car, knocks

on the window and asks the driver-a woman in her eighties-

if she's alright. It takes her a while to answer, her voice low.

"I, I think I'm lost," she stutters. "I was visiting

my daughter, as, as I have so many times, but now

I'm lost and don't know where I am or what to do."

All this is taking time, precious time, you have to understand,

and meanwhile I want to get a move on to where the fun is

and hear some Jewish jokes. In fact I've got one myself.

This blond broad-a goy-is at a Jewish wedding

and the waiter serves her soup. "What's this," she asks,

and the waiter says, "Madam, this is matzoh balls soup,"

and the blond looks down, then up, and says, "Do you have

some other part of the matzoh you could serve me?"

A joke no doubt followed by a rim shot off the snare

"Bah da dum." Instead, here we are, in the middle

of who the hell knows where, and Julie's trying

her best to calm the woman, telling her to follow us

down to the package store over by the railroad tracks

so the woman can call her daughter-embarrassed

by the fact she's lost-and get her safely home. …

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