Election

In each generation there is one righteous person worthy of being the Messiah.

In this generation the Svenssens were certain it was their candidate.

No one was more excited than they were when He won the election. Things were going to change now. They’d be safe in Minneapolis. St. Paul would be white again.

There would be jobs. Dad could buy that drill bit he’d been looking at. Liam could go to school again because Ma could afford to buy him clothes. Little Ava could have a Sunday lollipop. It was everything they’d ever dreamed of. Meat once a week. Fish on Fridays. Jobs at the plant.

They cheered when the new President closed the borders to immigrants. They celebrated when He abolished government health care. They were happy when Congress rescinded the abortion- friendly laws and all those sinful women would have to die or go elsewhere to have their babies.

Then Ma got pregnant. She was forty. The Svenssens didn’t have insurance, so she just struggled through what the whole town knew was a difficult time. She gave birth to Emma, who she called a blessing, but who everyone could see was severely retarded.

And, though the Svenssens rejoiced when they heard that nobody in the country was paying taxes, they were shocked when the bridge at Zimmermans Pass collapsed and plunged little Ava’s school bus into the lake.

The Somalis, who had always worked in the slaughterhouse, were now unemployed because their green cards had been rescinded. With no work and no legal way to support themselves, the Somalis kept body and soul together scavenging garbage and robbing houses while they waited to be deported. Pa said it was because they were black. That’s what black people did, he said. He said it would be better for all of us when they were gone, when the country was great again.

The Svenssens’ local school closed, so Liam sniffed glue to dull the pain of boredom and to cut down on the hunger that was biting into all of them.

Randy and Sarah, the Svenssen’s neighbor’s twins, got sick with the chills and also the fever. Dr. Baker said there was no cure. Nothing to do but wait. So they waited and the twins died.

The plant closed. Not because it had moved operations offshore, but because most people had no need for cars since the new fuel taxes cut off the possibility of most people getting gas or oil.

The weather had changed, too. There was no rain. The earth sweat like a copper goblet. Anything that lay on the ground rotted immediately.

Internment camps opened. When the food in the camps ran out, people ate each other or they ate the children.

There were still rich people. In Edina, mostly, and they were doing okay. There were fewer people to clean their houses or drive their cars, or pick up their garbage, but they were getting along. They were all still in favor of the new President. And they weren’t even bothered by the sound of ice cracking beneath their feet.

 

Window of Opportunity

In each generation there is one righteous person worthy of being the Messiah.

But what is righteous? And what is worthy?

Carl Hansson’s neighbors in The City of Edina MN know him as the gracious proprietor of the vineyard he runs on his estate just off 50thand France in the heart of what would be known as Edina’s gold coast if Edina had either gold or a coast to its name.

He cleared 18 acres of strip malls and low income housing to sow his grapes, and now that he’s built the wall around them and installed the electronic alarm system and the razor wire, he is perfectly comfortable calling the land both his vineyard and his home.

As a vintner, Carl has a reputation for being particular about everything, from pruning his vines to the day-to-day operation of the bottling line, to the clarity of the wine being served at his parties. An etching of the Georgian-style chateau he had moved to Edina from London graces his label, his stationery, and his calling cards.

Carl is equally particular about his wives.

Patricia, wife number three, was personally chosen by Carl’s executive assistant to be younger, hotter and possessed of larger breasts than wife number two, whose name nobody remembered. She was also mute. They had a son, Duke, who may, or may not, have been on the spectrum. Duke kept mostly to his room playing with gold-plated Legos™.

Patricia’s attention to detail and lack of verbal communication skills helped enormously with the headache of constant entertaining incumbent upon vintners in the beginning of the New Administration. Using her IPhone and her enormous thumbs, Patricia was able to text instructions to household staff and suppliers. She handled guest lists and seating charts with aplomb. She listened to bubble gum chewing, bespandexed wait staff, Rolex-wearing congress people, and senatorial mistresses taking selfies with entrees and she rabbited on. Sleek, successful, multi-talented, Patricia was known to her guests as an appreciative listener any language: Russian, Chinese, Tagalog. Everyone agreed she was a gem.

The guests on the evening in questionwere equally divided. The women and non-binary identifying others who weren’t Buddhists were all health-obsessed foodies. The men wanted their steaks huge and their Chivas aged. Menus were carefully planned to please both factions: guacamole burgers, dairy-free, ginger-spice pancakes, quinoa taco salad and sides of beef so rare they were still mooing.

