Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the electrical fire — a parable

When Malkah was a little girl of seven or so, the tzaddik gave her a silver chain necklace with a star of David on it. The star was simple enough, and was surrounded by a circle. Malkah wore it every day. I don't think she noticed it at all. Someone put the thing on her, and so it was there. She didn't dare take it off. Not her department.

And so, as she learned how to take a shower, she kept the necklace on.

And when she got herself dressed, the star of David was tucked carefully inside her shirt so it wouldn't get lost. It hung right next to her heart. She took it for granted. She paid it no attention.

It was the mid 1950s, a curious time to be seven.

Someone had just given the tzaddik his first television set. I think it was his brother had sent it from New York. Strange gift indeed. For what does a tzaddik have need of such an abomination?

But he's a tzaddik, right? And sees the good in all things. He discovered the world news was not just in the New York Times or the Jewish Daily Forward — it was inside this box as well, with pictures.

Mrs Tzaddik wasn't so impressed. She knitted her brows and insisted that the abomination, as it was called in Malkah's house, was kept unplugged, except on the rare occasion it might be in use.

One evening, the tzaddik wanted to watch the abomination. He glanced at Mrs Tz for permission, and she consented with a grunt.

"Malkah," she called, from the kitchen, "go turn on the abomination."

And so Malkah went over to the thing itself. And picked up the thick black snakey cord. She had never done this before. It was a vote of confidence. She found the end of the cord with a bulbous head, and metal prongs sticking out. She bent over. She'd seen this done before; she knew what to do. She bent over and stuck the plug into the outlet —

And was thrown into the air across the living room into the furthest wall of the dining room behind it. A Dorothy in a hurricane — but Malkah knew nothing of Dorothy. She was lifted high into the air.

Her head smashed upon the wall, and she fell to the ground. There was smoke and a burst of flame coming from her chest, and a burning there. The whole house smelled of burning flesh.

The tzaddik stood frozen. The whole thing was less than a minute, and still he stood, unmoving. In shock, I think. Though clearly the shock had been Malkah's to bear.

Mrs Tzaddik ran to Malkah. Opened her shirt where now only the smoke and sizzle stood.

There, she saw what there was to see.

The star of David completely intact, with the circle around it burnt to a crisp. She held it up by the chain, and smiled a beatific smile.

"Look!" she said, to to the world at large. "You can try to burn us in a Holocaust, but see this? The Jewish People still survive!" She was ecstatic. Moved by the momentous quality of such a miracle of her People's continued existence. And then the moment was over. She stood up, left the room and went back to her cooking.

The tzaddik nodded. What else could he do? It was, after all, a miracle.


  1. Let me see if I've got this right. Someone gives a little girl a piece of jewelry. Later this metallic gift nearly gets her killed - and this is the cause of great celebration.

    What am I missing?

  2. You've got it right. In Malkah's family the larger principle is privileged.