by Adina Kabaker

“So what do we do now?” says Mr. Finkl. “The cleaning lady used a butter knife to cut her bologna sandwich and it’s not kosher any more.”

“You must clean it in boiling water,” says Old Lady Mandelstamm, “and then bury it in the back yard for six days.”

“A month,” says Myrna, the old-maid sister of Mrs. Finkl, pursing her lancet of a mouth. “MY rabbi says a month.”

“Oy, I can’t believe it, that such a young girl is more frum than me,” says Old Lady Mandelstamm. “Six days is enough.”

“And I don’t believe YOU people,” says Aunt Feigie, the anarcho-syndicalist pinko who doesn’t believe in God. “If there is a god, he’s more interested in what comes out of your mouth than what goes into it.”

“You should talk,” says Myrna, “some of the things that you’ve had in your mouth. Since when are you a spokesman for God.”

“Didn’t you hear?” says Aunt Feigie. “I’m her confidante.”

Finkl’s father, the elder Finkl, who could care less about the knife says, “Ask YOUR rabbi. But be careful,” he says, “because if YOUR rabbi says six days and another subsequently says three, you have to go with the first opinion solicited. No shopping for opinions. The first one you got is binding.”

“Oy, listen to Pa, solicited yet,” says Old Lady Finkl. “That’s why you have to be careful who you ask. Myrna’s rabbi I wouldn’t ask.

Myrna looks huffy. She is forty-eight and unmarried. She is so religious and such a feminist she can’t find a proper husband. Some are feminist enough and not religious. Some are religious enough, but you try to find a religious feminist. All she talks about is shopping and nasty gossip about people and all the little frum things in her life. Did she tear enough toilet paper on Friday afternoon to have enough for the Sabbath, she shouldn’t have to tear. Can she set the electric coffee pot ahead, she shouldn’t have to boil before shul the next morning. She can’t talk about her job because she is the liaison from the National Security council to the CIA, and it’s all classified. She’s still mad because she wanted to say kaddish for her mother every day for a year after her mother died, and she knew there was a minyan at the National Security Council, but it was all men. They wouldn’t let her pray with them. One had said,” What do you want to say kaddish for, a nice girl like you? I’ll say it for you,” but she had taken a vow, and she felt like killing the guy.

The anarcho-syndicalist aunt was appalled that the National Security Council had enough orthodox for a minyan. What if the Iraqis decided to attack on shabbos? Would they refuse to answer the telephone. “We can’t come to the phone right now,” their answering machines would say. “Call back after sundown on Saturday. Have a nice shabbos,” Aunt Feigie often thought that modern technology would finally be the downfall of orthodoxy in religion, but the frummies just took it in their stride. Where once they had to hire a goy to light the fire on the Sabbath, now they had their goddamn electric coffee pots. The women, once shaving their heads and wearing clumsy wigs that looked like wood shavings, now wore sleek wigs from places like the Adora Salon or Marshall Fields, and were more of a temptation than they would have been with their real hair. And the answering machines so that they could obey the stricture against answering the phone (did God actually say that they shalt not answer the phone?) without missing an important message.

“So where’s this knife?” says Mrs. Finkl. “At least she didn’t put it back in the drawer, did she?”

“No, it’s on the back of the sink,” Mr. Finkl says. “You got her trained pretty good in that respect. And she knows enough to not mix the milk dishes and the meat dishes in the dishwasher and wait at least an hour before doing a load of one and then another.”

“Holy shit!” says Aunt Feigie. “You can’t do them together? This is worse than when I was a girl!”

“Feigl, your language,” Old Lady Mandelstamm says mildly. “Your mother would turn in her grave is she heard you.”

“She could probably use the exercise,” Feigie mutters under her breath.