The men gathered outside around the swimming area, its Olympic sized pool filled each morning by the Inuit pool boy with fresh water from Alaskan fields of melting glaciers. They talked of things they never mentioned when the women were around. Warren, sucking on his Bourbon and branch, said he’d paid $635 million in taxes over the last 18 years.

“Yeah,” said Boone, “But you haven’t paid a cent for the last three! Have you?”

Warren, unwilling to engage with Boone over such a small detail, swallowed slowly and said it was because he was paying down debt.

“But the good part is,” said Sam, “That we’re still getting $750 a month from Social Security!”

Everyone laughed as Warren went off for another round of drinks. They had all voted for the New President and they were all happy that hardheaded businessmen were now in control.

With the men in the swimming area, the women gathered in the living room. Bathed in the scent of tuberoses and the recorded strains of Phillip Glass on the sound system, they talked of blockades that made leaving their houses untenable, and of the difficulty of getting good help.

They had all had their housekeeping problems:Xochitl, who wanted to use Nadine’s inside toilet instead of the pit behind the kennels in back. Vladimir, who Heather caught stealing a loaf of bread.

“We had them whipped, of course,” said the ladies, “And we would have sent them back if they had survived.”

The women, eyes alight, leaned into the discussion, eagerly arguing the benefits and drawbacks of waterboarding versus electric shock versus execution and speedy replacement.

“But you seem to have done so well with your help, Patty” said Lisette, accepting a mock crab cake from the Slovenian waitress who offered it up on a silver tray. “How do you do it?”

Patricia smiled wiping her thumbs on the waitress’ hair-bow before beginning her text.

When she’d finished, she held her screen up for all to see. It said: “Window of Opportunity”

Window of Opportunity. What could it mean? How could it have anything to do with their constant problems of staffing their homes?

A Mayan man, whose loincloth left little to the imagination, served iced fruit water.

“Window of Opportunity,” said Lisette, nodding wisely. “Of course…”

Lisette had studied history. She was the only one of the women who had, so it fell to her to explain.

“Once upon a time, when the Jewish People ruled Jerusalem, there was a room in the Temple called ‘The Chamber of Secret Gifts.’ The wealthydonated money there and poor people from good families received it and were able to live. When the Temple was destroyed, so was the Chamber.

“Today, because we have so many poor people and such a need for hope, theAdministration hasmodernizedthe concept. We call it ‘The Window of Opportunity’ now. I ‘m sure you’ve seen it. There’s one in every town. Here in Edina it’s on Vernon Avenue, just west of the highway. Don’t you read theTweets, ladies?”

There was mumbling.

“Anyway,” Lisette continued, “Once a month if you’re from a good family, you can come to the Window and get whatever you need. The little-known fact is that we can collect anybody we want from The Window, take them to the stable door, drive a nail through their ear, and they’re ours for the next half century.

“Sweet, isn’t it?”

 

Under the Bus

In each generation there is one righteous person worthy of being the Messiah.

Not a topic Sisika thought about. She had no need for a Messiah because, from the earliest time she could remember, her every wish had been granted. Her bodyguards ran to fix her Teddy bear when its arm came off in the playground. Her nanny whisked away her underwear each evening and the laundress brought it back the next morning fresh, clean, and ironed. Her room smelled like clean linen. Her bureau drawers smelled of lavender.

At thirteen, she’d reached her adult height of 5’6″. She was a perfect size 4. Her posture was regal, her hair artfully highlighted. She whitened her teeth over her marble sink. She rinsed with cool, clear water from her golden faucet.

She was home schooled. Special tutors paid particular attention to preparing her for her role in the Family Business. By the time she was fifteen, she spoke six languages perfectly. She was thoughtful. She was kind. She was diplomatic. She was her father’s darling and her mother’s bête noire.

During a field trip in middle school, she met Harold, the darkly handsome Treasurer of his senior class. They fell in love. Not instantly, of course. There were obstacles. His family was as wealthy, powerful and tightknit as her family. Their money came from similar sources; fossil fuel mining, witness tampering and tax evasion, but his family was Jewish. Very Jewish. Orthodox, in fact. And they wouldn’t hear of their only son marrying outside the faith.

