Vil’amsburg Diaries: Evening Noises
I enter our apartment. It’s noisy as hell, the same noises every evening. Koiles ivrukim. Children squabbling, Breindy yelling, the vacuum cleaner roaring, kids making milkshakes in the blender and spilling half of it on the counters and the kitchen floor. Somehow I always end up in the middle of it. It’s so noisy that I often prefer shul over this noise. This is my noise. I have to take care of it. The Shul’s noises belong to the individuals there; they’re not my problems.
Today Kivi is sulking. He looks so sad. He made a paper crown in cheider. A naa’se ve’nishma crown. Two little crowns stuck on one larger crown that adorns his head. The naa’se is broken, and hangs down loosely. Five-year-olds take these things seriously. Too seriously. Sheindy tried to help him but she only made matters worse. Now Sheindy is upset too.
Yoily needs me to farher him. He can recite the whole mishneh by heart. Maybe even two mishnehs. I was good at reciting mishnehs too. He must have gotten that from me. He’ll bring me nachas. Even his English teacher called him “conscientious.” It’s one of those long words that goyim use. The teacher is not a goy, but he speaks a good English. He sometimes uses words that I have to ask Breindy what they mean.
“What does one have to do when traveling on an ass and he needs to daven?” I ask him. He gives me all the scenarios as taught in the mishneh. He understands them too. Soon it will be time for me to go daven. The evening prayers, then the daily shi’er. I don’t have patience for the shi’er, I don’t have much patience to farher the kids either. They don’t realize how hard I work. How badly I need the peace when I come home. Even Breindy doesn’t realize. She says she works hard too – as a housewife. It’s true. She prepares delicious meals every day. She even has the meshigas to prepare different dishes for the kids who don’t like this or don’t like that. It’s crazy. My mother made us eat what she liked. What kind of a world do we now live in? Her mother was like that too. May she rest in peace.
I step outside to go for minche-maariv. The air is crisp. The vapor coming from my breath in the cold air reminds me of smoke. I long to smoke. I used to smoke real Marlboros – not the fake ones the new generation smokes. Lights shmights. A pack a day I used to smoke. Thank God, I got rid of the addiction. A shikse is walking kind of aimlessly next to me. She’s tall. Very tall. Shikses can be like that. She’s looking at me. Why? I look away. She’s good looking for a shikse. But nothing beats a real heimisher vaibel. Look at Cha-Layeh, she can take on any shikse. They moved into our neighborhood for some reason. We built them those weird “lofts” and now we complain. I have the right to complain, I never made money off these shapeless buildings. These goyim, they live without window shades, one can look in and see everything. Disgraceful. And now they are but a few blocks away.
The shul is warm. It’s always warm. In the summertime, the air conditioner doesn’t cool it, and in the winter it is overheated. I don’t care, it’s better than the cold. Especially in the winter. People are praying inside, so the schmoozers gather in the hallway, the pulish. Berel is there. He’s always there. They are discussing the latest news. The government wants to execute a heimshe guy in Florida. Berel is one of these aufgeklerte. He thinks that the government shouldn’t be in the business of killing. He must get these liberal meshigasen from the radio shows. Wait until it happens to him, God forbid. We’ll see how he’ll want to kill the perpetrator. On the opposing side is another youngster, whose name I don’t know. He is Luzer’s eidem. Married his second daughter. An eidem a shtick shver. Loud and obnoxious. He thinks the guy should be killed for his actions, and I stare at him in amazement. Has he no feelings for a fellow Jew? We have to stick with our own in this country. It’s not our country. We are only guests here. We should ban the radio once and for all, it gives people the wrong ideas.
At the shi’er I hear a good vort on the parsha. This week’s torah portion deals with the laws governing inter-human relationships. “And these are the laws that you shall set for them,” it starts. Among other things, it tells us how to deal humanely with slaves. I will never forget the hole-in-the-ear-thing that a slave gets for wanting to remain a slave. When I was seven or eight, maybe nine, my rebbe in cheider beat me. I was horrified by the thought of blood streaming from the poor man’s ear that I forgot to put my finger on the verse that the rebbe was reciting. Oy, he beat me senseless. Daydreaming got me in the most trouble.
The vort is truly amazing. It brings to light the fundamental difference between Jews and Gentiles. The basic goyishe laws all deal with “rights.” One has a right to bear arms, free speech, to this, to that, and to everything else. There’s even a right to happiness in the Constitution. It’s true. Suri once talked about it at the Shabbos table. She had an assignment in which she had to write about it. They waste the kids’ time in school with these things, if you ask me.
By us yidden the laws are all about what we shouldn’t do upon others. It’s not about rights. A Jew has no rights. We have obligations. We have an obligation to treat others with respect and so on.
“It’s an amazing vort,” I tell Breindy later, but she’s too tired to listen. She’s always too tired to listen.Printable Version