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Simon Sobo Writing

A collection of opinion pieces and chapters from his novels

1968 Changed Everything: A Novel: Dora explains to CC what Judaism is all about

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Chapter 22

Dora Educates CC

Mr. Gordon has his coat on near the door of Jay’s apartment.  Jay kisses Dora and their baby after he puts on his coat.  They are rushing to get out of the apartment.  Jay shouts to his father.

“Do you have the tickets?”

Mr. Gordon pulls out the two tickets and waves them.

Dora fusses over Jay.  “Don’t forget your gloves. It gets cold there.  I made you sandwiches.”   She looks at Ira, as well. “Don’t throw them out this time.”

Jay smiles guiltily.  So does his father.

“We like the hot dogs there.”

“The sandwiches are brisket.”

Although doubtful they both try to give the impression that they will eat Dora’s sandwiches.

Jay takes his gloves out of his coat pocket and shows them to Dora.  She stares at her father–in law.  Guilty as charged, he waits to be sentenced.

“Well?”

“I don’t need gloves.”

She returns from the bedroom with wool mittens.

“Oh, if you’d told me.  Blue mittens. Turquoise blue! I would have asked for them.” Ira tells her.

“Aquamarine.  I knitted them for Jay as a Hanukkah present.  He refuses to wear them.”

Ira puts them on and claps his hands like a happy nerd.

“Okay.  I get the point,” Dora tells him.

“You married a good woman, Jay. You remind me of my mother.  She made mittens.”

“She was a nag?”

He puts his hand under Dora’s chin and lifts it.  “A Yidisha Moma . . . twenty-six hours a day.  She cared.”

She steps away.

“Dad, Did you wear your lucky socks?” Jay says, lifting his pants, to reveal his own wild striped socks.

“That’s good enough for both of you,” Dora tells them.

Mr. Gordon lifts his pants.  His socks are even wilder.  Kangaroos eating lightening, and lighting up.

“The question is–is it good enough for the Jets?”

“God likes striped socks,” Dora tells them

“And kangaroo lightening socks,” Mr. Gordon adds.

“Well, there you have it,” Dora says.

They walk down the long seventh-floor hall.  As Ira pushes on the elevator button, Dora shouts to them, “Go Jets.  Go Namath.”

“Go Maynard,” Ira shouts.  “Namath’s nothing without him to catch the ball.”

She stays at the door watching them as they enter the elevator.  The two buddies shout in unison “Go Maynard.”

At Shea Stadium, as predicted, Namath throws a perfect pass to Maynard, who runs it in for a touchdown.  The stadium crowd goes wild.   Jay and Mr. Gordon slap each other’s hands repeatedly.

 

While breast-feeding her son, Dora is watching the game on TV.  The first half has ended, with the Jets leading 16–7.

Dora puts her sleeping son in his crib.  She goes to the phone and dials CC’s phone in her dorm.  She’s told CC isn’t there, but then a woman named Sheila comes to the phone.   CC has trusted her enough to give her Jeremy’s number. Dora dials it.  In the bedroom Jeremy answers He hands the phone to CC.

The sound of the TV can be heard in the background.  “Are you watching the game? The Jets are beating Buffalo sixteen to seven.

CC signals Jeremy to give her privacy.  He goes to the kitchen.

“I haven’t been following the Jets.  They don’t get them up here.”

“But today’s game is probably on.  Buffalo.  You know Buffalo beat them the first time they played, their only victory   They’re one and seven.

“So that means the Jets aren’t that good?”

“Are you kidding?  That loss was an anomaly. This year there’s going to be another Super Bowl, the third one, the NFL champs playing the AFC champs. Jay’s very happy. With Namath, the Jets might go all the way. It will give the AFC respectability.”

“First they have to get into the play-offs.  Jay’s always an optimist.”

“So is your Dad.  He’s excited.”

There is a pause which is a beat too long.

“Was that your friend who answered the phone?  What’s going on with you?  We haven’t had a good talk in a while.”