Sisika’s family weren’t thrilled with the concept of Harold as a son-in-law either, but the global benefits of a link with Harold’s family seemed worth the effort, so her father and his current wife struggled through Sisika’s, two years of conversion study with the Republican Rabbi on the Upper East Side. They installed a separate kosher kitchen in the penthouse at the Tower. They made due with Sisika taking Shabbos off from work even though it killed them to do so. They hosted Sisika and Harold’s wedding, which was HUGE. They gritted their teeth through their grandson’s bris. But they got on with it and Sisika took her place in the Family Business. Eventually she and Harold became tireless campaigners for, then trusted advisors to her father who, in turn, became the New President.

Before her Dad’s first hundred days in office, Sisika began to see trouble in paradise. The press refused to call her by her Hebrew name. She dressed modestly, but her Rabbi took issue with her visiting the Vatican. The pressure of business and her father’s constant need of her made it more and more difficult to escape her little office in the White House before sundown on Friday to go to the mikvah, then to synagogue, then to host Friday night dinner for her closest friends, then to have sex with Harold.

On Sunday morning, she would start her week in Palm Beach having brunch with her Dad and perhaps a Chinese Prime Minister or a Russian billionaire or a sheik from Qatar. She enjoyed these Sunday mornings. But she enjoyed the time she spent alone on the golf course with her father even more. It was there, on the green that she would share her deepest thoughts and feelings about the world and he would tell her that they were making HUGE progress together. He said “Great going.” He said, “Keep up the good fight.” So Sisika felt sure that, maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but maybe someday there would be change. Harold didn’t agree, but Harold wasn’t as close to her Dad as she was, so she kept at it.

In the fourth month of the New Administration’s tenure, on the eve of a giant vote to eliminate all federal and state taxes, the New President flew to Minneapolis-St. Paul International, debarked, and boarded the bulletproof Town Car that would drive him to the rally in St. Louis Park..

Five minutes into the trip, Sisika left the car to use the restroom at the Super America Gas and Convenience Store off 494. She peed quickly. When she travelled with her father she never wore underwear. It slowed things down and infuriated him. She was gone for three minutes and forty-five seconds.

On her way back, she saw the town car taking off without her. She ran to it, but the child lock was on and the door wouldn’t open. She could see her Dad through the window. He was lighting one of his Cuban cigars. She screamed, but the driver floored the gas, knocked her down, ran over her, and dragged her struggling body over the rime ice by her Kelly bag which was stuck under the rear wheel. They’d gone three blocks before the bag gave out.

David Orlovsky, a small pudgy man with thick glasses and a close-cropped, salt and pepper beard, was out for his daily walk when he found her. It was almost noon. He carried her to his tiny, ramshackle house on Gorham Avenue, removed her clothes, cleaned, and dressed her cuts, wounds and abrasions, put her to bed, and set about making broth for when she regained consciousness. She had a collapsed lung, a broken clavicle, ten cracked ribs and internal bleeding. She’d lost a couple of teeth. Her hair was a mess.

Behind his glasses, David’s eyes were blue, the color of sea glass. His brows knit together. He was worried. He didn’t know who his patient was or what had happened to her, but he knew she was in trouble. He’d been a doctor back in the day, but, when the health care system failed and the hospital closed, he’d fallen on hard times. And so had his family.

 

Soup

In each generation there is one righteous person worthy of being the Messiah.

When the Messiah comes, good things will be easily available to everyone. There will be no poverty, no war, no hardships, no reason for jealousy or competition and no boredom.

Everything anyone needs will be quickly and easily available.

Such was not the case in the Orlovsky household in the fourth month of the New Administration. The soup was strange. It was grey. Sisika hated it.

“What’s in this?” she asked.

“Crickets,” said David. She spat it out.

“Crickets?”

“It’s an acquired taste,” he said. “High protein. Low fat. No gluten.”

Elisheva, a tall, plain woman wearing a tichel and what appeared to be rags took up the thread.

“We ran out of krill three weeks ago. We haven’t seen meat since the plant closed.” She took the soup from Sisika and laid the bowl on the counter.

The room smelled moldy, with touches of wet dog. It was difficult to make out the furniture by the scant light of the kerosene lamp, but she could see Elisheva and David sitting on low stools near her cot.

“Who are you?” she asked. “Where am I?”

“You’re in Minnesota. We’re friends. You’re going to be fine.”

Everything hurt. It was hard to breathe.

The questions came thick and fast now.

“Where’s my bag? My cell phone? My Father?

