The Saturday Wife

The Saturday Wife by Naomi Ragen Read Free Book Online

Book: The Saturday Wife by Naomi Ragen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Naomi Ragen
Tags: Religión, Adult
carefully culled her closet of anything above the knee, anything red, anything too form-fitting. She culled and culled and culled. Finally, she put on the only white long-sleeved blouse she owned along with a skirt that reached mid-calf, which was possibly Rivkie’s. It certainly could not be hers; she couldn’t even remember ever trying on such a skirt, let alone actually buying it. Combing and twisting her long hair into a bun, she took out her prayer book and sat on the edge of her bed, praying. When she was done, she kissed the prayer book and put it down.
    Rivkie looked her over approvingly. “So, you feel better?”
    Delilah nodded. “God has answered my prayers. I don’t know why. I didn’t deserve any special favors.”
    “You know, when God tells us to imitate Him, that’s what He means. He does favors for us not because we’ve earned or deserve them but out of infinite compassion and mercy. That’s why chesed is such an important part of being a Jew. Do good deeds because it’s the right thing to do and you have the opportunity to imitate God. That’s the only way we can ever pay Him back for everything He does for us. He gives us the sun, and He only asks that we light a little candle.”
    Rivkie’s words, although full of every cliché religious teachings had to offer, somehow touched Delilah’s wounded soul.
    “Rivkie, I have to change my life. I want to be just like you. I want to have your goodness. I want to go out with only good, religious boys. Men with good hearts. I want to reach out to people and help them. I want to get married. Can you help me, Rivkie? Can you?”

    W hen Chaim Levi was five years old, his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor and the venerated rebbe of a small shteibel in Ocean Parkway, enrolled him in a yeshiva in Williamsburg where the rabbis’ beards were long and gray and they conversed as if the village in Poland they’d grown up in had been relocated, not wiped off the map.
    Chaim’s father, an electrical appliance salesman in Canarsie, beardless and dapper, was a man who respected tradition but knew which world he was living in. Still, out of respect and pity and guilt, he bent his will to his father’s, hoping the old man might find in his grandson what had been lacking in his son.
    Chaim was a handsome little boy, with big dark eyes and a shy, sweet smile. Not particularly bright, but good-natured and pleasant, as only the favored, longed-for man-child of a family starting from scratch could be ( kaddishel , they called him, someone able to say the prayer for the dead forthem), little Chaim went to yeshiva with an expectant smile, never doubting approval.
    At first, he didn’t really understand the meaning of the long, heavy ruler in the hands of the bearded little rebbe, who slapped it against his palm as he walked up and down between the rows of seated boys. But soon, Chaim caught on. Smack! For not getting your mouth around the Hebrew vowels of the biblical verse fast enough. Smack! For not reciting the daily prayers with enough devotion. Slam! Smack! Crack! For not paying attention, for fidgeting in your seat, for forgetting to kiss the prayer book… .
    Around the room the little rebbe went, gesturing impatiently for each to give him their hand. Once in his possession, he would grip the small palm between his thumb and forefinger, slamming the ruler down on the nails as often as it took to bring a howl. That accomplished, the hand would be released. Then, astonishingly, the rebbe would jut his head forward and point to his cheek, indicating where the victim was expected to plant a grateful kiss to thank him for his instruction.
    At recess, when the boys finally escaped into the yard to play baseball, calling the plays in Yiddish, there never failed to appear another little rebbeleh, a gnomelike figure in a tallis and tefillin, who would rush into the yard and insist on reciting his morning prayers at the top of his lungs, demanding that the boys stop

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