The Costume


By Daniel M. Jaffe

Published March 12, 2004, issue of March 12, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Driving the family home from synagogue, Audrey looked into the rearview mirror, and posed the usual Shabbes question to Andrew in his car seat, “So, katshkela, did you get anything out of Ki Tissa, today’s Torah portion?”

“I sure did!”

“Mazel tov! Tell us.”

“I got a great idea for a costume! For next Halloween.”

Audrey darted a glance at Jonathan. He’d long felt ambivalent about Jewish children dressing up for a holiday that was Christian at best, pagan at worst. Yet Audrey and Jonathan were careful to be gentle with Andrew on religious matters since they’d suffered in childhood from well-meaning, but fire-and-brimstone-spouting Hebrew school teachers. “What better way to enjoy the Torah,” said Audrey, trying to cut off Jonathan’s frustration at the pass, “than to dress up like a Torah character?”

“I don’t know,” mumbled Jonathan.

“It’s wonderful that the Torah portion inspired you, katshkela,” Audrey said, her voice a little too cheery. “Who from Ki Tissa do you want to be next Halloween?”

“Guess!” said Andrew, clapping his hands.

“Um… um… um…,” Audrey played along, “I think I can guess this one…. It’s Moses carrying the two tablets down from Mt. Sinai, right?” She glanced again into the rearview mirror.

Little Andrew shook his head.

“Not Moses?” asked Audrey. “Okay, Jonathan, your turn to guess.”

“Aaron?” Jonathan asked, a bit disturbed since Aaron had not displayed his greatest wisdom in Ki Tissa, what with collecting gold from the Children of Israel and fashioning that golden calf idol.

Again, little Andrew shook his head, giggling this time.

“Okay,” Audrey said, “We give up. Who from Ki Tissa do you want to dress up as on Halloween?”

Bouncing up and down in his car seat, Andrew said, “The golden calf! I want to be the golden calf!”

“No!” snapped Jonathan. For the first time in his life, Jonathan understood what Moses must have felt descending Mt. Sinai.

Audrey pulled over to the side of the road, pressed Jonathan’s hands in hers. “Andrew, sweetheart,” she said, “you can’t dress up as the golden calf.”

“Sure I can! We’ll get a cow mask and we can glue glitter on it!”

Audrey took a deep breath, collected her thoughts. “Listen, katshkela, Jewish children do not dress up as the golden calf.”

“Why not?” Andrew’s grin was fading. “It would be pretty.”

“Because we’re not Hindus,” said Jonathan.

“Jonathan, that’s not helpful. Let me?”

Jonathan nodded.

“Andrew, don’t you remember how angry Moses got when he came down from Mt. Sinai and saw the golden calf? He smashed the two tablets, he was so angry. The golden calf was bad.”

“Why?” asked Andrew.

“Because the people thought it was a god. They prayed to it. Like in ancient Egypt where they prayed to idols.”

“Idols are bad,” said Andrew, his voice Hebrew-school solemn.

“Yes, sweetheart, you’re absolutely right. Idols are bad. So we must never dress up like an idol, okay?”


“You understand?”


“That’s my good boy.” Audrey re-joined traffic. Jonathan gave her a thumbs-up. “So,” she said, “let’s think hard — who else from the Torah portion could you be on Halloween?” She looked in the rearview mirror, saw Andrew’s face light up with an idea.

“I know! I know!” he said. “I’ll dress up as the Almighty! He’s not an idol. And we know He’s good, right?”

“Oh, brother,” Jonathan groaned.

“Yes, sweetheart,” Audrey said, trying not to laugh. “We know He’s good. But, you can’t dress up like Him because nobody knows what He looks like.”

“Sure we do, Mom! He looks like an old man.”

Audrey turned her head to Jonathan, her face filled with an I’m-fresh-out-of-ideas look.

“Andrew,” said Jonathan, “let me ask you something.”

“Be gentle,” Audrey whispered.

“If you dress up as the Almighty,” Jonathan began, “what if a stranger walking down the block sees you and thinks you really are the Almighty? Maybe this stranger will start praying to you like you’re an idol or something.”

“Uh-oh,” said Andrew.

“Yeah,” said Audrey. “Big uh-oh. Maybe Ki Tissa isn’t the best Torah portion for Halloween costumes.” Her turn to give a thumbs-up.

“I know!” said Andrew. “I know what to dress up as!”

“Okay,” said Jonathan, wincing. “Let’s hear it.”

“I’ll dress up like the two tablets! You can write on me in Hebrew!”

Once more Audrey and Jonathan looked at each other. This time they shrugged. “Andrew,” said Jonathan, “you found yourself a costume.”

Daniel M. Jaffe, editor of “With Signs and Wonders: An International Anthology of Jewish Fabulist Fiction,” lives in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • 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.