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A CHANUKAH LETTER FROM BOB KRAVITZ
(That Charles Dickens - he never could spell)
By Ted Roberts
110 Cheapside Lane
December 18, 1824
Dear Mum Kravitz,
What a Chanukah we've had! With the fire’s warmth working on the outside of me and a half pint of mulled wine doing the same inside, I’m as happy as the Lord Mayor of London. What more would a man want than a good wife - who makes the best latkes in London; and great kids, who unlike their pop, will end up more than a clerk. Smart kids, including Tiny Tim. And when I call him over to sit next to me, he straightways walks over. NO CRUTCH and NO LIMP. That’s the grandest Chanukah miracle of all. Beats that unlimited supply of Menorah oil, two millennia ago.
My employer, a Christian gent named Ebenezer Scrooge, you probably heard of. This fellow, Scrooge - my employer - was meaner than a green hickory switch. He was so hard-hearted and his reputation around town so black, that I wouldn’t be surprised if his name doesn’t work its way into the language as a synonym for a scrimping skinflint. His heart was nothing but a big, round shilling. Three crowns a week, he paid me. In at dawn, out when the streets were dark as himself. And two lumps of coal a day in the office grate. What could I do? I was only trained to be a junior clerk, which is a lot better than being an ex-junior clerk.
I tell you, Scrooge was a fire-breathing dragon most of the year, but on Chanukah, which unfortunately was about the same time as Christmas, he grew a second, scaly head. I don’t know what it was about Christmas that made him so miserable. I tried to stay out of his way, but every evev Chanukah I’d creep into his room to plead for at least one day off - that first day of the holiday. He’d be wrapped in his great coat, huddled over a single desk candle. He wanted me to beg. And beg I did. As humbly as a street urchin. And when he yielded - as though it was his day to give - I thanked him properly. But my heart was full of hate - on the holidays, can you imagine - like he was Antiochus or something. But then something happened. G-d knows what - I just never saw a man change direction overnight - like Mr. Scrooge. But let me come to the point.
The mystery began the first night of Chanukah when the butcher boy knocks on our door carrying a great kosher turkey. It’s for us, he says. It’s enough turkey for a week’s meal supported by bread and pudding. But there’s no note. Who could afford it and who would send it to us?
“Mr. Scrooge,” says Tiny Tim. Sure, and Queen Victoria wants us all to join her for supper at Buckingham Palace.
Then the next morning at work - the second day of Chanukah - I’m late. So I’m sneaking in and Mr. Scrooge, with a voice that would drown the chimes of Big Ben, shouts, “Front and center Kravitz”. Oh boy. I tremble. That turkey, I'm thinking, is gonna have to last a long time - a lifetime - because in five minutes I’ll be an ex clerk.
But no. Mr. Scrooge ups my salary - tells me to throw some coal on the fire. And takes me across the street to Wilshires and buys me a mug of their best. Sits right down at the table drinking with me, his clerk. He’s quite out of his mind talking like he’s had a flagon instead of a cup. And he starts asking me questions about the holiday and spirits that roam the night. And yesterday’s Chanukah and tomorrow’s Chanukah! Acts like he’s seen a ghost, he does. Says he’s been a miserable old geezer, but that’s over now. “I’ve been reborn,” he says. “And Bob,” he says, “I want to help you with Tim.” He knew somehow - I never told him - that the boy was born lame.
And it’s been almost a year now and Mr. Scrooge, God bless his reborn heart, has been as good as his word. Last night after a festive meal - with my boss and benefactor in attendance - we threw Tim’s crutch in the fire and watched it burn. Uncle Ebenezer’s doctor made a miracle.
In short, Mr. Scrooge has become our dearest family friend. So what happened to fix his ailing heart? I think it was something supernatural. When a man’s soul spins like a dreidel from devil to angel, always look for the Lord’s hand, I say.
And there’s gossip on the street that Mr. Charles Dickens, the famous author, is going to write a Christmas story all about the ex miser. But you know how fanciful those writers are. Maybe a flight of angels that flew down here and shook out the miser's soul like a wet sheet. Do we believe in Chanukah angels? I just hope that Dickens fellow spells my name right and I hope he tells everybody about Tiny Tim and the Chanukah miracle.
from the December 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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