“Shhh” said David quietly putting his index finger to his lips.

Sisika hated being shushed. She struggled into a sitting position and tried to get out of bed.

“I have to get back to Him. He needs me.”

“What you need now is rest,” said Elisheva, her deep, warm voice encouraging Sisika to lie back down.

“But my kids…Harold…You don’t understand. They’ll be looking for me. I have to tell them where I am.”

“We’re off the grid here, hun,” said David. “We can look for your family once you’re stronger. Right now, the most important thing you can do is sleep.”

And because she was exhausted, Sisika slept. She slept for two days waking only to use the chamber pot and sip at the soup.

David and Elisheva kept watch, cleaned her wounds, combed her hair, applied compresses where needed, gathered crickets and made more soup. It was all they had and all they could do so they were very good at it.

On Thursday, they sent their son Hermes to Edina to find out what they could about Sisika. To see if her family was looking for her. To suss out some news. To see if they could help.

And they talked.

It had been three days now and Elisheva was at her wits end. For a woman who was not usually tense, she was tight as a kite string in a high wind.

“We can’t keep her here. There’s no room. What will we feed her?”

“We’ll find something, “said David, ever the calm one. “Maybe there’s a reward.”

“Reward, shmeward. There’s nothing to buy. What would we do with the money?”

“Maybe the reward isn’t money.”

“My mother was right. I shouldn’t have married you. You’re a putz.”

At that moment, as though scripted, the door flew open revealing their son, their only son, who they loved, out of breath, dripping with sweat. He was so winded he could barely get the words out.

“She’s the President’s daughter. Sisika! She’s…the…President’s…daughter! They’re talking about it all over Edina.”

His parents were speechless.

The boy went on: “The tweet said ‘She was abducted by aliens. Sad.’ It’s all over the news.”

And as if that were not enough, he continued, “Harold is sitting shiva for her. The kids are with the nanny.”

Having said his piece, Hermes leaned against the now closed door and slumped to the floor.

“There’s not going to be a reward,” said David.

“Maybe,” said Elisheva but the sun had set and it was time for the shema so they said their prayers and despite the fact that they asked for a night of tranquil slumber, all three of them had the same troubling dream.

In it, the New President had fired the entire White House advisory staff. He was alone in the Oval Office, in his bathrobe, watching Cable News and playing with the buttons beneath his executive desk. One button rang for his attendant who brought in a frosty can of Diet Coke. The other button, was wired to send air-to-surface missiles directly to downtown Tehran. The dream ended with the presidential attendant on her knees praying the President would just continue to hit the beverage button.

Thursday dawned clear and cool with sun glinting off the pavement in front of the house. It was still dank inside with a chill in the air, but the family, all three of them, were gathered close around Sisika’s cot. Hermes saw that she’d opened her eyes, but it was David who spoke.

“Don’t try to get up hun,’ he said. “We have news of your family…”

Sisika leaned forward, her eyes wide. She gasped with the pain of trying to move.

“So we’re afraid they’re not coming for you, then.”

“That can’t be right….I have to call them…they’ll come for me, I know they will.”

“I’m afraid not, hun. Your Dad’s announced that you’ve been abducted by aliens. The country thinks you’re dead.”

Chas v’shalom,” said Sisika, so quietly it was almost a whisper. She’d never said chas v’shalom before and wasn’t sure she knew exactly what it meant. It meant, “G-d forbid.”

It was Elisheva’s turn to speak. “Shall we try to reach him? Tell him you’re here? Tell him you’re safe?”

Sisika was crying now. Tears rolling slowly down her cheeks. “Probably not,” she said, “He hates being contradicted. He’s very fragile.”

Hermes brought her soup.

“You rest now, hun. No worries. We’ll take care of you.”

Baruch HaShem,” said Sisika, “Thank G-d,” and a warm light flooded the room.

 

Newcomers

In each generation, there is one righteous person worthy of being the Messiah:a normal human being, born of human parents.

It is possible that the Messiah is already born.

It is also possible that the Messiah will be one of the 36 hidden saints on which the continued existence of the world depends.

Shmuely, Yossel, and Ben-Tzion were the first to arrive. They met at 3:00 PM on Monday afternoon at Elijah’s Cup in St. Louis Park. They’d spent the last twenty years living in caves. Each of them had travelled a long, long way to get to Minnesota.

