I'm officially Needy, as in poor. I know this because I received my first-ever handout last week from the ultra-Orthodox, who must know what they're talking about, right?
Like most epiphanies, it happened unexpectedly.
One minute I was my usual assimilated heathen self, catatonic before my 5,000th viewing of a Teletubbies video as my son wandered off to find something to demolish. The sofa was disintegrating beneath me, a hideous holdover from my husband's bachelor days now reduced to abstract stain configurations and stray stuffing. The coffee table was, as ever, a mass of kids' books, crumpled napkins, hardened food particles and half-empty sippy cups. The floor crunched underfoot.
The doorbell rang, always a bad omen. But this time it wasn't Mormons eager to earn that free toaster, but two Chassidic boys. One I recognized as a clone of the local Lubavitch rabbi. Most of his eight kids bear the same sandy hair and powder blue eyes. Really a handsome clan, but I can never tell them apart. This one said his name was Dov, and the older boy was also Dov, which certainly made it easier on my pregnant brain and its hormonally challenged memory.
The two Dovs handed me a cardboard box and with evident glee told me it was matzah. Not just your everyday, sawdust-flavored jumbo Saltine, but extra super kosher holy matzah from Israel, handmade by special matzah elves.
I was genuinely moved. Okay, floored. I thanked them profusely, sent my regards to the rabbi and then stood there mute, the Minitaur clinging to my legs. But before I could offer to defile them with a glass of water from my non-kosher dishes, they were gone with beatific smiles and "Happy Passover" wishes and waves. What cute kids.
No sooner had the door closed than I realized several things. One, how did they get here? There is no suburban subway to drop them off on my corner. And they looked too young to drive.
Two, was I supposed to offer to pay for the matzahs? I froze. This wouldn't be the first time I'd pleaded poverty with the local Chabad, the ultra-Orthodox community center, to the point where I was embarrassed to show my face there anymore. I won't get into specifics, but let's just say that I'm sticking to events where they sell tickets, so there's no confusion. I'm not a mooch, I don't scam free anything, but if people I like tell me to drop on by, I will, as often as I can, until they yank the welcome mat from under me, which they pretty much did, though with exquisite politeness of course.
That, and the shabby exterior of my home, with its untrimmed trees, mildewy paint and missing balcony rails, must have said volumes to these people. I looked in the Passover pamphlet they'd mailed: sure enough, the special matzahs were for sale. But they also sought donations so the needy wouldn't go without. That would be squalid, spongy me, then.
Now, if I were going to qualify for free anything, I'd want it to be a home makeover, not a marginally edible frisbee. I'm in somewhat more urgent need of a visit from the Merry Maids than the Prophet Elijah, but who am I to argue?
So there I was with this box of two round pieces of unleavened heaven, which somehow made it all the way from Israel without getting blown up, shot at or rebuked by the UN.
I handed the box Minitaur. He gave it a good shake. And one of them broke. Which is yet another reason why it's a good thing Jews don't believe in Hell.
Come Monday, I'm writing the Chabad a check.