A note from the author: This is the first section of “Teshuva, Tefila, Tzedaka.” “Teshuva, Tefila, Tzedaka” is part of a series called Holiday Indulgence. The series follows the adventures and misadventures of our heroine Malka Berkovich throughout the Jewish calendar, a fictional character that simply can’t resist celebrating and cherishing her Judaism.
Each installment can be read as a separate piece, although because of the character and the story’s development, I wouldn’t advise it. The first part, Shavuot, can be found here.
“I have a confession to make,” Hannah said.
“Do tell. And hello to you too,” Malka answered with no malice, shuffling some random papers on her desk while she spoke over the cell phone. Hannah’s frequent phone calls were becoming some sort of guilty pleasure for her.
“I hate the High Holidays.”
“Oh?” she said, surprised. Of all the confessions that crossed her mind, this was not one she was expecting.
“They depress me,” Hannah continued.
There was a pause and Malka heard a loud sigh before the other woman continued. “I have never told anyone this. I don’t like my family and I don’t think they like me all that much either.”
“Which is fine most of the times, I don’t really care, but on the holidays I simply can’t avoid them! I have to go to all these family dinners and gatherings and I really wished I could just stay away from all that.”
Malka thought of something to console her friend, but before she could think of some sympathetic cliché phrase, she continued talking.
“What do you do on the High Holidays?”
“Honestly?” Malka asked, her line of thought interrupted. “I ignore them.”
“Yes. I simply overlook them for a while and then they’re gone. It’s like magic.”
“Malka…” Hannah said, and Malka felt like she was being scolded for eating cookies before lunch.
“You don’t fast on Yom Kippur?”
“So… you just come to work like any normal day but you spend the day fasting?”
“Something like that. Why is it of importance, anyway?”
“Do you go to listen to the shofar? How do you know when the fast ends?”
“When I’m hungry enough, Hannah. Don’t change the subject, why are you so interested in knowing what I do?”
“Hannah…” She said, now her time to sound like a teacher.
“I may have bought tickets to New York.”
“Erm… yeah, you know. To spend the holidays with you. I told you before I was going to the big apple in a couple of weeks.”
“But I thought it was work related. I thought you were going to audit my behind once again.”
“No, I just— I don’t want to be here making lame excuses not to meet everybody. I’d rather be with you,” she says. “And make no mistake, I will be auditing your behind.”
“So you can escape your family,” Malka said, purposely ignoring the last phrase.
“If circumstances warrant.”
“And what, pray tell, are those circumstances?”
“I may have told them I have to visit my girlfriend.”
“Right,” Malka said, skeptically. Wait, girlfriend?
“Okay, okay, fine. I told them I had a boyfriend in New York and that I promised him we would spend Rosh Hashanah together.”
“Ok, then.” That’s more like it. “In that case, I wish you and your boyfriend a fruitful relationship and an enjoyable holiday,” she said with evident mirth.
“Come on, Malka, don’t be that way.”
“Whatever do you mean by that?”
“I can’t tell them I have a girlfriend. That would lead to many conversations I’ve actively avoided over the years!”
“So now we are girlfriends. Since when? I don’t remember agreeing to such thing.”
“I was kinda hoping to persuade you over the holidays,” Hannah said, the sultry voice back.
“Come on. Say yes? Please?”
“I’ll have to think about it.”
“Really? Well, then, call me when you decide. My boyfriend and I will be very busy snuggling in my couch while you make up your mind.”
Malka’s chuckles were interrupted by a buzz on her office phone.
“I have to go, Hannah. We’ll talk some other time.”
“I arrive on the 2nd and stay until the 15th.”
“Why that that long?”
“I have vacations. And apparently, I need all that time to convince a certain lawyer to be my girlfriend.”