“Well . . .”

“Tell me.”

Then after a long delay, CC says, “You can’t tell Mom or Dad what I tell you.  Promise me.” She doesn’t know why she is asking this of Dora.  They already know about Jeremy.  Perhaps it is to protect her parents from Dora’s judgment.

“Okay, I promise.”

“The guy who answered, Jeremy, he’s one of my teachers.  I’ve been staying at his house.” She hurriedly blurts it out.  “He’s married, with a kid.  His wife is in the hospital.”

Dora responds coolly, “How did that happen?”

“I don’t know, but it did. . . . Don’t tell Jay.”

“How old is his child?”

“He’s a toddler.”

“He’s going to leave his wife?”

“He loves her. He’s told me he will never leave her.”

“So what is it, then?  Sex?”

“It’s love, well it was. No. It still is.” Her voice is unconvincing.

“I’m sure you know what I think.”

“I do.”

“So why did you tell me?”

CC doesn’t answer.

“I blame Mark. . . . He’s filled your head with all this garbage.  He’s always turning morality upside down . No right and no wrong.  Like it’s up for discussion. Meaning anything is okay.  CC, what you’ve got going with this guy is not okay.”

“His name is Jeremy.”

“Jeremy,” Dora repeats, as if named he now exists.

“He’s a lot like Mark.  He’s been arguing that ending the war, saving the planet, helping black people are far more important than the rights and wrongs we were raised on. He thinks those are nonsense.”

“It’s not just Mark,” Dora adds. “More and more people are talking like that.  I don’t know what’s going on.  Jay told me his therapist is always getting on him about his guilt, like it’s the main cause of his problems.”

“Well—”

“He tells Jay he is rigid—which is a joke. That is what I respect about him.  I think therapists making fun of guilt are trying to destroy Judaism.”

“That’s a little extreme. Most of them are Jewish.

“But it’s true.  Everyone wants to put an end to Judaism. Remember Robin Schaff?  She was a year ahead of me in school.”

“Yeah,” CC replies.  “She’s very spiritual. Always has been. She’s off somewhere from this everyday world.  She’s communicating with God.”

“She was always that way.  You know she came from a kosher home. But religious?  How can you be religious and write songs for Shiva and Krishna and Vishnu?”

“Why not? If they’re beautiful songs, something you could sing to God, reach out to Him . . . maybe please Him. Why isn’t that religious?”

“What you are asking is, do I think Robin has God on her mind when she sings to Shiva or Vishnu?  The answer is no. Her songs are not just for Krishna, or Vishnu.  There are a dozen different . . . I don’t know what they call them.”

“Gods. Indian gods,” CC says.

“What’s screwy is that’s exactly what Jews believed before Judaism began, before God spoke to Abraham. The Sh’ma is repeated in every service. ‘Sh’ ma Yisra’ eil . . . Adonai eloheinu . . . It’s the most serious proclamation in the service. It’s sang with reverence. Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.’

“One!” Who is Robin praying to? Twelve different deities, fifteen?  Believing there is one God is the cornerstone of Judaism.   ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might . . .’ Judaism is really very straightforward.

“Perhaps. But she thinks of herself as spiritual. Always has been. It’s the first thing that comes to mind  when you think of Robin.”

“Perhaps,” Dora agrees. “Except I don’t think she believes in God.”

“Then who are Vishnu, Krishna, all the gods she prays to?”

“While Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, the newly freed Jews started to worship the Egyptians idols.  All kinds of gods. Some of them got into orgiastic rituals.  Naked, drugged orgies. Blessed by the gods!  They were enchanted by exciting food.  Finding pleasure here, there, everywhere. Like people today, grabbing at what life offers.  But especially pleasure. Getting as much pleasure as they could, while they could. . . . Do you remember the rest of the story?”

CC does.  “When Moses returned from Mount Sinai and saw their behavior, he smashed the Ten Commandments to smithereens.”

