From the Pen of the Scribbler on the Roof


Rabbi came for Dinner


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The Night the Rabbi Came for Supper

By Ted Roberts

I knew I was in trouble when I reached in the fridge for a cold Pepsi and pulled out a 2-foot salmon who still owned his head and tail. Not three days ago he had cruised up some gravelly Northwest river looking for a scaly version of Demi Moore. And it was in that vulnerable moment that the Kroger Company snagged him and eventually sold him to my wife.

We only buy whole salmon when the Rabbi comes by for supper. That’s how I knew about the Rabbi. But there was another clue, which I had missed the day before.

Two female strangers entered our home with mops and buckets and a whole box full of spray bottles. They went from room to room making an incredibly obnoxious noise with a machine that sounded like the whirlwind that Elijah rode to heaven. (Maybe it was a vacuum cleaner.) Then they hid all my possessions. Their final act was to convert the den floor into an ice hockey rink by applying a thick layer of wax. Evidently, everybody was briefed on the den floor except me and the cat. We went down hard.

And I also should have been suspicious when my wife spent a whole afternoon in the kitchen; which disrupted my concentration on the TV football game - chopping and blending and bubbling punctuated by the thud of the refrigerator door as it slammed shut. It was like old times - when she used to cook for her slender, curly-headed husband. Were we in some time warp? Alarmed, I left a thrilling Giants/Cowboys game to dash to the kitchen.

After all, even a great chef like her, after a 10-year vacation in Provence, could forget to keep hands off burners and fingers out of blenders. Thankfully, she was unharmed and I gently gave her a few tips about operating the sink faucets and turning on the big, boxy, white appliance with four burners. “Yes, you can use all four at once,” I coached. She quickly got the hang of it. then as she experimentally turned dials, I lightly asked, “There’s company for supper, right - that’s why you’re back in the kitchen?”

“Right,” she replied. “Would you show me how to put cold water in this pot so I can - is the word, ‘boil’ - these potatoes.” It was a poignant scene like when Pavlova returned to the concert stage after four years at the Bijou Burlesque. Or when Rembrandt returned to his palette after a summer of doing barns in the Dutch countryside.

Ah, the annual Rabbi visit; when women become hostesses and husbands turn into servants - fetchers of wood and drawers of water, as it is so elegantly phrased in Genesis.

I knew the score as soon as I met the dead salmon in our fridge. I confronted my mate:

“I can tell the Rabbi is coming because my snacks in the fridge have been replaced by a long, dead fish - right?”

She gulped and started to present some outrageous mistruth, but I bored in again. “And this morning I watched our cat - normally a nimble, agile, 4-footed creature do a slalom on the den floor and crash into the wall - you waxed the den floor, didn’t you?”

“OK, OK, OK,” she cried. “You’re too clever for me. Yes, THE RABBI IS COMING.” She was not herself. She was under a strain. I knew it the moment she let fly with our best Pesach platter. She never threw THAT platter. This was worse than I thought. It was comfort time. We hugged.

“It’s OK, it’s OK,” I murmured.

“There’s more,” she sobbed. “Much more, many more. I’m inviting four families from the synagogue.”

Aha, that was why all the pictures in the foyer had been removed and replaced by a 10-foot banner; “Welcome to our Rabbi and half of the Synagogue” it said.

That’s what I hated. The disruption. The cat hates it, too. The minute she sees the fleet of cars unloading at the curb, she’s outa here. She sleeps around the neighborhood for a few nights and only returns when she sniffs the remains of the salmon in the garbage.

Of course, there’s leftovers for me, too. About a week’s worth. A huge problem unless you believe a 60-year old adult male is properly nourished on 21 meals of lime Jello , curried slaw, and fish bones. Every year I make the same constructive comment and every year my Jewish Martha Stewart objects; “Why not,” I suggest, “place one of those styrofoam takeout containers beside every place setting at the table. Let the guests take home leftovers so we can resume our normal diet after the festive meal. If not, me and the cat are eating out.”

Ted Roberts kown as "The Scribbler on the Roof" Website: and Blogsite:


from the January 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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