Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stuck Between Observance and Idolatry

Abram came out of Egypt and the Holy One said, "Go out and tread a path for your children." And he did, and in the course of events he changed his name to Abraham.

I used to think that my father brought the transformation full circle by changing his name from Abraham, but I have a precious onion skin carbon on my desk that contradicts my memory. Whereas I thought my father, who I knew as Alfred Litt, was in fact born Abraham Litvinov, the petition filed with the Special Term Part 2 of the City Court of the City of New York, held in and for the county of the Bronx, at the courthouse thereof, Grand Concourse, in the Borough of the Bronx, on the first day of November 1946, states his name as Nuchim Leetroinow.

It was a time when a Jewish name was an impediment and Nuchim was cutting a path for his children. In the years I knew him, his tefillin remained in the drawer as he labored on the Sabbath for Mr. Jacoby, another Jew who was cutting a path for his children, one of whom inherited his business. The path they trod for their children was well marked and easy to follow. It taught me how to be a responsible man, it included a circumcision and a call to the Torah, but there were no candles on the eve of the Sabbath and no rest on the day itself. There are many gradations between observing all the commandments and idolatry.

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