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By Howard S.Selden
Daryl Wincoat chose a clear, mild, sunny day when he expected Izak Cohen would be out in the park, probably sitting on his usual bench. ‘Sure enough,’ mumbled Daryl to himself as he slowly walked along the black-topped park path, ‘there he is, as if waiting for me. Now, I must remain cool, stroll over to him real easy, and act nonchalant. I don’t want to alarm him.’ Daryl nervously stroked his face for reassurance that he had actually shaved. He had long abandoned the daily ritual, and liked the overgrown stubble. Nervously he then checked the knot on his tie—his only tie, which he was unaccustomed to wear. He had made a special effort to appear respectable, not his usual unkempt, sloppy look. This interview was important, and he wanted to make a good impression.
While approaching Cohen, his hand slipped down under his belt buckle as if to adjust his pants—but the move surreptitiously checked whether his fly was fully zipped. He was anxious about his fly, having been embarrassed on several occasions when it was left open, to the delight of his bar cronies. Of course it only happened when he was seriously drinking—which he ruefully admitted had become too frequent. ‘Well,’ he said to himself, ‘this interview will hopefully turn my luck around. I’ll straighten everything out; and make a real start.’
Cohen, deeply engrossed in reading his newspaper, was unaware of Daryl until he sat down at the other end of the bench. Cohen turned, offered a friendly smile, and said,
“Welcome to my bench. For some reason people don’t seem to enjoy the park much these days. I imagine a young fellow like yourself couldn’t resist taking a breather from a hurried life, to spend some time out here among the trees, and maybe feed the squirrels and birds. They are so accustomed to folks that many will eat out of your hand. I think they recognize me. As soon as I sit down they gather around. I don’t disappoint them. My bread crumbs are special. I lace them with some tasty bits from those Danish pastries available every morning at the Home, which the little creatures seemed to relish. Personally, I don’t like the Danish and stick to my standard breakfast—a lightly toasted poppy seed bagel topped with a generous shmear of grape jelly. Actually I alternate the grape with some delicious English orange marmalade, which I prefer to the overly sweet American concoctions.The English know how to cut the sweetness just enough with a tasty tartness. People accuse me of being in a rut, since I eat the same thing every morning. But I like it, and always look forward to breakfast. On the other hand, I observe that most folks use overly generous amounts of butter, not only on their bread but on hot cereals, and of course with vegetables at dinner. Years ago I lost my taste for butter, and even find its appearance unappetizing. Did you ever notice how terribly oily melted butter looks? I’m not surprised that they say butter’s not good for you, and probably clogs your arteries. Of course my stomach shrunk-up many years ago when I somehow survived near starvation. I keep my trim figure easily because it takes so little to fill me up.To tell you the truth, the sight of too much food, especially when covered with a highly seasoned gooey gravy makes me lose my appetite. I probably could live on bread alone . . . which I once did.”
Daryl was taken aback by Cohen’s effusive, though friendly, conversation, which also roused a welcome wave of relief. Wow, he thought to himself, what good luck that he broke the ice. I was in a sweat worrying how he would take to me. It looks like this interview will be a cinch. Swallowing hard and forcing a smile he said,
“By the way, Mr. Cohen, I’m Daryl Wincoat of the Herald newspaper. I hope you don’t mind, but the folks at the Home directed me to you. You see, I’ve been told a big Jewish holiday is coming up soon, and my editor asked me to write a nice piece about it all. Actually, I’m at a disadvantage—I don’t know anything about Jews and their religion. Now that I think about it, you might be the first Jew I ever spoke to. To be honest, religion is something I never could get a handle on, and that goes for all those Christian holy rollers. I was hoping you would sort of fill-me-in about this Jew stuff.”
Daryl felt the moisture forming in his armpits, and his hands were real cold, as they always became when he was nervous. He wondered how Cohen took his comments, and thought maybe he offended the old guy?
Cohen had listened carefully, with his bright blue eyes focused on Daryl, and finally nodded slowly and asked with a permissive wave of his right hand,
“So, boychik, tell me, what would you like to know?”
Daryl hesitated, not sure how to answer. He felt as if frozen, not able to think. His new jounalist job was a welcome opportunity, but he worried that he might not have what it takes, and would fail. His first assignment couldn’t have been worse—this Jewish thing was so foreign it disoriented his thinking; and he wasn’t able to imagine an approach to the story, let alone ask meaningful questions.
