The Good Dybbuk of Brooklyn
by Mel Waldman
Character: Jacob Friedman (JF)
Jacob Friedman sits on a black leather couch in the living room of his one-bedroom apartment in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, overlooking Ocean Parkway near the corner of Avenue P. He clutches a manuscript entitled The Good Dybbuk of Brooklyn. Alone, he speaks to G-d, although he lost his faith years ago.
JF: Hashem, perhaps you have forgotten who I am. Billions of people pray to You each day. But I am not one of them. My name is Jacob Friedman, the grandson of Samuel Friedman, a Holocaust survivor. He died last year on Yom Kippur and I am still in mourning. He was a simple man of faith — a baker who went to synagogue as often as he could — but always on Shabbat.
He was a man of strong character. But once, in a private conversation, he confessed he had temporarily lost faith when the Nazis took him to Auschwitz. It was the hardest period of his earthly existence. His faith was shattered and yet, miraculously restored.
I do not understand... A man of logic and science, I am a professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College. From time to time, I have poignant memories of my youth when I had absolute faith. Raised as an Orthodox Jew, I could have become a rabbi. But my faith was weak. The evil I witnessed or experienced overwhelmed me. I stopped believing.
(There is a long silence.) But now... I have a guest inside my body — my mind. A wandering soul — a dybbuk — has, indeed, entered my middle-aged body.
Or I am mad! Yes, I may be insane and if so, I desperately need to speak to a shrink. But if my guest is truly a dybbuk and not a psychotic episode, I need to see a rabbi. What is it, Hashem? Am I crazy or...? Give me a sign! Show me the divine light!
(Suddenly, the living room is pitch-black. Jacob sits in darkness and cries out) Is that You, Hashem? Is this a cosmic joke? Jacob laughs uncontrollably. His boisterous laughter is followed by a brief silence.) Perhaps, I am a madman. But in any case, Hashem, I need to understand... I need...
Jacob Friedman is still in his living room. He is sitting on his black leather couch. Suddenly, he stands up and paces back and forth.
JF: Hashem, You won’t believe this, I suppose! But then again, You will because... You are my omniscient G-d. Well... the dybbuk is the soul of my grandfather Samuel Friedman. I feel his presence. He is inside me and at times, he reveals secrets of his past.
And when I dream now, I dream his ancient dreams, see his buried visions, hear the voices of his rending past. The soul that has invaded my body is a good dybbuk — the soul of my beloved grandfather and Samuel Friedman wishes to communicate with me. I do not understand... But I am here to receive his secrets...
(Jacob walks to the center of the room, stands still, and cries out) I am a man of logic, Hashem. But this eerie experience may make a believer out of me. It is incomprehensible... And so are You, my G-d. So are You!
Jacob is asleep on the black leather couch in his living room. His hands still cling to his manuscript which lies on his chest. There is a long silence. Then suddenly, Jacob wakes up and jumps to his feet.
JF (cries out): I was on the Auschwitz ramp, Hashem, with my grandfather. An SS officer, who had just sent mothers and children to the left, told him to go to the right side.
I saw the face of this SS officer and his sadistic smile. And I saw his penetrating eyes — bright green — like emeralds. His cutting eyes looked familiar. My grandfather’s dybbuk revealed this and more...
I saw a class picture of my precious daughter, a senior at Brooklyn College. She is as beautiful as her mother — my beloved wife — who was killed in a hit-and-run accident five years ago. The driver was never caught. My daughter is all I have. And she looked lovely in this class picture — a class on Germanic studies.
Her professor was in the picture too. I’ve met him before. And as my eyes zoomed in, I saw... his bright green eyes. But... He is too young, about my age. Unless...
There was a second picture of Sarah, my daughter, with her professor in his office. Sarah is his best student and he seems quite proud of her. In the background of this picture, were the professor’s family pictures hanging on the wall. In one picture, he was flanked by two men — perhaps his father and grandfather. Perhaps... All three men penetrated my anguished soul with their bright green eyes.
Soon, I saw Sarah with her great grandfather. She proudly showed my grandfather the two pictures. His joyous face was suddenly transformed into the mask of death. For a moment, he stared into the Void that separated us, and I saw his mask of horror — terror! Then, I wore it too as my body trembled and my face twitched.
But finally, I traveled with my grandfather to a mysterious, blessed place. Was it Heaven? I had peace of mind. Hashem, You were near and I was touched by Your love and the beauty of the universe. Grandfather reached out to me and handed me a key — perhaps a safety deposit key or the key to my soul or the key to unlock the mysteries of the universe.
I took the key and gazed at my sweet grandfather whose face glowed blissfully. And I awakened! Hashem, I need your guidance. What do these dreams mean? I fear... Perhaps, I assume the worst. It may be a false interpretation. But... What shall I do? An SS officer may still be alive! My daughter’s life may be in danger! Hashem, what shall I do?
Jacob Friedman sits hunched over on the black leather couch. Still clutching his manuscript, he rocks back and forth and mumbles to himself. He is wearing a yarmulke. Soon, he speaks.
JF: What shall I do, Hashem? And now, the dybbuk of my grandfather, Samuel Friedman, is gone. I feel empty. I miss the good dybbuk.
Of course, Hashem, some Kabbalists would call this righteous spirit an ibbur — not a dybbuk. I’ve done some research, my loving G-d. The meaning of ibbur is impregnation, in which a righteous soul decides to enter a living person’s body temporarily. The spirit is benevolent and may wish to complete an important assignment or perform a mitzvah, a good deed, which can only be done by occupying a living person’s body.
In any case, the soul of Samuel Friedman has left my body. And I must fathom the meaning of this supernatural communication.
(There is a long silence.) What shall I do, Hashem? An SS officer may still be alive! My daughter’s life may be in danger! I will speak to Sarah and search for the key. I need proof before I act. But even now, when so much is incomprehensible, my faith is restored, Hashem!
(Jacob recites the Shema, the central prayer of Judaism.) Hear O Israel, YHVH is our G-d, YHVH is One.
Copyright © 2007 by Mel Waldman