Because I Could Mumble Some Words

by Richard Epstein (Washington, DC)

The Cantor pulled me aside
and asked if I would spend
the holiday as a family guest
in the north side of town.

He said, the temple there
has a small congregation;
too small to guarantee
a minyan for the holiday.

“It’s an honor to be asked,
a mitzvah,” he said.
I was never asked to serve
as a Jew before, except when

I held the hupa for a wedding
at Rabbi  Guterman’s house.
The soles of my shoes had big holes.
I wore old high-top sneakers instead.

Friends coaxed me to go.
“You’ll be treated like a king,”
they said. No one asked
if I could daven. No one asked

if I had Tefillin or if I knew Torah.
I slept in the home of an elderly couple
not far from their shul. When we entered
for morning prayers, the men nodded and smiled.

“At last,” they shouted, “we can begin.”
When I returned home, the air seemed fresher,
the sun brighter, my mother’s eyes
beamed with delight.

Richard Epstein lives in the Washington DC area and is active in the Warrior Poets sponsored by Walter Reed Medical Center, the Veterans Writing Project and he hosts an open mic venue for veterans and friends of veterans on the National Mall 

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Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity

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