Finally, Cohen nodded again, as though coming to a thoughtful assessment, and with a determined look, said,
“First of all, let me tell you that I like your name. Daryl! It has a nice sound. It is so typically goyish, and American. Names are important, you know. I was told to change mine from Izak to Irving when I first came to this country. But, it sounded so strange I wouldn’t have known myself. Izak has a lot of accumulated baggage, which a name change wouldn’t wipe out. So, Izak I was, and always will be.”
Daryl hurriedly fumbled to remove a small blank notebook and ballpoint pen—recently purchased—from the inside pocket of his careworn jacket. He was getting ready to take notes like a journalist, but so far he couldn’t think of anything to write. His look of confusion and frustration was apparent, and an awkward silence followed.
Cohen waited patiently. He had warmed to the encounter, and was stimulated by the prospects of conversation with this stranger. He thought Daryl seemed a pleasant young man, though a bit unsettled, and clearly a novice journalist. Well, Cohen philosphically concluded to himself, everyone has to start someplace. But he also noted Daryl’s troubling eyes—he sadly recognized deep-seated pain and anguish. It was a look Cohen was only too familiar with, which evoked his own unpleasant memories. Finally, mastering his emotions and managing a broad smile, he considered the potential in this unexpected encounter, and decided to encourage the dialogue. He put the newspaper down, turned sideways to look more directly at Daryl, and said,
“Daryl, if we’re going to talk about the Jewish holidays we might have some problems. First of all, you should know there are more holidays than you can imagine, which incidentally in my opinion includes many that we really don’t need. Actually, I warn you, dipping into Jewish lore is very challenging, to say the least. It is like entering a complex labyrinth, with countless byways in which one can easily get lost. For our purposes, it probably would be helpful for you to start off learning a few simple Yiddish words. It’ll get you into the mood and give you a feel for the subject. Yiddish is so natural to me the words just slip out. I often wonder whether I could express myself only in English?”
Daryl’s blank expression and wrinkled brow readily revealed his tension and uncertainty. Finally he quietly stated ,
“You better start with that Yiddish word. What does it mean? I never heard it before.”
“Ah, a good place to begin,” Cohen replied. “Yiddish is really the invented language of the European Jews. Can you imagine that—a whole new language? Think of it as their lingua franca. Oops! There I go again with a foreign term, only this time I think it’s Latin, or maybe Italian. It simply means the common spoken language. The Yiddish story gets much more complex. Should I go on?”
“Please do. I don’t know anything about it, and I’m really interested,” said Daryl, trying to sound earnest. Thinking to himself, he figured he had all the time in the world, and had nothing to lose. He’ll let Cohen ramble on. Maybe something worthwhile will come of it.
“By the way, Daryl, do you like stories about history?”
There was a pause as Daryl thought it over. “You know, Izak—sorry I mean Mr. Cohen.”
“No, no, please stick with Izak. After all, I never think of myself as Mr. Cohen. Sometimes when people address me as Mr. Cohen, I look around to see who they’re talking to. Now that we have become friends, first names it’ll be. O.K. with you, Daryl?”
“Sure thing, Izak. My first response to your question is that I never gave history any thought. I’ve bitterly learned that the here and now is what counts.”
His voice suddenly became deeper with his friendly expression replaced with a resolute grimness.
“Like when I was slogging knee deep in Vietnam’s jungle marshes—a Godforsaken place, where if you weren’t paying attention and listening to every sound, you could get your head blown off. It was no time or place for daydreaming.
But on second thought,” he visibly brightened, “I have always been interested in my Apache heritage, and enjoyed listening to stories of the old days told by my grandfather. When the guys in my unit heard I was part Indian, they started calling me Chief. I took a lot of good-natured ribbing, but somehow it made me feel special, and I liked it. I even let my hair grow long and tied it into a ponytail, like I figured the Apaches did.”
Daryl abruptly stopped talking; turned his head away from Cohen; ran his fingers through his hair; looked unsettled; and in a throaty voice said,
“You know, Izak, I haven’t mentioned Vietnam in a long time . . . I’m sorry to have gone down what you call a ‘byway.’ It’s a bloody awful one, which I have tried hard to forget.”
Cohen spoke hastily. “I think for the time being we’ll put your stories of Vietnam on hold. Without a doubt they’re extremely important, and I want to hear more about them, but let’s stick with the ‘Jew stuff’ for now.”
Daryl nodded in agreement and remained silent, as he composed himself.
