Monday, September 11, 2006

Maybe he does

I was in a local (Lakewood) store buying some hot take-out.

I heard an earth-shattering noise. I looked out the window and saw a guy getting off a Harley Softail. He walked in, an obvious old-school biker. Leather vest, exposed arms covered with gang tattoos and prison tats. One of those long moustache/beard combos that are unique to bikers.

I'm waiting on line, he's standing next to me.

He turns to me and asks in his smoked out voice "Hey, is all this food kosher"?

"Yeah, it is" I answered.

"You know, my father always dreamed that one day Lakewood would be the way it is today. He grew up here, and he told me that one day I would see it become the Jewish community that it now is".

I nod, starting to get interested.

"I'm Jewish too. When I was younger I went to yeshiva. Then I joined the Marines, went to Vietnam and that was the end of it. I came back to the states and I was wild for a long time. I was in and out of prison, I don't remember a few years of my life. But you know, the stuff you learn when you're a kid stays with you. Hey, you know Hamafkid es chavero?"

My jaw almost hit the floor. This was probably the last person I expected to be quoting a Mishnah.

He went on. "Hey, you ever hear of the Kapishnitzers? My father was a Kapishnitzer chossid. When my mom died, my brother Ari called me up to tell me about it. I work on a fishing boat and we were fishing off the Alaskan coast at the time. I still made it my business to get to the funeral. When I got there a Rosh Yeshiva was speaking, I don't know his name. I remember my brother telling me "You got the beard already, now all you need is the tzitis!

I got two grown kids , both cops, nice kids, but they ain't Jewish. I want to say Kaddish for my father, but that brings up too many questions that I can't answer to my children. Is it possible for me to ask someone to say kaddish for him?"

I replied "Sure, just give me the date he died, and in what year".

He did.

I told him I'd get it done.

He went on" I'm tired of being on the outside looking in. I want to get back into yiddishkeit. It's where it's at. I see these Jewish kids hanging out, trying to be like the goyim, I went to slap them silly. Yeah, kids will be kids but you never know what you got until it's gone.

Then he said again "My father always told me that one day Lakewood would be like this. He was right".

I said "Too bad he isn't here to see it".

He looked at me with watery eyes.

"Maybe he does see it, you know? Maybe he does."

There was much more to the conversation, but those words made a big impression on me coming from him.

PS: If you were one of the guys standing around listening to our conversation, please don't out me. :)