Shmuely came from New Mexico on foot. Shlomo hitchhiked from Arizona. Yossel made the journey from China in less than 72 hours. Some say HaShem shortened his trip in honor of the Holy Fathers. Others say that’s nonsense. And if you want to know where Ben-Tzion came from, you’ll have to ask him.

Despite the fact that they had never met, the men recognized each other by their clothing, their Yiddish accents, and the fact that they all had beards down to theirpupiks. They looked like 18thcentury Russian merchants. The women, Devora, Penina, Yael, and Soshana, joined them on Wednesday morning; they were young,zaftig, and modestly dressed. They wore thick stockings and kerchiefs to cover their hair. They too had lived in caves.

In the time of the New President, it was not unusual. The Newcomers had moved into caves since 1997 when the ultra-rich became landlords. Rentals reached $3,000 a month for an unfurnished studio in a rundown, walk-up building in a sketchy neighborhood like Dinkytown. And that was a bargain.

After twenty years of cave dwelling, what the Newcomers lacked most, in addition to money and a place to live in St. Louis Park, was grace. Unused to traffic, they jaywalked constantly and were just as constantly pulled out of oncoming traffic by well-meaning bystanders. They were spooked by the sound of car horns. They wouldn’t make eye contact. Poodles frightened them. They were clumsy. They tripped over things. They crashed into people and into each other. They never looked where they were going because they were always reading.

The women read just above a whisper. The men mumbled to themselves while they were reading. The only time they didn’t read was when they were fighting. They fought constantly. They fought about the Talmud. They fought about the hidden meanings in The Ethics of the Fathers. They even fought about what Moshe said to Miriam when she told him to get back together with Tzippora. They didn’t fight quietly, either. They yelled. They waved their arms. If there was a table handy, they pounded on it. When the yelling stopped and they had come to some agreement with each other, they stroked their beards and nodded their heads and went out for a walk with their hands clasped behind their backs. The men did, at least. The women didn’t argue. They prayed. They recited Psalms. Then they prayed some more.

There were only seven Newcomers, but it seemed like there were many more because they were so different from the Minnesotans, so intrusively humble, so concentratedly reverent. So clumsy.

Sisika had been in bed for three weeks when they arrived. She’d rested. She’d healed. She was ready for company so she walked past Starbuck’s and past The Kosher Spot directly to Elijah’s Cup where the Newcomers were gathered. She knew the men wouldn’t acknowledge her, so she asked David and Hermes to talk to them while she and Elisheva made friends with the women. And then, much to Elisheva’s dismay, Sisika invited all seven of them to the Orlovsky’sforShabbos.

“There’s no room,” said Elisheva. Room was a big thing with her.

“G-d will provide,” said David.

“Hummmph,” said Elisheva walking ahead of the group with Hermes to get a head start on gathering the crickets they’d need to feed all these Chasidim.

Themannarrived early Thursday morning, wrapped in dew. It was pearly and solid and had the consistency of warmhalvah. There were eleven packets of it. One for each of the Orlovskys (David, Elisheva, and Hermes) and eight, one each for Sisika and the Newcomers. Hermes discovered it on his way to the corner to empty his chamber pot. Leaving the pot where it lay, he ran back inside.

“Get up! Get up! You have to see this,” he said, waking the rest of the household and rushing everyone out the door.

“Look!” said David, pointing to themann​.

“Hummmph” said Elisheva, but she was mystified and grateful. They all were. So mystified and so grateful that they fell to their knees and gave thanks for such wondrous works of creation.

The nice thing about mannwas, not only that there would be enough food for everybody and that they wouldn’t have to eat crickets, but thatitwas a heavenly food that tasted like exactly what each one of them wanted to eat. To Shmuely it was crispy roast chicken. To Yael it was Kugel. To Ben-Tzion it was brisket. To Sisika, it was wine.

The Newcomers arrived an hour before sundown. They brought a table big enough for all of them and a mismatched collection of chairs that they’d found who knows where. Yosel tripped over the threshold scraping both knees on the lino. Devora and Penina collided with each other while carrying trays of plates and glasses and broke everything. Shlomo got his belt caught in the door and twisted his rotator cuff trying to get free.

The more guests arrived, the more room there was in the house, so by eighteen minutes before sunset they were all comfortably situated, standing in a semi-circle, ready to light candles and pray for a blessed and peaceful Shabbat.

Which is when Carl Hansson burst in, demanding the rent.