“Right.  He had been in the presence of God, given his ten most holy rules to guide us.  These prohibitions were the most holy communication possible.  His gift to us.  It was the exact opposite of what people believe today.  Not live for today. Not have a nice day. The essence of our relationship with God is following his commandments.   So you can imagine Moses’ shock when he found out the newly freed Jews were whooping it up, performing Egyptian rituals for the their gods.

“Robin’s far from stupid.  She graduated from Stanford Phi Beta Kappa, but I don’t know if the thought crosses her mind that she is not having a dialogue with God, not embracing Him.  She is defying the central dictum of our five-thousand-year relationship with God.  Who we are as Jews. Let me say it again We cry out in the synagogue. ‘Sh’ma Yisra’eil. God is one!’”

“And then some,” CC rhymes facetiously.

“What do you mean?”

“Forget it,” CC mumbles regretfully.  After a moment of silence, CC’s voice again becomes as serious as Dora expects.

“I hear what you are saying but when I think of Robin I  always think of her as spiritual, godly.”

“I know she is serious about it but what is so godly?”

“Her belief in tolerance.  Not judging people.  Accepting them for who they are.”

“You mean that anything goes?”

“No, but––”

“So Moses should not have smashed the Ten Commandments?”

“He should have smashed the Ten Commandments and joined the party.”

“Seriously.”  Dora chides CC affectionately before continuing,

“I don’t know if it crosses Robin’s mind. Not only is she stomping on the most holy Jewish belief, that God is one. on it.” Her voice rises, almost as if she is at the pulpit.

“Tolerance? . . . Tolerance?” Dora repeats. “It’s nuts. Everything is not okay? Whatever floats your boat. That is not what God tells us.”

“I don’t know…” CC answers.

“It’s a repudiation of everything a practicing Jew believes. Forgiveness   perhaps, being able to ignore other people’s sins, and accept other things about them. Praying for forgiveness for your own sins.  But worshipping tolerance? It means every word we hold sacred is wrong, every prohibition we hold holy, all of it.  It’s sympathy for the devil dressed up as love and understanding.

God orders us to do what He has asked and not to do what He’s forbidden.  Claiming that all the rules are nonsense—it means the Torah is a book of stories, nothing else.  God didn’t talk to us.  And if He did, He was wrong about what He told us was wrong. Claiming that anything is okay. You don’t think that is an attack on Judaism?”

Dora hesitates, then continues. “And on Catholicism. On all religions. It’s not just people like Robin. Your brother Mark is as bad as she is.  Coming from a different place–he’s not selling people on his spirituality, but his left wing politics. Marx saw religion as the opium of the masses. To him all religions were bullshit. They’re a trick used to make people satisfied with the shitty world capitalism creates. And let me tell you, the soviets took him very seriously. They Soviet Union closed down all synagogues and churches in Russia.  They rdid the same thing in every country they conquered. No religion.  It had to go underground. All because Marx called it opium.”

“Mark isn’t a Communist. I can’t imagine he would want synagogues closed.”

“I hope not., but listening to him go on Pesach I don’t know.

“I’m sure he isn’t a communist. He takes orders from no one.”

“Fine. But his ridicule is identical.  He thinks Judaism is a joke.”

“He has nothing to do with Communists. He thinks the world as it is sucks and should be destroyed.”

“Which is what the communists believed.  They didn’t just ridicule religion.  They ridiculed every part of bourgeoise society. More than that they wanted to smash it, like Mark told you happened at that demonstration he went to.  The first window smashed belonged to the Bank of America.”

“You remembered that I told you that?”

“To me it was an important detail.”

“I’m sure there are actual communists in Berkeley trying to move things their way but Mark isn’t one of them.  Besides there is still something to what Mark has been saying. It would be a better world if everyone embraced no religion or a different religion than what they were taught to believe.  Sometimes I think he’s right. . . . Jewish guilt can get ridiculous.”

