The denizens of the Williamsburg shtetl were gathered in the street, cheering on a bonfire. I’d had an inkling something was up during the preceding minutes as I noted children being fed enticing treats by women in front of buildings.
Standing and watching with the women, their girl-child offspring and the occasional white straggler, I wondered, in light of the attitudinal divide, how I would learn what was afoot (not to mention aflame). With curiosity-fueled alacrity, I asked a man to let me in on the gag, but he feigned muteness or language issues and looked, well, uncomfortable.
Fortunately, another, somewhat more apple pie Chassid hipped me to the nub of the revelry, the death and life, maybe a thousand, fifteen hundred years ago, of an important rabbi.
A rabbi who could make things better.
A veritable Lourdes in pants.
Or whatever they wore then. And there.
Unexpectedly, once the mute foreigner saw I was genuinely interested, he added his annotations in the margins of the first man’s text. So, when another white man passed and asked what’s what, I answered.
The mute approved of my learned response.
Oh, yeah — and he wanted me to know, in light of the previous day’s Christian expectations, that the fire and the revelling were not harbingers of the end of the world.
He looked pleased that he had gotten off a good one.