 

The Move/The Tower

In each generation, there is one righteous person worthy of being the Messiah.

According to the Talmud, the Messiah will come when one generation is either wholly innocent or wholly guilty.

By June, the New First Lady and the pre-pubescent New First Son, had been prisoners in New York, in the Tower, for almost six months and they had had just about enough. The traffic police and national security detail were only part of the problem. The paparazzi and the tourists taking selfies in the Food Court with plates of “The New President’s Mother’s Meatloaf” accounted for another. No one from the building could leave except by the 56th Street entrance, which was closed to traffic so if you sent the cook to Whole Foods on Madison and 57th, she’d have to schlepp the bags back like a Sherpa without benefit of car, bicycle, or taxi.

Getting her Son home-schooled by tutors from the private school he attended, when he was just a normal billionaire’s kid, was one solution. Unfortunately, the tutors didn’t have any easier a time getting into the building than the staff had getting out of it.

Security checks were constant. Traffic outside the building crawled. Tired of being frisked, jostled, and photographed, the tutors stopped coming.

Without tutorial help, the First Lady was at a loss to guide her child through the most rudimentary New Math homework. And English? Forget about it. She’d tried to write a book report for him but it was copied verbatim from the Book Review in the Times. His teacher sold it to the Enquirer.

Television news was awful, too. If people weren’t picking on the New President, there were news outlets yelling at other news outlets that were picking on them.

The New First Lady’s practical response to bad news was to have all electronic devices removed from the house. She disconnected the telephones and disabled the modem. She left only the red phone in case something dreadful should happen.

There being no news in the house, she turned to literature. Reading was not her strong suit. Anything more complicated than Vague or Vanity Fare was too complicated. So, a hundred and thirty-five days into the New Administration, wracked with boredom and unwilling to face another meal of chopped salad and San Pellegrino®, the New First Lady picked up a #2 pencil and a yellow pad and began writing her memoir. In her loopy, backward slanting script, it went like this:

“Ve vere poor. Lived in shack owned by goat herders. Ate dirt ven ve had it. Vasn’t often ve had dirt. Ven ve did, vas a celebrayshun. Dirt! Ve’d scream. Dirt!

“Eleven brodders. Six seesters. All brodders vent in army and died. All seesters became hookers. I didn’t vant be hooker. I vanted bedder. I vanted to be Escort. So dat’s vat I became.

“Vork vas easy. Show up. Take off close. Not rocket science. But den I taught, ‘make more money vid geemick.’ Spacialty. Like doctors.

“Being hit vit sock full ov lemons vas uncomfortable. I didn’t like. Besides, vas boring: Drink Red Bull®. Get hit vit sock. Rinse. Repeat. All time same. All time small money. Agency gives room at Riz Carlton and Red Bull, but not more.

“So I taught: “Do someting else.” Red Bull® helped new spacialty. Soon I vas turning Red Bull® to gold. Veee! Vork easy and, tru miracle ov nature, I meet Him.

“Not so goot-looking. Strange hair. Wery small hands. But He said He vas YUGE. Vorth $40 Billion dollars, U.S. Told me Himself. Many times. Grabbed pussy. I peed on Him. Rest is History.”

It took The New First Lady two weeks to write that much. Unable to figure out how to tackle anything more, she put down her pencil and went to play Go Fish® with her son and the housekeeper.

Since she’d banned communication from the outside world, she had no idea that her stepdaughter had been abducted by aliens or that her husband was alone in the Oval Office drinking Diet Coke® and eating chocolate cake flown in from his Golf Club in Florida.

The latest Tweets were worrisome, too. “RUMPT!” “MURPT!!” “PUTRM!!!” The CIA was trying to decode them, but so far had gotten nowhere. It was obvious the New President was deteriorating. The problem was that he was deteriorating faster than the country could lower its standards.

The red phone rang in the Tower. It was Bob, the White House Chief Usher.

“We need you,” he said.

“Vat?” she replied.

“It’s bad,” he said. “You’re the only one who can help.”

So the New First Lady and the First Son elbowed their way through the crowds surrounding the Tower, and moved to the White House.

 

Shabbos

In each generation, there is one righteous person worthy of being the Messiah.

It is said that the Messiah will not come on Shabbat.

There are thirty-nine categories of work observant Jews refrain from doing on the Sabbath. Not listed among them, but certainly respected as subcategories, are the prohibitions against anger and worry.