Cohen paused while he digested the offhand remark about Vietnam. Aha, he thought to himself, that is likely the source of Daryl’s pain and turmoil—it goes back to Vietnam. Cohen decided he would encourage Daryl to tell about his war experiences, even though he might be reluctant. Cohen knew from personal experience that talking openly about buried troubling memories helps. But he also learned how difficult it was to set aside upsetting reminiscences. Those damned images, he ruminated, seemed so deeply etched that he doubted they would ever totally fade. But, he also was encouraged that with the passage of time they dimmed, and one can learn to live with them. He planned to mention to Daryl that happier more satisfying current experiences tend to wall-off the troubled past.
Cohen shrugged his shoulders—a gesture of futility—an implicit acknowledgment of life’s insoluble travails. He understood that they both suffered from awful memories, and instantly felt an empathic link with Daryl, along with a burgeoning sense of kinship. Maybe, Cohen speculated to himself, if I share my past with him it might help him to release his own terrible story. But for now, good to change the subject. He then looked directly at Daryl with his warm smile, and said,
“Let’s get on with my stories, and start with the—brief—history of Yiddish. Way back when the Jews entered Europe from their homeland in the Middle East, they were basically Hebrew speakers, and likely also possessed some fluency in Latin and Aramaic. As they migrated north of the Roman lands they encountered vast German populations, whose language they slowly learned. The basic German dialect acquired by the Jews also incorporated some Hebrew words—as well as an occasional expression from other non-Germanic peoples. In time, this new language stabilized, to become known as Yiddish, and eventually supplanted Hebrew as the communal Jewish language. A curious phenomenon occurred while the Jews were learning German—they used the ancient Hebrew alphabet (in which they were literate) to phonetically write the German words. The practice took hold and survived. Thus, up to the present, the two fundamentally different languages, Hebrew and Yiddish, are the only languages that use the Hebrew alphabet.”
Cohen paused, and was pleased to see that Daryl was more relaxed and had been listening attentively.
“Now that I have your attention,” continued Cohen with a chuckle, “here’s your second Yiddish word—boitshik—which I used a few moments ago. One of my favorites. It has layers of meaning, unlike anything in English. It’s an affectionate term for a boy or man—commonly used as a friendly greeting by an older person when addressing someone younger. See how your Yiddish vocabulary is growing.”
“You do tell good stories, Izak,” said Daryl, “but what about this big Jewish holiday that’s coming up? I heard one of the guys around the newsroom say it’s a Jewish Christmas.”
“See, what did I tell you about Jewish byways. Here’s one for you. To keep Jews in proper perspective, it’s helpful to recognize how few there are—with only a trivial few million within about 300 million, the Jews qualify as the smallest minority in America. Therefore, the overwhelming Christian culture, religious and secular as well, inevitably blinds folks to Judaism. Even with good intentions, most Christians tend to see only a distorted image. And of course, the effort of some Jews to appear more assimilated, and less different, has only complicated the situation. A perfect example of the confusion is what you heard about Jewish Christmas. Simply stated, there is no such thing as a Jewish Christmas. It so happens that a very notable Jewish historic battle—predating the emergence of Christianity by some two centuries—called Chanukah, is celebrated around the same time of year as Christmas; and in like fashion, children received gifts. There the relationship ends. As you know, Christmas celebrates Christ’s birth, but Chanukah is completely different—it celebrates an astonishingly successful Jewish revolt against the ancient Syrians. See, Daryl, how enthralled the Jews are in history. Their focus on the past does give considerable substance to Judaism, but I believe it has drawbacks. When highlighting too much of our negative past, which the Jews have a tendencey to do, it might tend to cloud people’s optimism about the future. Oh my, listen to me going on. Genug is genug (“enough is enough”). Here I slipped in another Yiddish word for you.
Now back to Chanukah. Additionally, there is more confusion—Judaism utilizes a very old Lunar calendar, which is quite different from the universal Solar calendar.Therefore, Chanukah falls on different Solar calendar days each year. Sometimes it is very close to Christmas, while at other times it occurs many weeks earlier.”
“Izak,” offered Daryl, “I’m very impressed how well informed you are about these matters. If it isn’t too intrusive, may I ask whether you’re a Rabbi? Surprised I knew that title, eh? Can’t tell you where I picked it up. Could be in a movie. All I know is that a Rabbi is like a Jewish Priest.”