“You mean like Jay?” Dora answers

“I wasn’t thinking of Jay but yes Mr. Sanders always makes fun of my guilt.  He thinks it’s ruining my life. He’s not wrong. All that guilt.  For what?”

“Which is my point.” Dora answers.  Therapists are directly attacking Judaism, not just Judaism, Catholics’ guilt—they feast on ridiculing it.”

“But that is not what they are trying to do, at least not Mark.”

“Right.  Mark’s behavior at the Seder was a form of prayer.”

“Not prayer, but pointing out bullshit.”

“Therapists are so slippery.  They would never admit that they want to do away with religion…CC step back for a minute! Think about what they are pushing. Guilt isn’t an enemy.  It isn’t a neurotic bad habit. Yes it makes life more complicated and uncomfortable.  But that is how it should be. Getting rid of it isn’t the path to happiness.  Leading a righteous life is.  That’s the essence of Judaism. You can’t call all of it bullshit and make a show of how spiritual you are.

“But Robin is spiritual. You meet her and that’s your first thought. She’s spiritual.”

“Oh we are back there?   Robin’s selling Hallmark-card religion.  Your soul can’t get to a higher place as easily she makes it seem. Great she writes music that sounds like it is directed to God, or should I say gods. But it is nonsense. Catholics only reach a state of grace when they’ve confessed to transgressions they may have kept secret for years, that they were too ashamed to tell anyone. That is what it is all about–– coming to terms with your guilt.  Same for Jews. When we fast on Yom Kippur and promise to try harder to be a better person we are making a promise to God.  It’s the real thing. We aren’t seeking to have a good day.  We’re hoping to have our innocence returned.  Asking for a clean slate. Praying for it.  Fasting for it. Having the weight of our sins removed, be forgiven by the only one who can do it.  By God.”

Singing about peace and love and jingling a bell can’t get you there. Or assuming a perfect yoga position. And most importantly, you can’t do what Mark does. You can’t make guilt disappear by making fun of it, thinking of it as stupid.

Jesus, Jay’s therapist pisses me off. Jay would come home from a therapy session and tell me crazy things his shrink said, probably just like yours.”

“Like what?”

“Like how everyone has a god within them.  They just have to learn how to go there. Stuff like that. It’s nonsense.”

“Jay’s therapist said that?  Really? That’s how Jeremy talks.”

“And a thousand other people like him.  You can’t be your own God, no matter how many chants you perform… I’ve seen people go there with Yoga. Get glassy- eyed, have this beatific smile.  They look like they’re on heroin.  It’s the easy way to a state of grace. It may feel the same but—’’

CC lashes out. “Mark thinks you are the least liberated person we know.  Your kosher home—how you force Jay to not eat lobster.”

“So?”

“Lobster was Jay’s favorite food.”

“Poor Jay.”

“Jay can’t drive his car on Saturday.  Even to go to the supermarket. He can’t turn on the light. All this mumbo jumbo—he can’t use a stapler, lick an envelope on Saturday. Sins, sins everywhere.  Tell me that’s spiritual liberation.”

“Who’s talking about liberation?”  Dora answers.

“What is it, then?”

“Devotion.  Knowing what God allows and what’s okay has guided us for centuries. Practically forever. Knowing and observing what is allowed and not allowed. For a thousand years guilt has been woven into how we conduct ourselves. It’s at the core of Judaism. It never occurred to anyone that how we are supposed to live could be anything other than what God allows.  You never thought God was watching you? Judging you?”

“I guess so.  Well maybe when I was ten, when I was doing something wrong  But now . . .”

“So you think there is no one there now.”

“I suppose.” `

“So you are no longer a Jew.  Our religion  is based on this very simple, sane idea.  For thousands of years very few people thought it was untrue.  God is watching us, expecting us to follow what He’s told us to do. It’s all in the Torah.  That’s the whole story.  That’s the core of Judaism.”

“To me it’s lox and bagels.”

“I’m serious.”

“Gefilte fish?”

Dora is smiling but is intent on not being sidetracked.

