Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Does It GET You?

Everyone should read Frank Rich’s piece on Sunday. It is exactly what I would have said if he hadn’t said it first. The only thing he doesn’t mention is that the Illinois legislature just passed a bill that outlaws things like selling a Senate seat. I guess it was OK a week or so ago, but now it’s no longer legal. Talk about absurd. But let’s not dwell on the absurd, I would rather have a good laugh.

And speaking of a good laugh, last night we saw a wonderful, delightful, poignant, one man show called “Sleepwalk With Me.” The whole show was premised on a story Mike Birbiglia, the comedian, shared. It was inspirational for me because I am trying to write my book “Schlepper” as a show. When I do that, this is one of the stories I will tell. It is a shortened version but imagine yourself laughing along.

A Rabbi Mendelsohn called on a very busy morning. “Iris, I can call you Iris right?” He didn’t wait for me to answer. “We are about to perform your Get and we need you to participate. Won't you come to Silver Spring?" I had just learned my ex was getting married and he needed a Get (a Jewish divorce). I had been assured it would not inconvenience me so the call caught me a bit off guard.
"No Rabbi I have too much work, You can come here."
"With everyone", he queried?
"Who's everyone?”
" All the witnesses, the Rabbi's and your husband's proxy".
" How many everyone’s are there?
"About eight, maybe ten".
It was a lot of people in my home-office, but I was relentless in my pursuit of convenience.

The next day at 9:00am Rabbi Mendlesohn called again "Please Iris, can I call you Iris?” He still didn’t wait for an answer. Couldn't you come to Rabbi Greenbaum's home on 29th Street. Some of the people who need to be at the Get are very old and they can't travel so far. We'll pay for the cab."

I didn't really understand how these very old people were able to Get themselves to Silver Spring or 29th Street and not Q Street but I was tired of arguing. "O.K. Rabbi, We'll see you in about an hour."

At 11:00 my team appeared at the Rabbi's door. I had gathered together as many friends as were available for the occasion. I introduced them one at a time. None of them looked Jewish and the Rabbi tssked audibly, with each introduction until I got to Michael Evans. “ Oye, thank God, Mike Levins” he said. No that’s Michael (pause) Evans – I couldn’t resist the correction. "A shanda, all these people and the girl doesn’t have one single Jewish friend." He shook his head regrettably.

We proceeded into a very small room cluttered with religious paraphernalia and decorative "chachka's" (little useless things whose sole purpose is to collect dust). It smelled like the air had been strained with chicken soup and doused with brisket. The smell was not dinner. It was a Rabbi's study smell. It was one which permeated Rabbi's studies all over the world. I am convinced that on the day a Rabbi graduates from Seminary the smell is presented with the degree. "Here you are Rabbi Shmendrick, your degree your and the smell to go with it - would you prefer essence of chicken soup and brisket or would you rather have cholent. You know of course, that because you were top in your class you get eau de gefilte fish as a reward".

"Iris", the other Rabbi whispered mournfully, "we are so sorry about your loss". "Who Died?" I whispered in return. As you can see I attempted to maintain my sense of humor. The Rabbi turned, unamused and introduced me to the witnesses.

You may wonder just who goes to a Get? One was a law student who made an extra couple of dollars being a witness to the demise of marital bliss. Two were introduced as members of the Congregation. I assumed it didn't matter which one since they were all the same. Two were Rabbinical students and one was an old man who must have been the Rabbi's father. He also must have lived in this study because he was incapable of traveling from a sitting to standing position yet alone from one place to another. He required assistance every time he had to get up for a prayer. "Girlie" he would say to my friend Marthena (she was the closest to him). "Girlie, denks so much for your help. This is not such a wonderful ding, a divorce. Don't worry because God willing, your friend will meet a nice Jewish boy, who doesn't mind she has no Jewish friends, and she'll get married again. She’ll live a happy life, maybe have a few children-boys God willing and so you shouldn't worry. Denks be to God My wife is still alive and we've lived a heppy life- we have our health and our children, who could ask for more. Denks for helping me to get up, you're a nice girl." This litany was repeated every time we stood. I got to thinking it was actually part of the service. "Barouch atah adonoi...God willing you'll get married again..." I listened and I listened and I listened. I made them translate the Hebrew into english so I could understand that my ex was divorcing me and divorcing me and divorcing me. Jewish women do not get to divorce Jewish men. Only the man can throw the woman from his tent.

As a final humiliation I had to take off all my jewelry , accept the piece of paper on which the Get was scripted and walk out of the house. It was, surprisingly, a tremendous relief for all. My friends were relieved that they could go back to work. The witnesses were relieved because they no longer had to be a part of my history. And I think I was relieved to be starting a brand new life or maybe scared is a better word.

We're just sayin.... Iris


Anonymous said...


Not being Jewish, is it custom that at some random point during this service you get to zing your pumps at the Rabbi - or better - your ex? Or is this a Muslim only thing?

And why do I get the feeling I'm stealing the thunder from your final bash George Bush blob?

Anonymous said...

How to Chia Pets fit into this picture?

Anonymous said...

Nice stuff Iris!

Iris&David said...

Here's the truth. I actually like my ex, I will never take a final shot at George (I hate piling on) and Chia pets are my passion.