Teiku

304

What lost objects are your own, and which must you return to their owners?
Rabbi Akiva says a stack of four coins.
Rabbi Meir says five.
Who is right? Teiku. No one knows.

Schmaltzburg leaned against the fence and took a deep drag of the cigarette.

It burned, this being the cheapest, shittiest brand and all.

But so did reality around him. Here at least, he got to control the pain.

He offset it with a sip of his cappuccino, painstakingly made over many minutes in a shitty yeshiva cup. These cups were the dullest of blues, and had no handle, for easy stacking. If Schmaltzburg could imagine, he’d imagine these were the kinds of cups they had in prison.

In yeshiva, you pursued personal growth. At least as far as making a really good cup of coffee is concerned. By devoting yourself fully to the cup of coffee, you got to do two things: have a good cup of coffee, and not learn.

Not learning is a key part of the Yeshiva Bochur lifestyle, and is actually harder when you think in a city where the most exciting thing is an ambulance taking a woman to the delivery room.

In a place so boring you could lie down on the road in an attempt at suicide only to die of starvation, it’s pretty hard to not get any learning done at all.

So you really dove deep into the coffee making. Added just that dab of hot water to the shitty instant coffee powder. Mixed it incessantly for about 15 minutes while making small talk. Adding the perfect amount of milk and sugar.

Heaven.

If you bruise a weasel on the Sabbath, is it indeed a bruise?
Rabbi Hanania says “it is.”.
Rabbi Shimon says “it is not.”
Rabbi Ishamel says “When Rabbi Hanania said ‘it is’, he really meant ‘it is not’, and the ‘not’ was omitted”

Shulem extracted his smuggled guitar out of its case and stroked a solitary chord on it, letting it ring.

He pondered the nature of his transgression. What was so bad about a guitar?

Yeshiva guys were allowed to play guitar on Thursday nights, staying up late on trips up North or to the Kotel, because Friday was a total wash. You didn’t need to study Torah on Fridays.

But the rest of the week was sacred. How could you waste a precious moment of Torah study? A single word of which is more valuable than diamonds, or some sort of gold thingy. At least that was King David’s view on the matter.

How I love your Torah!

Shulem strummed along as he sang.

All day long it is my conversation!

This wasn’t technically true, because he was singing instead of actually studying. But apparently the thought counts for something (although it was unclear when, exactly this was the case).

His shrill, off-key voice stretched to its highest, most minor registers as he reached the chorus:

How I love your Torah!

All day long it is my conversation!

Mozart this wasn’t. The song contained four chords and twelve words. Somehow the studio recording managed to drag it out for five minutes. It involved many sax hits and choirs: old men for the bass vibes, young boys for the lady bits.

If you repeated it enough though, it started to grow on you. Like a mantra. Or a cancer. It was his third time around and he was really starting to get into things, belting it out with his eyes closed.

When he opened them again, he met the dark, intense, disapproving eyes of the Rosh Yeshiva.

As he stared out of the bus window later that day, his guitar in its case between his knees, he pondered how the Rosh Yeshiva always seemed to know exactly where infractions were occurring. It was like a sixth sense.

He’d gotten off easy, probably because he was a good student overall. Sent home immediately to drop the guitar off, with a reprimand to never bring it back or he’d be toast. The whole shpiel had been accompanied by choice references to key mussar books about his terrible deeds.

“It’s one thing if you do it for yourself, but we’ve heard that other boys have been hanging out with you while you play. How can you do Teshuva over a sin you caused someone else to commit?”

He was a terrible human, he knew, for breaking the Yeshiva’s rules. For Bitul Torah. For wasting another day on earth by not becoming wiser during it.

And all for a stupid guitar.

The guilt stayed with him long after that earworm of a song had faded from his mind.

It was years before he touched an instrument again.

How long must you salt a liver for, and with how much salt?
The Shla says for eight hours, with a handful of salt.
The Ramach says, twelve hours, with two olive sized amounts. Also, it must be in a wooden bowl.
The Rivach disagrees regarding the amounts: he says six hours is enough.
The Ba’al halichos explains that the Rivach only meant it if you use an egg size amount of salt, but the Shutz Hariva says that it applies in all cases.
Nowadays, the common tradition is to soak things for 24 hours, just to be safe.

Hershel Jankowitz took a closer look at the pair of white underwear before him. He held it up under the light, just so, like the Rabbi had shown them, and stared at the spot.

He’d be damned if he could tell if that was a red or brown one. It seemed to literally shift colors as he stared at it. A different watt light bulb would probably throw this whole thing off.

A bead of sweat formed on his forehead. Also because he was wearing a suit in sweltering July, and also because of the enormity of his responsibility.

To pronounce it brown would mean the couple would have sex that evening. And sex with a Niddah woman was about the worst thing you could do.

Kares. Just like that. No afterlife for you. You tried to be a good Jew for 40 years. Kept your kosher. Kept your Shabbat. Refrained from gossip or thinking of other women.

Then once, just once, you slipped up on the whole Niddah thing and boom, you’ve lost your World To Come. Your entire point of existence comes screeching to an abrupt stop. It was though you were set up to fail, and failure was more definite, more far-reaching, than any amount of success you could try to achieve.

He swapped underwear with his neighbor Benji. “What’s your take on this one? I’m thinking blood, but I’m not sure.”

Benji took a closer look, peering down at the underwear through his thick glasses, which had slipped down his sweaty nose. He scrunched up his face in a dual attempt to raise his glasses closer to his eyes as well as see through to the Absolute Truth contained in this underwear.

They were either pure or impure. They just had to find out which.

Hershel envied Benji. The guy seemed totally comfortable on the hard Kollel bench, like he could stay there for another hundred years. Like reading endless tiny words on irrelevant topics was not a mind-numbingly miserable experience for him. He couldn’t say the same thing for himself.

Benji always seemed to be able to rattle off endless Rabbinic opinions on every line of Shulchan Aruch they read. Seemed completely nonplussed when it was time to whip out their wives’ respective underwear and start looking at them under the halogen desk lamps. Seemed to always know exactly what the right thing to do was, halachically speaking.

“Definitely brown,” pronounced Benji. “It’s Kosher.”

Hershel restrained a whoop, but internally his heart leapt. He hadn’t told Benji, because this was supposed to be anonymous, but that was his wife’s underwear. They’d been trying to get clean for a week now. It had been three weeks since they’d last had sex and every time they thought they were in the clear she spotted again.

He tried not to think about the fact that his wife would be getting her period in a week and they’d be through this all over again. “It’s like a monthly honeymoon,” is how the rabbis had explained Niddah laws. “Every time you get back together, it’s with renewed passion and commitment.” He had never been more miserable in his life; this ordeal was straining his sanity, and his marriage, to its limits.

Benji wasn’t a Posek yet. They only got their certificates in the fall. But he be damned if Benji’s word wasn’t good enough for him. Benji knew his shit. He knew his Shach from his Taz. His Rivas from his Rashbams. He’d been taking this workshop for three years now.

Benji had spoken.

There was gonna be sex tonight.

Facebook Comments