“That’s why in the synagogue the Torah has a crown on it.  That’s why we kiss it as they walk it through the congregation. God’s dos and don’ts.  Written down. His commandments! He watches every last thing we do. It is impossible to hide from him.  Making sure we obey is how we are supposed to live.”

“You’re big on the whole Jews using our brains a lot– that we are smarter than other people

“I don’t know if we are smarter, have a higher IQ,  but thinking a lot about things––”

“How do you think it started?  For centuries, the most serious scholars studied the Torah inside out, trying to glean every hint God gave us about what he expected.  The Talmud, the Mishnah, feverish debate trying to figure the Torah out. This hippie idea that God is this nice guy saying “Oh well” to everything.  That is totally wrong.  He wants to be taken seriously.  He’s made these rules and it’s our job to follow them.”

CC imitates God’s voice. “Thou shall not eat bacon and eggs. . . . Sounds like God is not a very spiritual guy.”

“You’re exactly right,” Dora says.  “He’s not interested in being spiritual, whatever that means.”

“It means peace and love and understanding.”

“That sounds so great, but guess what?  God is not a hippie.  He has rules and He’s given them to us. His demands are what keeps us on the right path.”

Dora continues: “Yes it is about using our brains.  In the shtetl, the smartest student would be rewarded with a wife from the richest family so that he could study all his life.  There was no Ford Foundation. Understanding God’s will was the most meaningful way people could use their minds. Not just staying out of trouble. Understanding his rules, interpreting new ones and obeying them was considered the sweetest way use our brains.  But never mind all that.  Along come the sixties—let’s cut to the chase.  You don’t need the Mishnah or the Talmud to rule on what you are doing.  Adultery.  It’s one of the Ten Commandments.”

“You really think there is a God?”

“He’s right there, watching me. And you.”

“But that’s so creepy.”

“Creepy or not, He’s there.”

“You really believe that?”

“Me and billions of people, for thousands of years.”

And what is God like?” CC asks.

“Most religious Jews believe he’s fair.  If you go along with His commandments, He’s on your side.”

“Religious Jews never get cancer?  They never die young?”

“They do.  There’s a lot we can’t understand, but who am I to question Him? Dora Gordon at 39 Yellowstone Boulevard, Forest Hills, Queens?”

“It’s more than that. This God you worship can get pissed.  He killed everyone on earth, all except Noah’s family. He’s definitely not a live and let live God.”

“You are catching on.”

“Well, that’s not much of a God to me.”

“Why? Because by Sesame Street standards he doesn’t measure up?  I swear, sometimes I listen to the Left’s sacred beliefs and all I hear is a child. La-la nursery school beliefs. I don’t know what God’s like. No one does. But He’s not Mr. Rogers. Or Santa Klaus.  A God-fearing person doesn’t question God’s character.  I mean, who are we? Us judging Him? We are forbidden to give Him a name, to make a graven image of Him. We are little nothings compared to God.  Ants scurrying around.”

“But that’s the point.  God-fearing? What kind of God is one you have to fear?”

“He is who he is, whether you like that or not.”

“So, who is he?”

“I once said that to my father. You know what he said? ‘You’re fifteen.  You haven’t earned the right to say what God should be like?’  He was right then. He still is, and I’m twenty-six.  All I know is that without Him, I’m alone, lost. With Him, I have his rules to guide me but more than that. I share in His glory. And there is much glory all around us. On Shabis I rest like he rested. We’re together.”

“On Yellowstone Boulevard?”

“Everywhere.  Every day the sun rises. ‘יֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִי־א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר Yo e mer, eloheinu, Yehi or, va-yehi or.’”      Dora recites the passage from Genesis.

 “Let there be light,” and there was light.
And God saw the light and that it was good, and God separated between the light and between the darkness.
And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and it was evening and it was morning, one day.

“Night and day, sunrise and sunset were among His first miracles.  I see His glory every morning when I open my eyes. You never feel that?”

