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The epitome of Rosh Hashanah, new beginnings

Illustration by Denis Shifrin

I passed by Dean & DeLuca's, where I had severed ties that very morning. An immigrant from Asia had been ahead of me, and she struggled to find the right change. The cashier showed his annoyance and impatience when he snapped, "Why don't you go back to your own country, or learn English."

Those in line winced with righteous indignation, but I became the lone advocate.

"Hey, just because years of training at the acting academy have brought you to this moment - an unemployed actor waiting tables at a pedigreed coffee shop - I want you to apologize to this woman, or I am never setting foot in this store again."

I actually wanted to tweak his nipple ring, but instead, I asked to speak to the manager. I was borrowing a phrase from my own epitaph, "I want to speak to the manager. RIP. Give it a rest, already." He smirked. He was the manager.

I was now on the street, looking for a more civilized coffee shop, but nevertheless suffering from symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. People had gotten off work early because tonight was Rosh Hashanah. I passed by a street vendor who sold earrings. There was a pair of golden angels, sitting on ersatz pearls, so whimsical, so delicate. I bought them with a prayer. And $20, too. "Please Hashem, bring my beshert this year."

I was supposed to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Virginia Beach for the holiday. I didn't want to go to my childhood synagogue, and play "one-upmanship" with Joey Silverman or Joannie Lieberman. But, as Hashem would have it, plans were cancelled last minute, and I quickly bought flowers for my mother's table. I was going home...

The next morning, I woke up late for synagogue. I quickly had a cup of my dad's great percolated Chock Full of Something coffee and I put on my metaphysical sandwich sign: NO JOB, NO BOYFRIEND, DON'T ASK.
The rabbi's sermon was being given, and I was forced to stay behind the windowed door. I spied a man sitting there, whom I had never seen before. I knew everyone from 7 to 70, and he was the lone exception. I caught my father's frown, gesturing with his watch, and I pulled away from his gaze. Suddenly, the doors opened, and I decided to sit next to this mystery man. But, he was called up to the bima* for an aliyah*. I made one with the wall, to see where he was going to sit.

Finally, he sat down, and Shashi made her move, with a subtle dash of breath deadener. I smiled, he smiled. As a matter of fact, the whole congregation smiled. We spoke in hushed, but excited undertones. He was Israeli, every Jewish mother's nightmare, with its only antidote known to Jewish womanhood - "money in the Pushke - for the relationship to end." My dating background looked like an entire JNF forest, somewhere in Jerusalem, commemorating the end to the Avi years, the Gilad years and finally, BH, the Gavriel years. However, by the end of our whispers and gestures, we agreed to meet that evening. Actually, it was a misinterpretation. I said that I had to go into the city to see a show for my boss, who was a casting agent. He took that as an invitation, and solemnly said, "I think I can make it."

When the service was over, we shook hands; his being a wet paw. However, two hands clenched in a handshake over our heads, and Judy Lieberman yelled, "It's a shidduch!*" For those of you who missed the cartoon, "Roadrunner", think of a puff of smoke in lieu of a Jewish goodbye, and that was Yacov's hasty departure.

Later, at my parents' home, the phone rang. My mother answered it. Her dangling cigarette rippled, as she handed the phone to me. "It's your boyfriend"

That night, Yacov met me at the bus stop in New York, an Israeli with a suit and tie, the ultimate oxymoron. We went to an off-off-off-off-Broadway theater, which was converted from someone's living room, the size of a closet, on the Lower East Side. One more "off," and the boxes we sat on would have had splinters. It was an absurdist production of "Uncle Vanya," and by intermission, I wanted to leave a cake for Aunt Vanya and get out of there.

Yacov was very polite, well-mannered and soft-spoken. After the show, we had coffee and cake. The real deciding factor came, along with the check. Unflinchingly, he took it, never even entertaining the idea that we would split it, which would have been the split apart. One thing I cannot bear is the accounting of the check. It is an anti-icebreaker, like the Titanic. Kills the ambiance, and leaves you afloat in the after-date abyss. But, he walked me to the bus station, put me on the bus and kissed me lightly on my forehead.

We saw each other every day after work. We went to a cafe, ate and talked, he always picking up the tab. We fit like a glove – not the forced fit that OJ wore, but a nice, easy, flowing fit like a sunburn kind.

My mom, quick to pick up on the fact that I never seemed to be home, offered an invitation to the "boyfriend". Since his English was just recently acquired, I realized that Yacov did a direct translation, boy friend. He accepted, but my mom warned me that he would have to be here, promptly at 6, before Yom Kippur began.

6:01: My mom's cigarette began divining, ever so slightly, for water. By 6:10, it had struck an oil geyser. My mom was wearing a very festive muu muu, and with the flick of an ash, announced it was time for us to sit down for dinner. Her eyes arched, lips pinched, soup ladle poised, I realized she was having a mental "talk" with my new suitor. At 6:30, the bell rang. My mom stood at the door with fists on both hips, gearing up for the blow-out at the OK Corral. Yacov appeared. Suit, tie, flowers and oriental vase. The taxi had left him at "the other side of town," and he blindly found his way to our home, albeit late, but laden with gifts.

My mom appraised him with arched eyebrow: "You don't want to have any soup do ya!" He stood there, stunned and out of breath. I became Wyatt Burp. "Of course, he does." The ladle went into the soup, begrudgedly, but without a single carrot.

On July 31, we will have been married 20 years. We have two children and a dog, all adopted. I still have my lucky earrings, and my husband can double-dip in the soup tureen, without authorization. This was the epitome of Rosh Hashanah, of new beginnings. 



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Thursday, 07 December 2023

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