10 Teves 5779 / Tuesday, December 18, 2018 | Torah Reading: Vayechi
 
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I Married a Gangster    

I Married a Gangster



Spanish Eddie convinced Nathan, the sort-of nice Jewish Cornell University guy and grandson of the holy Zeide Mendel, to help him pull off a heist…

 



No kidding, I married a gangster fourteen years older than me. Before you get all upset, it’s not as bad as you think. Nathan wasn’t exactly a street tough like Spanish Eddie (see below). Nathan played stickball with the kids on the block, yes. But he also became the President, I mean of the Math Club at Jefferson High School.

 

Then he graduated, and his father sent him on the road to success, to Cornell University. But hold on a minute; first you should know that Nathan, for a time, had grown up in the house of his Zeide (Grandpa) Mendel, who brought the holy Satmar Rav to America. Some people think that was wow, fantastic, but it didn't cut the mustard in Cornell.

 

Nathan’s dad wasn’t like the other guys’ fathers who ran General Motors and General Electric. Nathan’s old man ran a dairy store, so naturally the guys at Cornell wouldn't let Nathan into their fraternities, not even the Jewish ones. So, what could he do? He fell into bad company and emerged an underground hero. The dean at Cornell had cancelled spring break because too many students got pregnant last time, so Nathan led the first student riots ever and suddenly gained recognition on campus.

 

It was 1963. I was 9 years old, battling Miss Leo in grade school and getting black marks on my record. Remember, Nathan and I were soulmates from before we were born; our lives unfolded in parallel paths. Cornell gave Nathan a diploma just to get him to leave. We’ll skip what happened next; I wasn’t there.

 

But in 1965 Nathan turned 24, and I reached puberty. Nathan moved to the city and got into trouble. Hey, not with me; our paths didn’t cross yet. But why? Hashem can do anything, right? Looking back, I guess G-d heard about the General Assembly Resolution of November 1,1965, that the minimum age for marriage be no lower than fifteen years, and I was only 11, and you know it’s not Hashem’s way to argue with people.

 

So, thank you very much, United Nations diplomats, senators and congressmen. I know you intended to protect me and all the innocent little girls but look; you stifled me. I was going nuts and didn’t know why. Now I know why: I wanted my husband, my soulmate, the gangster.

 

Just imagine if I had married him then, instead of 26 years later at the age of 36, with five children and a divorce.

 

Anyway, back to 1965: Nathan had an older brother named Seymour, who was the first to ignore the New York zoning laws and rent a loft to live in rather than use as a warehouse. When this brother got up and moved somewhere else, Nathan’s artist friend Jim moved in with all his paintings, frames and paints, but the problem was that Spanish Eddie moved in too and took over.

 

And he did something incredible: Spanish Eddie convinced Nathan, the sort-of nice Jewish Cornell University guy and grandson of the holy Zeide Mendel, to help steal all the stuff from Jim’s apartment. That is how it goes when you don’t watch out: The Evil Inclination’s way is to paint transgressions in psychedelic colors with all kinds of rationalizations, and his plan succeeded.

 

Nathan had a car, and he helped Spanish Eddie load the stolen stuff into the car.

 

In the middle of the heist, Hashem put a crazy thought into Nathan’s mind—it was crazy because Nathan suddenly decided he didn't want to be involved. He didn’t want to steal! He must have walked in that crazy dust (see Rebbe Nachman’s story "The Cripple") like the thieves in the story, except that they died, whereas Nathan just gave up the fabulous Peter Pan life he had before we married, with the dancing, the beer drinking, sliding on rocks in his own mountain stream—and then get married and stay in the house with 6 screaming maniacs, one a grown woman…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

Back to 1965: Nathan screamed, out of the blue, “I'm leaving!” and just as he knew in his heart all along, Spanish Eddie’s face turned red and he rushed after Nathan with a shotgun.

 

Jim’s second-floor warehouse apartment had 20 steel steps from the landing to the ground floor. Nathan dropped the stolen paintings on the landing and rushed out. Spanish Eddie ran after him with a shotgun. Nathan scrambled down the ten steps to the first-floor landing and suddenly knew he had no time; he was going to die in seconds, in the middle of helping a murdering thief.

 

Nathan thought of saying the Shema Yisrael he had learned as a kid, but the words wouldn’t come. So, he jumped like he never jumped in his life. And a fantastic miracle happened: Nathan’s jump spanned all 10 steel steps from the first-floor landing to the ground floor. It was more like flying than jumping; Nathan had no explanation. Spanish Eddie, the sharpshooter, pulled the trigger and, miracle of miracles, the bullet didn't hit Nathan at all. It turned around slowly and made its way back toward Spanish Eddie.

 

When Nathan returned Jim’s paintings outside the apartment, he heard that the police had killed Spanish Eddie right there. That’s what was written in the report, but Nathan knew Hashem had done it.

 

So yes, I sort of married a gangster, and his gangster friends occasionally came for a visit. But hear what Rabbi Shalom Arush says, which I saw with my own eyes: “Every woman has the capacity to turn her husband into Moses—even if at present he is a wicked Bilaam…she must be happy with her husband and with her mission.” (Women’s Wisdom, p. 148)

 

And yes, dear sisters, I know that your husband doesn't smile when he comes home, and it hurts. But think about it: you’re perfectly matched but his badness is no match for your womanly powers. And the badder he is, the greater he will be.

 

 

* * *

Alizah Teitelbaum has been an actress, an editor’s assistant at Random House, and a columnist at the Jewish Times of Johannesburg. Her stories have appeared in Hamodia, Ami, Mishpacha, The Voice of Lakewood, The Jewish Press, and other places. She edits fiction and poetry  for https://sassonmag.com/ and blogs at http://alizahteitelbaum.weebly.com/blog . Alizah lives in the Negev Desert. Write to her at eliseteitelbaum@gmail.com 





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  4 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  1.
  Great, great article, thanks Alizah (only subject)
Rivka Levy10/11/2018 2:31:48 PM
     
 
  2.
  dear Elisheva
alizah10/11/2018 1:58:25 AM
     
 
  3.
  I like your style!
Yehudit10/9/2018 5:07:00 PM
     
 
  4.
  Problematic message
elisheva10/8/2018 2:13:54 PM
     
 

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