“No,” CC replies. “Sometimes in the synagogue, when I hear the choir sing.  When I sing ‘Sh’ma Yisra’eil. God is one!’ You’re right.  That means something to me. I don’t know why, but the reverent way everyone sings that. I feel like I am part of it, together with everyone one else singing it.”

“Good.  You should feel part of it. That was Abraham, the first Jew’s proclamation.”

CC takes a deep, deep breath, for the moment realizing that what she just said is true. She never thought of it the way Dora is presenting it to her, but when she sings the Sh’ma she cherishes it. It comes from her heart.

But immediately afterward, Dora’s words make her unsure.

“God’s allowing you to experience His presence.”

“But what if it all is a sham? What if what I am really getting off on is the passion of the congregation as they proclaim the Shema? Not God. I might have been just as thrilled by a chorus in an opera. What if the holiness of that music is a trick to talk you into fearing God.  Not holiness– fearing God is their real purpose.”

“Give me a break.” Dora’s voice rises. “That cover on Time magazine! In huge letters: ‘IS GOD DEAD?’”

Dora continues: “Your world is so pure? Creating these men gods.   John Lennon?  We need to be in awe of something other than the Beatles.  It’s the way we are built. To experience it.  Life is too empty, too disappointing without God  He’s right there. And it is not just Jews. Remember when  I went to Cantor Koussevitsky’s house ?”

“No.”

He played Mozart, told me how he reached for Him with his requiem.  When he played me the music I could feel it. I think he did reach him.”

Dora is feeling inspired as she continues. “When people entered God’s cathedrals. Behold!  Their eyes lifted them into the sky, for that moment, heaven seemed so close.” Dora repeats, “We need to be in awe. Without it, what is there? Life is so pale.”

After letting that sink in, Dora says, “If God is dead, what do we have to replace him? Where do we direct our awe?  Worshipping the Beatles? Celebrities have become our gods.    Without a real God, we are left to worship the famous. Which, when you think about it, is pathetic. John Lennon, Paul McCartney.  they are just people.  Great. They can sing,  they create a line or two of terrific lyrics. But they’re people, like you and me. Just as lost. Get rid of God and that’s what you are left with. If you gotta have awe I’d rather save it for God.”

CC doesn’t respond at first, but then she contritely answers her. “I agree with most of what you are saying.   I agree.”

Dora can’t help herself.  Like CC and Mark, she wants to pound it home further. “I listen to these leftist leaders.  Where are they leading students? Away from Judaism?  Away from God? To where?”

There is a long pause.

“To equality,” CC replies.

Dora sneers. “To Marx’s state of grace?”

“You don’t think equality is important?”

“Sure Everyone should have equal opportunity? Absolutely, but there should be a reward for extra effort, for trying harder and doing better.  Otherwise, you can sit around and do nothing and demand that you get what everyone else has—”

“You should teach at my school. Some students would listen.”

“I don’t think anyone would listen.”

CC knows Dora’s right.  The school used to encourage students to practice their religion.

“When I was a freshman, we had these convocations.  They began with a prayer. Everyone was respectful.”

“Do they still have them?”

“They’ve dropped them, along with having to wear a jacket and tie for dinner.”

“How come?”

“Students were complaining.”

“You mean the colleges want to be hip.”

“I think they recognized that they were old fogeyish.”

“How did the students get their teachers to agree, by occupying their offices?  Colleges aren’t God-fearing.  They’re student-fearing.”

CC says nothing.  She agrees.

“CC, what is nice about you is that you are a student, still trying to figure things out. Some of these activists, with their ‘Don’t trust anyone over thirty.’  They really think they have all the answers.”

“You don’t think they see a lot of what’s wrong?”

“Sure. We all know there is a lot wrong. And some of their complaints are justified. But thinking that way fools them into thinking what they have in mind is better. They’re going to make a perfect world.  They are so sure.  CC, the answer is Judaism. . . . You were bat-mitzvahed, right?”

“Yeah.”