Cohen was not only surprised but pleased with the question. He reached across and gave Daryl a congratulatory pat on the shoulder, and while smiling broadly said,
“So, we stirred the pot, and you dredged up something Jewish. How wonderful. I bet hidden down deep in your mind there are some other morsels. Well, to answer your question, yes I am a Rabbi. Or I should say, I was ordained years ago, but no longer serve in that capacity. Since you raised the subject, allow me to clarify the important difference between a Rabbi and a Priest. The Catholic Priest is the functional intermediary between the worshippers and God. His physical presence and ministry is essential. While, in contrast, the Rabbi is only a knowledgeable teacher. He might often conduct a worship service, but it could be run by a lay person just as well.”
“Amazing how little I know,” Daryl said with a broad smile of his own. “ I warned you at the beginning. But I learn fast. Say, Rabbi, why don’t the Jews embrace the Solar calendar, like everyone else?”
“Certainly sounds like a reasonable idea,” answered Cohen, “but since Judaism started way back over three thousand years ago, its religion was firmly established. So when Solar calendar reforms were made, attributable early-on to Julius Caesar, then Pope Gregory in the 1500’s, the Jews ignored the changes and kept their Lunar calendar for consistency in religious calculations. Moreover, presumably the old Rabbis back then simply preferred to preserve their well established traditions, and keep the religion increasingly unique. Like you said, being part Apache made you feel special. Well, using a different calendar than the rest of the world is certainly distinctive.
By the way, now that we have become buddies, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea and think I insulted you back when I referred to your name as being goyish. It simply means someone not Jewish. That places you among the world’s 99.99 percent of the people. Maybe even a higher percentage, if we could calculate it. When you write your article, I would like you to consider how a relatively small group of Jews have not only survived horrendous obstacles through the milleniums, but also on occasion gloriously flourished. It certainly might lead one to believe in miracles—or if spiritually inclined, it could be credited to the work of the Almighty.”
With his head down, brow wrinkled in concentration, Daryl started to take notes. The thought crossed his mind that his article should have some background material about Izak, and without looking up he asked,
“By the way, Rabbi, where are you from? I mean what country. Are you German, Polish, or from some other place?”
“Ah, your question, like most issues with Jews, happens to raise a troubling subject. During the centuries of Jewish life within Europe we weren’t treated as a legitimate part of the country we lived in—until fairly recent times. Historically, we were tolerated only within circumscribed limitations: We could not own land; were proscribed from employment in a wide range of basic occupations; and were corralled into designated narrowly confined living areas. Jews were made to feel unwelcome, only superficially accepted, disdained by the majority population, and the Jewish communities were universally viewed as exotic foreign intrusions—not authentic citizens.”
The Rabbi paused. His smile had faded and was replaced with a serious expression. Turning to face Daryl, as though sizing him up, he seemed lost in his own thoughts. Daryl sensed the Rabbi was about to say something important, so he waited quietly. Finally the Rabbi seemed to gather himself and said,
“Daryl, what I am about to tell you has burned in my gut for most of my life. It is a painful knowledge which I am unable to forget, and must live with. I think this is the moment to share it, and with you especially.”
Again he paused. He looked down. Nodded his head with determination, and very slowly said,
I would be remiss not to mention the active role of the Catholic Church in initiating and perpetuating a sustained anti-Jewish campaign for almost two thousand years. The Church’s responsibility for labeling the Jews as a ‘Pariah people’ is undeniable. After generations of European enmity towards Jews, it is not surprising for the climactic German horror of the holocaust to have occurred . . . I wonder, Daryl, are you familiar with this ‘side- show’ of World War II?”
“Only superficially. I wasn’t born until after the War, in 1950. We heard very little about that period in school, other than we won the War.”
Daryl felt awkward. He recognized that the Rabbi’s powerful recollections had upset him, and Daryl couldn’t immediately think of what to ask or say. The Rabbi also had turned away and seemed involved in his own thoughts. Daryl was only vaguely aware of anti-Semitism, and was startled to hear the Catholic Church was to blame, though not surprised with anything about those Italians. But, he wondered what they had against the Jews. Finally, the Rabbi turned back, and with a wry smile said,
“I almost overlooked answering your question about where I’m from. You should now understand when I say that the selection of a country of origin by a Jew requires qualification. To be perfectly forthright, most Jews avoid this dilemma, by simply declaring their origin is from a particular country. My more candid historical answer is that I am a Jew first of all . . . who happened to have resided in Russia.”
