Thursday, August 29, 2013

Uncle Slappy gets serious.

Amid the rain and humidity, Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie arrived last night. They're up for the Jewish holidays, which commence on Wednesday night with Rosh ha-Shanah and culminate ten days later with Yom Kippur.

They seemed a bit worse for wear and I took them directly from my foyer into our guest room in which our air-conditioning was running full-blast, cooling the place to a comfortable temperature. Seconds later Aunt Sylvie appeared in her old robe and slippers and shuffled toward the bathroom so she could take a nice shower.

Uncle Slappy led me to the kitchen where we sat at our breakfast table with a cup of hot, black coffee in front of each of us.

He began as he always does, with no introduction or preamble.

"You know, boychick, for 50 years I led High Holy Day services. 50 years I read from the Torah. 50 years I delivered sermons. 50 years I looked out on a sea of twice-a-year Jews and watched them trying to stay awake while I spoke."

He sipped at his coffee and began looking around the kitchen.

"You have maybe some Lorna Doones or a 'Nilla Wafer? A little sweet I need with my coffee at night."

I grabbed a small box of cookies from the top cabinet, put three on a small dessert plate and placed them in front of him.

"For 50 years, I delivered the sermons I was supposed to deliver.

"I never got to deliver the sermon I wanted to deliver. The sermon people would talk about. The sermon people would remember forever."

He was steaming ahead like a locomotive now. I couldn't have interrupted him with a taser.

"Fired, I probably would have been, if I did what I wanted. And serious I am."

Uncle Slappy took a breath and nibbled at his second cookie.

"I never had the chutzpah to do what I wanted. I wanted to stand at the bima in silence and for five minutes say not a word, not a word, not a word.

"Then I would walk to the front to the stage and for a minute more stand silently. Then I would just say one word. One word. I would say 'God.'"

"God," I echoed.

"God," he re-echoed.

"For the rest of the year, maybe for the rest of their lives, all those in the congregation would think about that strange sermon. That sermon like no other. That sermon that got the Rabbi fired.


He finished his cookies, drained his coffee, kissed me on the forehead and went to his bedroom to bed.