Monday, July 18, 2005

122. Adrift

Adrift in a sea of framed ketubas, ceramic dreidels, and glass cases filled with ornate silver religious accoutrements whose function I barely recognized, I squeezed through layers of shoppers to reach a section of shelves loaded with prayer books. There were dozens, all in Hebrew, packed tighter than a shul on Yom Kippur. And I suddenly realized I didn't even know the name of the book I was asking for. I took a deep breath and walked over to a black-suited gentleman.

"I'm looking for a machzor," I stammered, "the one I used last year." I told him the name of my synagogue. "I think the cover is, um, blue." I was certain his blank stare masked derisive astonishment. Doesn't even know what it's called! he must be thinking. What kind of Jew is that!

Instead, he nodded enthusiastically. "No, it's gray. Wait a minute." Before I could respond, he ran behind the counter and down a hidden staircase. In a minute, just long enough for me to wonder if I would ever have the need to buy an $800 kiddush cup, he re-emerged and handed me the book.

"How did you know?" I asked.

"Oh, we know these things," he answered, smiling.

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