While Daryl made a few quick notes, his attention was unexpectedly interrupted by visions of listening to his grandfather’s tales about the Apaches. Momentarily he stopped writing, and puzzled over what had awkened those recollections. With a figurative shake of his head, he brought his focus back to his article. Daryl was delighted at how willing the Rabbi was to talk, which encouraged him to continue to ask about his past. Flashing his best full-toothed smile, Daryl said,
“Rabbi, I’m intrigued with your explanations. Stuff I never heard before. I sure would like to hear about your life in Russia during the big War.”
The Rabbi nodded his agreement, and thought how well the discussion was going. Now’s a good time to share my painful past. He knew his reply would be both unavoidably didactic and somewhat indirect, so he said,.
“Daryl, I recognize that the tools of your trade as a journalist are words. Therefore, I want you to learn that I take strong exception with the popularized media word, holocaust. It is from the Greek, literally meaning ‘a sacrificial offering to the gods.’ Its implication is grossly offensive. By no stretch of imagination can the German industrialized murder of about six million Jews, along with untold millions of others, be rationalized as justified. We prefer the Hebrew word Ha’Shoah—unambiguously meaning,‘calamity or catastrophe.’”
Daryl seemed spellbound by the new subject. He was continuously amazed at where the Rabbi directed his comments. With his pen and notepad held in readiness he hadn’t made any additional entries. Noting Daryl’s fixed attention, the Rabbi continued.
“When the Germans invaded Russia, they had no difficulty rounding up all the Jews, since they were conveniently settled in separate villages. Along with many others, I was shipped off to the nearest concentration camp in Poland. These camps were the German’s bestial facilities for efficiently murdering millions of civilians, and was the awful ‘sideshow’ of the War. For me it was the War’s ‘mainshow,’ as you could imagine. The place was a manifestation of unparalleled evil. One could almost detect the sulfurous fumes of the devil’s presence.
By the thin threat of chance, I survived. Recollections still plague me, and often keep me awake many a night, as I repeatedly relive the harrowing experiences. Implausible as it might sound, my senses have been permanently contaminated by the dreadful odor which infiltrated the camp air from the incessant burning piles of corpses.”
The Rabbi took a deep breath as though to clear his fouled lungs, looked around furtively, and continued his story.
“Daryl, you now see a much depleted old man. But shortly after I arrived at the camp and realized the horror of my imminent fate, an uncharacteristic boldness overcame me. I was barely twenty years old, and looked forward eagerly to life. It seemed unreal that it would soon end. Near hysterical with fear, I imagined a plan for survival. At first it was a mere fragment of a notion, without substance, and quickly dismissed. But time was against me, and I repeatedly returned to this rash idea. As a drowning person desperately grasps a fortuitous floating object, I convinced myself that the plan would work.”
Again he paused. Retelling the painful past had unsettled him more than anticipated. But he was determined to continue. Daryl could see that the Rabbi’s usual pleasant, benign expression had changed—he looked older, and his healthy pink cheeks seemed to have faded to a sickly grey. Nonetheless, the Rabbi resumed.
“I remember the day, as if yesterday, when I somehow marshaled all my courage and acted on my dubious scheme. Fear nearly paralyzed my voice, and I worried that my pounding heart might explode. But standing erect and pretending a casual manner, I approached a German officer and audaciously offered to help them.This immaculately dressed and perfumed officer—the Germans all used perfume to mask the atrocious smell of the air along with the foul odor of our unwashed bodies and clothing—was startled to hear me speak an impeccably cultured German. My linguistic talents had paid off. Before he could gather his wits and probably violently respond, I quickly said I was eager to assist in the ‘important’ documentation work. I had learned that, in typical Germanic fashion, they recorded everything that went on in the camp, including the numbers of daily murders—like factory production quotas. While I still had his attention, I boasted that my handwriting had won awards. To my amazement, and indescribable relief, he accepted my offer. The German clerks welcomed my arrival, and soon much of the tedious work was turned over to me. From that day on I reported to the office and worked on recording all the nightmarish details in my own isolated corner (my foul odor, doubtlessly justified seating me out-of-the-way). But, every day during my two agonizing years in that macabre place, I never knew from one moment to the next whether or not I would suddenly be selected for the gas chamber. I believed if the Germans didn’t murder me, then my perpetually anguished state of excruciating tension and fear would certainly kill me.”
No one spoke for a while. Daryl’s upbeat manner had disappeared. He slouched and looked grim. Finally he very softly said,
“Yes, Rabbi, fear is something I know all about.” He paused, took a few deep breaths and continued with unconcealed bitterness.