“You are no longer a child. You are an adult  held accountable.  . . . . By God!”

Dora again gives CC a moment to think it over, then continues.

“Adultery doesn’t have a question mark next to it. It doesn’t require a complicated interpretation from the Talmud. There is no maybe. It’s one of the Ten Commandments.”

“There’s no wiggle room in your world, is there? . . . About anything?”

“There is.  I have questions about plenty of things, but not about the Ten Commandments.”

“So to you, I am just a sinner.”

“No.  You’re CC. My family. We’ll be together all our lives. But you’re grasping at straws.  I know everyone wants to have someone, but . . .” She pauses, then continues, her sermon. “You have no reason to be desperate.”  Her voice reverberates as if Dora wants to be heard in the heavens above and everywhere below, seared into the heart of every believer.  .

“You’re having an affair with a married man.  He’s the father of a young child!”

CC remains absolutely silent, more frozen by indecision than feeling contrite.

Jeremy sticks his head in the door.

She covers the mouthpiece of the phone, then whispers loudly enough for him to hear.          “My sister-in-law.” CC waves for him to leave.

Dora says, “I know that sounds judgmental, but you know what? It is.  That’s how it should be.  I don’t know how this whole thing started about not being judgmental. It began with therapists. Now it’s everyone. Accepting anything and everything you do.  Doing your own thing has become the sacred commandment of our times.”  Like an orator, she waits for the rhythm to carry her forward. “Says who?”

Then she is silent.

“No. I agree.  Sometimes I think my father should just slap Mark across the face.  Or better. My mother.”

“What about you?”

CC doesn’t answer. The conversation has gone further than she expected.

CC, I love you, but you are lost.”

CC remains quiet.

“Are you there?”

“I’m listening.”

“You know Jay was exactly the same.”

“Why the same?”

“Because he had no connection to God.  He was observant, but things he did had no meaning. Your parents are the same.  They go to the synagogue on the High Holy Days as expected. They bow  when the prayer book says to bow, join the rest of the congregation when the prayer book directs everyone to chant in unison, listen to the rabbi when the siddur says it’s his turn.   They are reverent when it is expected and I guess try real hard to be good Jews, but that is as far as it goes.  It has no meaning. Jay didn’t really believe in God.  Nor do your parents.”

“So what is wrong about that?”

Jay  had begun to feel he was weird for taking it all so seriously. That is so strange. He doesn’t have to apologize for being the way he is. . . . God has given him a reason why he should not break free.”  Dora hesitates. “I probably sound like a Bible-thumper.”

CC doesn’t answer immediately, but then she says, “Maybe, but  I know it’s coming from a good place.”

“It is. It’s what I believe . . . deeply. CC, when we first met, we promised that we would tell each other what we really thought.  You told me about Jeremy because you wanted to know what I thought—didn’t you?  If I was okay with it, then it wasn’t so bad.”

CC says, “I didn’t think about it, but­—”

“I love you, CC.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be so hard on you.  Ignoring the Ten Commandments is very bad.  Sin is sin.  God doesn’t like when we do bad things. . . . Wait. The second half is starting.”

Dora makes the sound of a loud kiss.  “I love you.  Stay away from Jeremy.  He’s poison. God wants more from you.”

With an apologetic voice, CC reminds Dora that Jeremy is in the other room.

“Just understand one thing.  It’s not for me.  If you break up with him, it won’t be for me.  It’s what God expects.”

““I’ll think about it.  Just promise me you’ll say nothing to Jay. Or Mom and Dad.”

“I said I wouldn’t.”

Again she wonders why she is asking this.  They already know.

Dora hangs up and goes back to the TV.  The Jets come running onto the field.

In the stadium, to the sound of a huge roar from their fans, Jay and Ira again slap hands as the Jets return to the playing field.  Jay moves his pants up and down, comically, flashing his socks. They bump asses.  Then they slap hands again.

Hearing that CC is off the phone, Jeremy reenters the bedroom.

 

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