Yet here was Carl Hanssen, tycoon, vintner, bon vivant standing at the now open door, red faced, weaving a little, insisting on payment of rent the Orlovsky’s were certain they did not owe.

It should be mentioned, that Shabbos is a day so precious, so extraordinary that it pretty much defies definition. Suffice to say that after six days of toil in the material world, all Sabbath-observant Jews return to the Celestial Palace and wrap themselves in a sense of complete and unutterable peace.

Shabbos begins with the lighting of two candles which make up for Eve’s mistakes in the Garden of Eden and symbolize the unity of all things: man and woman, body and soul, speech and silence, creation and revelation, while fulfilling the Commandment to remember the day and keep it holy.

So now, with two minutes left before candle-lighting and ushering in the weekly taste of Messianic life, here was Hanssen, slumlord manqué, messing around with it.

Elisheva, a woman of valor and mistress of the house, did the only thing she could do under the circumstances. She pulled David aside, unlit match still in her hand, and whispered to him.

Nu? Go deal with him!”

“What’s to deal? We can’t pay him. He’s drunk. If he hits me I’m a dead man.”

Shah. Stil. Give him your kippah and invite him to dinner.”

So, reluctantly but obediently, David removed his fur trimmed shtreimel hat, took off his skullcap, replaced his hat, gave the yarmulke to Hanssen and invited him to dinner.

Candles were lit. The prayer was said. The Orlovsky residence was transformed from a humiliatingly humble apartment in St. Louis Park, Minnesota to the candle-lit dining room of the Celestial Palace.

The aroma of fresh-baked challah and roast chicken filled the air. The table was set with a white linen cloth, fine china, and elegant silverware. And all around, and all above, and all below, and all through everything, there was an all-embracing sense of Shabbos peace.

Hanssen, still drunk and still standing, realized he was in alien territory. Men with big black hats and long beards wore satin gabardines. Their braided belts separated their upper and lower bodies. They bowed forward and back and to each of the compass points, acknowledging the presence of the Master of the Universe who existed tangibly for them everywhere.

The women, bustling now to set the table with salads and nuts and wine and delicacies, wore simple silk dresses that concealed them modestly, from neck to wrist to ankle. Ingeniously tied scarves covered their hair. They made no eye contact with the men or with Hanssen. He’d never seen anything like it.

So amazing was the scene he found himself in, that he almost forgot he was here to collect the rent. And he almost forgot he was entitled to rent from the Orlovskys because, when the Muslim congressman from the Fifth District was deported, all property St. Louis Park was awarded to its wealthiest residents. In this case, Carl and Patricia Hanssen.

After David had blessed his son, and the men at the table had praised the women for their virtues, and the blessing over the wine had been recited, and the bread had been blessed, broken, dipped in salt, and thrown to each person at the table, Carl noticed that he was sober enough to anticipate the meal.

Bowls of golden chicken soup, platters of poached salmon with chickpeas in red sauce, terrines of lamb-stuffed green peppers, spinach salad with pomegranate seeds, eggplant and tomato stew, basmati rice, roast asparagus, mushroom bourekas.

You’ll remember, of course, that this meal was courtesy of the heavenly mann, the miraculous food that fell in a double portion every Friday and sustained the Jews for the forty years they spent in the desert. A wonderful, holy food with a hundred million flavors, and for this particular Shabbos, the Orlovskys, Sisika, and each of the Newcomers shared their portion of mann willingly with Hanssen and asked him to sing along with the 3/4-time songs that accompanied the meal.

When the evening was over and they had said the Grace After Meals, David and Hermes, knowing it’s a sin to let a guest leave unaccompanied, accompanied Hanssen up the road until he begged them not to go any further.

He blessed his hosts before taking his leave and, brushing crumbs of poppy seed cookie off his vest, turned to David and said:

“Remember! You still owe me the rent.”

“He’s serious, right?” said Hermes.

“Apparently.” Said David.

And, since it was Shabbos, and since for this day, they were commanded to avoid anger and worry, they walked home to the sound of their own strong voices singing: ya – ya – na – na – yaya – na – na – yaya – na – na – yaya, the wordless niggun with the power to open the gates of heaven.

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Ms. Maclay is the author of “Beginner’s Guide to Death, Dying and Incapacitation in Oaxaca,” and three other published works of non-fiction.  She lives in Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico.


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