Quite naturally, it fell to Yossie’s lot to make Max’s funeral arrangements, but never having done this before, he took Kivi along for support. At the local Jewish funeral home they met Sanford J. Siegel, R. E. (Registered Embalmer to his professional associates; Rich Embezzler to those who were unfortunate enough to require his services).
A youthful overdose of comic books had painted a picture in Yossie’s mind of the tall, somber funeral director, attired in black tie and tails, with dull slicked-back hair, pursed lips and receding chin. This image was off by light-years. Sanford Siegel was a Catskill Mountain version of a used-car salesman.
The glitter of greed that lit up Siegel’s eyes when he found the naïve-looking young men on his doorstep was all they needed to make them lose their innocence.
“Remember, you’re not just buyin a box,” Siegel began in a gravelly voice, “you’re makin a statement about your love for the dear departed. So lemme show you this here number.” He had a way of imbuing the sad duty of choosing a casket with the atmosphere of Bingo Night in Brooklyn. “It’s our top-of-the-line enamel job. Just look at this baby.” He gestured with his rank-smelling cigar, showering ash all over his yellow-and-green plaid sports jacket. “Comes in four fashion colors: classic burgundy, which is the one everybody’s buyin this year; indigo for that formal look; fire-engine red for people who prefer something a little more ah, if you’ll excuse the expression… lively; and my personal favorite, ten-mile orange – it glows in the dark. We got matchin leather padding inside and a light that goes on when you lift the top.”
“Please, please,” Yossie begged. “We’re only interested in a plain pine coffin, according to Jewish – ”
“Or how about our nautical model,” Siegel interrupted, clearly carried away by his ownsales pitch.
“You have a nautical model casket?” Kivi asked, stunned at the thought that something like that could actually exist.
“Yeah – it’s got portholes! The dear departed can look out and see all those who came to wish him bon voyage on his last journey! We call it the Titanic Ta-Ta.” Siegel huffed on one of the round windows and polished it with his sleeve.
“That’s a very comforting thought,” Yossie said dryly.
“Comfort? You want comfort?” With sausage-like fingers he patted a stainless steel sarcophagus. “This here’s our orthopedic model – Spinal Taps – specially designed to give the dear departed the rest of his life, for the rest of his li-”
“Mr. Siegel!” Yossie cut him off. “I want a plain wooden box. Do you understand? A plain wooden box.”
“Okay, okay, wood. How 'bout the Bobby Fischer Bye-Bye, for chess enthusiasts. Made of wood, of course, and it comes in your basic black – African ebony – or basic white, from American birch.”
“Stop! Please! No LeMans, no Titanic, no Bobby Fischer. Plain wood.”
“Will that be Philippine mahogany, Indian teak or Brazilian rosewood? I can get you walnut, if you like. The pecan is nice, but it takes a couple weeks. As long as you’re waitin, for just a few grand more, we can even have a biography of your loved one carved on the outside for future generations.”
“How about a pine box. No handles. No power steering or power brakes. No wall-to-wall carpeting or fancy upholstery, or tinted glass. Just plain, simple pine – the kind that is kosher according to Jewish Law.”
“Okay, okay. You win. Plain simple, no scrollwork. The Woolworth Special. I can’t guarantee that it’ll hold up, you realize. Now, the fiberglass numbers…” He added, his voice rising with enthusiasm, “those things are made to last. Guaranteed to protect your loved one from fire, wind, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural and man-made disasters for a period of seven hundred years or your money’ll be cheerfully refunded to whoever is left to receive it.”
Probably everyone can agree that the greatest gift on a national and a personal level is peace. When it is not achieved people go to war – on a national and on a personal level.
The rule seems to be that whatever is important does not come with ease. The decision of who to marry is the hardest decision one makes, and the decision about a home and a car are also fraught with vicissitudes. No one loses sleep over what snack to eat and what newspaper to buy. Accordingly, because peace is so important, it is naturally so elusive.
Needless to say, a family that is being torn asunder by strife would not be adequately helped by Hanoch Teller’s latest book, but it will go a long way for those (and who doesn’t) encounter arguments and strife on a daily basis. There is something very saccharine about the stories of Give Peace a Stance as they show the reader in a subtle, yet unmistakable way, that argumentation is futile. Argumentation with someone you love is destructive.
This volume also includes what has to be Teller’s longest, short story, exposing a popular cult. Its connection to harmony is perhaps a tad foisted, but the author is to be forgiven for relating one of the most unforgettable stories nearly beyond the ken of man. In the likely event that there is someone that you do not get along with, Give Peace a Stance is the ideal gift!
Reviewed in Hadassah Magazine
Words of Praise
|“Hanoch Teller instinctively follows the rules that guide great advocates: He captures the attention of his audience in order to persuade and gracefully drive a point home. Hanoch teaches profound lessons (as his Hebrew name signifies) while remaining a popular Teller of Torah Tales. His lasting lessons of yosher and derech eretz should influence the deeds of his readers and challenge their minds even while their emotions are stirred by his narratives.”|
|“Hanoch Teller has written another masterpiece, this time about the most vital of all subjects and the most cherished of all blessings: peace. This delightful volume will do more than just inspire and direct, it will transform. Give Peace a Stance, like the other books by the King of the Storytellers, is subtle, yet powerful; tactful, yet compelling. In this era of multidimensional strife – familial, social, national and international – the message of this book is more relevant than ever.”|
(Rabbi) Julius Berman, Honorary President,
|“I marvel at Hanoch Teller’s thoughtful mastery of subtlety and profundity of moral sensitivity as expressed in this panorama of human reality. This book’s elucidation of the concept of shalom (the ideal of Acharis Hayamim) is most impressive and fruitful.”|
Rabbi Joseph D. Epstein,