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Entry 21 Dinner Guest
Aunt Aliza lectured me as she got dinner on the table. "...And Saturday night you'll have to look after Stasch."
"Aunt Aliza," I begged. "Joshua said I'm invited to the meeting on Saturday night."
"I know that Oisin, but you know that other little brothers and sisters will be there and some of them give Stasch no end of grief. You've heard him talk about it. It's tough for Stasch being away from his mom and growing up here on the wrong side of the tracks. He doesn't have your academic ambitions yet...."
Stasch was in the living room playing Legos and watching TV at the same time. Aunt Aliza caught her breath just as dad came through the door. "Whew...smells good..." he said.
"It's lamb and it's gross," Stasch offered his opinion.
"That boy would starve if you didn't cook special for him," siged dad.
"That boy would run the house and he's not gonna."
"I can use this break. We have six night runs."
"I'm sorry. I got dinner started early and we're still eating late. I know it's a zoo down there."
My parents (Well, Aunt Aliza is my stepmother so she is a parent of a sort.) always loved to talk business. "Not your fault, Alize. The orders came in around 2pm. I know you were up here, but you know what it's been like this afternoon. We can't complain. It's how we make money."
My dad smiled. He sat at the table which I was supposed to be setting. I went back to setting it since I had paused for a "lecture break," when we all heard the noise. It was a loud pop.
"What the fuck is that!" exclaimed dad so Aunt Aliza did not have to curse.
Dad pushed open the door and I followed him or at least tried to, but he told me to stay back. I could see the tail lights of the old clunker stranded in the alley. Dad walked up to the car. The driver got out. He was taller than dad but only by a couple of inches and had a full head of brownish hair and a beard and mustache. There was something white sticking out of his shirt though I couldn't tell all that much in the dark.
"Can I help you?" my dad asked in a tone that was not all that helpful.
"I just blew a tire," explained the visitor.
"In my alley?" asked dad.
"Seems that way," the stranger answered.
"Well, I guess you need to get a spare on and get the tire fixed."
"I don't have a spare," the stranger explained.
"What about your doughnut?"
"No doughnut. I was just hoping not to run over any sharp objects. Tonight, my luck ran out."
"That's fucking smart."
"It is when you're broke," commented the stranger. "Look can I hide my car behind your store until pay day? I'll even give you something for the parking space."
"You have a lot of nerve!" my father said.
"You're right," the stranger answered, "but I have no money and I have to have something. What's a poor man to do?"
"Run his mouth," my dad said shrugging. "Put the car in the back and I won't charge you. When's pay day?"
"Two weeks from now, between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur."
"There's no synagogue's here," said my dad acidly.
"Since when that stop a person from believing?"
"Greenup is the wrong town for Orthodox Jews."
"There's no such thing as an Orthodox Jew. There are Jews, period."
My dad snorted and then he called to me. All three of us pushed the poor Jewish man's car in to the back yard which is really a junk pit that we always say we'll clean up.
By now Aunt Aliza had turned on the porch light and come downstairs with Stasch. She looked over the stranger and stood there with her hand on her mouth. I wondered how she could know him. I knew the stranger of course, it was the security guard from South End Mall. He was the one with the strings sticking out of his shirt from his underware and a little round hat bobby pinned to his head so it wouldn't fall off. He was the guard who didn't chase Stasch and me out of the mall parking lot when we went to visit Steven over at the YGTA corral.
"How are you going to get to work?" I asked the stranger.
"I have a bike," he said.
"Cool!" I couldn't resist blurting out.
"We love bikes here," said Aunt Aliza who had dropped her hand from her mouth. "Bikes, kites, and all good stuff," she said.
The stranger laughed. Then he introduced himself: "I'm Naphtali Aviv."
"Are you a rabbi?" asked Aunt Aliza.
"As a matter of fact, yes," Naphtali answered.
"He's not a rabbi! He's a security guard!" Stasch blurted out.
"I'm a security guard and a rabbi. I have an ordination through Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. That makes my denomination conservative, but that's not important."
"You don't mind my asking what you are doing working as a security guard since you obviously don't have a schul?" asked my dad.
"My board of directors and congregation fired me."
"Why?" asked my dad.
"Enough," Aunt Aliza spoke up. "Rabbi Aviv, will you come and eat dinner with us. I just made a big pan of stuffed eggplant with lamb and rice and the lamb isn't kosher...I hope you don't mind."
"I would be honored," answered Rabbi Aviv and we all headed upstairs.
I put an extra place on the table and Aunt Aliza started getting dinner out. "Since you wanted to know why I got fired," said Naphtali Aviv, "I'm going to tell you. You don't have to keep it a secret. I'll give you the name and address of the synagogue. You can speak to their board of directors who will confirm everything I say though in far less flattering light.
"I was the rabbi to a conservative congregation on the outskirts of Kasnas City, Kansas. There are Jews everywhere. There are Jews here in Greenup because business is good and we need to make money. Our syngagoue back in Kansas City was in a downtown neighborhood on a main road. Behind the road the neighborhood was African American. Next to us was a thriving African American Protestant church of the kind called nondenominational. They built an addition to their building for basketball games and community events. It got kids off the street after school.
"Unfortunately, they took a tiny bit of the synagogue's land and the head of our Board of Directors, the ones responsible for hiring me wanted to go to court and sue. He also had some very ugly words for the congregation next door. Yes, rabbis can make their living bashing Christians especially working class Christians. I could have done it. I could have blessed the law suit and stood behind it.
"It would have been the wrong thing to do but I wuold have still had a job. Instead, I searched my heart and knew that the church next to us was doing more to repair the world, tikkun olam than we had done in the last five years and that is what I told the congregation. I asked the Head of the Board of Directors to drop his suit. He asked the other Directors not to renew my contract. I believe he is stabbing me in the back. It would not surprise me.
"I have thought about going to a fixer, the kind who always find rabbi's jobs, but I think I'd end up in the same situation with a small territorial congregation at the edge of the Jewish world. My wife who is now an exwife by the way disagreed. Thankfully we had no children and yes, it is thankfully since I'm in no shape to support them. I say, why use my clergy training as a spade to dig with? Why not use it where it is needed and make my living as an able bodied person should?"
Rabbi Aviv was out of steam. He did give my parents the particulars. My dad said if his story checked out, he had a friend who sold used tires who might be able to lend him a doughnut to get him down to his station come payday. Also, if the story checked out, Rabbi Abib was welcome to bring his bike by and have me look at it since I fix bikes.
After we got done eating, Rabbi Abib, took a small book out of his backpack. He had several copies of it. It was the grace after meals. Could a grace after meals take up a whole book? This one did and it went on and on but it read like poetry. I know because I read along. Near the end there is a quote: "Even young lions go hungry, but those who fear the Lord shall never want." I thought about that. I hope Rabbi Abib really is a rabbi working as a security guard. Aunt Aliza fed him last night so maybe he does fear the Lord as well.
And yes, I believe in God, but I don't know much about religion. I do believe in something more than bikes, kites, and all good stuff.