Mitzvahs – Todd Friedman

“Ya Joosh?”
He catches me coming out of a Chinese take-out
A bag of treif in my hand
“Ya Joosh?”
He asks me with that searching look in his eyes
His voice rising
Jews don’t proselytize
But I know all I have to do
Is give the word
And we’ll be off and running
I usually avoid these guys
But this time I give in
Let him make his mitzvah

In a moment he’s wrapping my left arm with the leather strap
Wrapping the prayer box around my forehead
He asks me to repeat after him:
“Baruch atah Adonoi, Elohaynu Melekh ha’olam . . . “
Suddenly he’s in a rush
And he motions for me to speed it up
Maybe he has other mitzvahs to do
Maybe it’s because the sun will be setting soon
I feel a certain tugging
But I don’t tell him
I keep it to myself

When we are done
I have an idea
I ask him if he would read a few lines in a book
I happen to have Whitman with me
“Is he Joosh?” the Hasid wants to know
“No” I say, “but he too was on a path
A spiritual seeker”
“Not allowed,” he tells me
“Nothing secular”
But he does peek into the book
And then he lingers

Todd Friedman is a retired NYC high school English teacher who is happy to be away from red pens and administrators.  His poems have been published in English Journal, Jewish Currents, Midstream, and The Brooklyn Eagle.

4 thoughts on “Mitzvahs – Todd Friedman

  1. Lana

    In this situation, two people are involved in their every day lives/routines. The guy with the Chinese food is willing to step outside his routine. He is making an effort to not be selfish and allow some one to touch him from within. The question is, is the Hasid willing to move beyond his ritual/routine and allow some one to teach him some thing, he doesn’t know. Is the Hasid willing to be unselfish and allow the other person to touch him from within. I would like to think yes, but if I am honest, I doubt it. The Hasid is in a hurry. He is caught up in his routine.

  2. Lana

    Do you think, you opened his mind? That other’s outside of his community might actually have some thing worth while to say. It would be nice. This scene reminds me of the book/story, Unorthodox.


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