The Angel in Aaron

A Family's Irksome Visitor Becomes a Welcome Guest After a Harrowing Incident

Thinkstock

By Carol Ungar

Published April 04, 2013, issue of March 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Aaron walked into our lives on the day of my next-to-youngest son’s bar mitzvah. The services and the Kiddush reception were over; I was cleaning up, shoving plates of half-eaten cakes I’d baked myself into garbage bags, when he turned up on the arm of Shimon, one of our guests. “We can’t have Aaron for lunch. Maybe you could,” Shimon said.

“Sure,” I answered. I’d never hosted Aaron before, but it felt right. Hosting guests, especially challenging ones, was an old Jewish tradition and a mitzvah. Lots of my neighbors did it all the time: Shimon, of course, and also Jenny, who served meals to Eda, a chronically depressed woman who didn’t seem to bathe. At least Aaron was nattily dressed and clean.

I didn’t know Aaron, but I’d seen him and I knew his story. It was every parent’s worst nightmare. Thirty years ago, Aaron was born healthy. At age 3 he grew a brain tumor. The doctor removed it and saved his life, but after that he was different, out of sync. He never married, never had children, never held a paying job. He lived at home like a child, which in some ways he was.

The Jewish mystics say that people like Aaron are elevated souls, too holy for our grim and dirty world. With Aaron the holiness was evident. As soon as he sat down at our table, he began to sing, in his rich baritone voice, not pop songs or hip-hop, but the Sabbath zmiros, the exquisite Sabbath-table hymns of praise, penned by the Jewish poets of medieval Spain.

I loved the zmiros, but my family didn’t always sing them. That week, however, the bar mitzvah Sabbath, I wanted everyone around the table to sing con brio. Now, Aaron had arrived to answer my prayers. When he sang, everyone joined him. How could we not?

Aaron brought us another gift, too. As the 10th man at the table — in Jewish law, Aaron is a man — we were able to recite a special version of the bentshing, the grace after meals.

After that, Aaron became our guest. He never called or emailed or texted to announce his arrival. Nor did we contact him. He just came.

Sometimes he brought news — not current events or celebrity gossip or even sports scores. Aaron never watched TV, never listened to the radio, never surfed the Internet. Aaron’s big news was that he received a new keychain for his collection: He wore at least two dozen, some with Magen Davids, others with menorahs or mezuzahs attached. They dangled from his belt like a huge ball.

Another “news” item was a d’var Torah. Aaron’s divrei Torah were the kinds of things that kids learn in kindergarten, but when he repeated them his light-blue eyes shone like pale sapphires, and his sallow face lit up with a broad grin.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.