“What was the purpose of it all? Sending thousands of young men to Vietnam, only for some fifty thousand to die, and untold thousands to suffer wounds, physical and mental. From the moment I got off the plane in Vietnam I knew I had arrived in a dreadfully foreign place, unlike the world I knew—it unsettled me, from which I never recovered. Your account of the impact of the sickening odor in the concentration camp, strangely delighted me, since I too am so afflicted. I was relieved to learn that I am not the only such sufferer. I never mentioned this before, assuming it was due to someting weird about me, and I was too embarrassed to talk about it. When I first breathed the foul Vietnam air, it almost sickened me. It was an unpleasant exotic mix of something sweet and musky, with a prevailing odor of fresh sewage. The horrid smell is still with me.”
With his head down, and hands out front rubbing against each other as though diligently washing them, he continued talking without surcease. Daryl spoke rapidly, somewhat constrained, but his underlying anger came through.
“Of course, almost being blown up on my first patrol, was something that one never forgets. As the new grunt in our squad, I was ordered to be point man. That is, I was first in line, as we slowly wound our way through the dense growth, and struggled with each step to pull our boots out of the soft, moist, clinging soil. Casualty rates on those patrols were high, so the rationale was to put the unknown newcomer in the most dangerous point position. It was a test of his courage and dependability. If by chance he got killed, the sense of loss was less since no one knew him. I never understood why we were sent out into that infernal jungle on a regular basis. Well, here I was sloshing along out front on that first day, so overcome with terror that I feared I was going to soil my pants, when an explosion went off to my right rear.The sound of small arms fire brought me around. I found myself lying face down, with the ghastly remains of bloody body parts all around me. I later learned, one of the guys had stepped on a hidden antipersonnel mine, placed by the Vietcong. When the action ceased, everyone was surprised that I was not only alive, but not even wounded. For some reason, I was congratulated, as if my survival was due to my battle-savvy know how. Henceforth, I was accepted. When they learned I was part Apache and nicknamed me chief, it was assumed some cagey Indian instinct had saved me. I soon realized that all the guys were terrified, which explained why they eagerly latched on to the idea that I possessed some magical charm which would protect them. Our collective fear was an unstated reality, but enveloped us all like a clinging miasma.”
The Rabbi interjected,
“Fear and ignorance breeds superstition, which thrives when alternative supports are lacking.”
“Incredibly,” continued Daryl with a burst of enthusiasm, “my life was subsequently repeatedly saved by my squad buddies, who routinely began protecting me. They saw to it that I always ended up in the middle of the group, between two of the bigger men who also happened to carry heavy automatic weapons.”
Daryl turned to face the Rabbi with a melancholy look, and moved over closer to him as if to confide a private, maybe secret truth, and said quietly,
“From those days in Vietnam, my feelings of discomfort, fear, and being continuously threatened, have never faded, and have been always with me.”
For a while neither man spoke. Daryl seemed dazed at what he had said, sat silently and stared straight ahead. Finally the Rabbi reached across, as he previously had, only this time he clutched Daryl’s shoulder. At first he didn’t speak, but as Daryl, who didn’t shrug off the Rabbi’s hand, slowly turned to face him once again, the Rabbi smiled, nodded knowingly, and asked,
“So, boitshik, you spilled your guts out. Good. Now tell me, how do you feel?”
With a tired and drained look, Daryl wanly smiled back and said,
“Dear Rabbi, I feel as though a huge load has been lifted. Telling you those terrible stories about Vietnam was like unplugging a drain. I feel weary, but somehow I also feel hopeful. It is a strange sense of freedom. Is it possible those Vietnam horrors are behind me? “
“It won’t be easy,” said the Rabbi, “but you will slowly be able to live more peacefully with the memories, while enjoying the present and working towards the future.”
“One final request, Rabbi. Can we meet once in a while, sometime soon?”
“Sure, Daryl. And we can tell each other more stories. And do I have stories, you wouldn’t believe. I bet you do also. And of course, I’ll be looking forward to reading your article in the Herald.”
“It’ll take me a while to organize my material.”
Then with a wide grin and an extended hand Daryl added,
“And I’ll have to figure out how to weave in a little Yiddish.”
Their simultaneous laughter echoed loudly through the empty park.
The author is a retired Dentist who turned to fiction writing and has published three books. The above is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Wapasha and the Rabbi, a sequel to his previous book, The Shaman and the Jew.
from the January 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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