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Rosensweig: A holy pocket

(Freepik photo)

Getzel stuffed his hand into his pocket, searching for the coins jiggling about. He was worried they would drop through the hole that had emerged. If they were to fall, God forbid, Getzel would be bereft of the money he needed to buy a loaf of rye bread and shmaltz herring he’d eat at the Yom Kippur pre-fast seudah.

He found two dollars, three quarters, a dime and a nickel. Getzel’s stomach rumbled grumpily, angered by his hungry fate.

A woman brushed past Getzel. She was hurried, encouraged as such by the bustling crowd. The Sabbath of Sabbath would soon begin.

The lady was elegant. She was spotless, wearing a ravishing white suit void of snags or missed stitches, obviously created by a master dressmaker. “No doubt the seams match,” Getzel considered.

The indigent fellow looked a second time. He spotted quality wooden buttons adorning the mantle, with the proper holes to accommodate them.  “I wonder who the tailor was,” Getzel thought. “Grossbaum! Yes, he was the perfect tailor. And he was the perfect bastard. Yes, it must have been Grossbaum.”

Getzel was mesmerized. He wished he had another chance to work with such fine linen, even if threading the needle weakened his eyes. If such an opportunity arose, Getzel would create a faultless dress for the rebbe’s wife, which she could humbly show off on the women’s balcony of the beit midrash.

The elderly Getzel awoke from his dreaming, uncomfortable with stares focused on him by a Hasidic boy wrapping his long payos around his fingers as he gawked. He then carried on.


The linen lady halted. She turned back and commanded Getzel to follow her. He did. Separately, the two strangers weaved through the fruit stalls, around the vegetable stands, past the Judaica kiosks onto a street “where luxury,” Getzel thought, “wraps its bearers in capes of trickery.”

“Come. Come, hurry,” the woman instructed Getzel. He couldn’t keep up. She slowed, miffed by the limitations of his age. “Come. Please,” she barked

They arrived at a grand home, a stately estate. The affluent woman bid him inside. She kissed the mezuzah. He kissed the mezuzah. They had that in common.

The guest and the baalat ha-bayit entered a study. The woman pulled a chair away from a desk. She offered it to Getzel. He sat. She then pushed an art piece sideways, revealing a safe. The dowager spun the dial to the right four times, clearing it of any previous attempts. She stopped on the first number, then turned the dial to the left, passing the second number twice before stopping the dial on the second number of the combination. She then turned the dial to the right, passing the third number once, then stopping on the third number. Finally, the safe-owner turned the dial to the right, to the fourth number, and stopped.


The safe opened. The mysterious lady reached inside. She pulled out an envelope and folded back the tabs, unsealing the lip of the envelope. She then dumped the contents on the desk. Getzel watched. The lady scooped it up and handed it to the old Jew.

“Here, take this,” she said. Getzel’s breath stuttered. “It’s $50,000. I don’t need it. You do. A gut yor.”

Later, Getzel stood for Kol Nidrei. His eyes were closed. The shtibl was cramped, and so he rubbed against the person next to him. He reached into his pocket. The hole greeted him.

So that nobody could hear, Getzel laughed, together with God.

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