April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

They call me the Maggid of Manalapan, but it’s getting tough to be a maggid these days. Everyone is used to getting their stories free from the internet. What’s more, this guy known as the Maggid of Bergenfield muscled into my turf a while back, and he’s been getting more popular than a chatan at tachanun time.

But while times for a maggid are tough, luckily I’m a tough maggid. So to make ends meet I do a little seamus work on the side. You know––a gumshoe, detective, private eye. Not everyone wants to hear a story, but they often have their own sob story to tell yours truly. Still, they want me to write their happy ending. In this business, though, I find happy endings are about as rare as a bagel in a matzah factory.

It was the first night of Chanukah when he walked into my office. Or perhaps rolled in is more like it. He had a jelly donut in his hand, and a round physique to match. I myself had enjoyed only a liquid dinner, so the smell of the warm donut had me licking my chops like one of Pavlov’s poodles. The guy made himself comfortable in a chair to take the obvious strain off his feet.

“So Mister Maggid – I hear you can find things.”

“Yea – I’ve found an afikomen or two in my time. What’s it to you, mister?”

“Let me introduce myself. Sam Sufgan. I am in the Chanukah supplies business. In fact, they call me the Chanukah King. You can call me that too.”

“Thanks, but I’ll stick with Sam, Sam. What brings you across my threshold on a festive night such as this?”

Sam Sufgan looked down sadly, “No festivities for me––I’m in trouble Mr. Maggid. I need your help, or I will soon be a king without a crown. I had a big shipment of chocolate Chanukah gelt coming in. Bags and bags of chocolate gold and silver coins. It’s all been heisted. If I don’t find that gelt, I’ll be cleaned out. Cleaned out like a kitchen before Pesach.”

The man needed his goods back, and I needed the fee. So I took his case and hit the streets. First thing, I headed down to the docks. Gus the Ganuf was no good-guy, but when it comes to finding goods, he is my go-to getter. “Hey Gus, I’m in the market to get my gloves on a lot of chocolate gelt. Any ideas?”

“I don’t know Maggid. Hard to find much this year. Some kind of shortage.”

“What if I’m not too particular about the source? I don’t mind taking my chocolate hot, if you get my drift.”

Gus got my drift. “There’s a kid found some that fell off the back of a truck, I hear. Head down to the Weehawken Waterfront Warehouse. You might find what you need. Ask for Sol.”

The Weehawken Waterfront Warehouse area was covered in fog like a shvitz’s steam room, which made the dark night even darker. “I sure could use a Shamash candle about now,” I thought. Suddenly a large figure stepped out of the shadows. Broad shouldered and short-necked, this guy looked something like a walking hamantashen.

He spoke with a low raspy voice. “I’m Sol. You in the market for chocolate gelt? If you got the cash, I got the stash.” He grabbed my arm and led me roughly down an alley to a window in the back of a building. “It’s right in there. But I forgot my key. So we just gotta squeeeeze you through this window.”

I didn’t like where this was going, but I was in a tight spot, and the window was an even tighter spot. But suddenly, something came down on my head that felt like Judah Maccabee’s hammer. Next thing I knew, Sol had taken off and I was flat on my back seeing stars like it was tzeis hakochavim.

When I was able to open my eyes again, I was surprised to see a face that I recognized from the papers, casually tossing a baseball up and down. “Well, if it isn’t Michal Mantel––two-time Jewish Link Sportstar of the Week. Pitcher for the Beis Rachel Bombers.”

The kid was only around 12 years old, but I still was not eager to test that pitching arm against my head again. Still, I have trouble keeping my thoughts to myself. “What’s a kid like you doing mixed up in stealing chocolate”?

Her eyes grew large and I grew alarmed. “I’m not stealing anything! You are the thief! Our team bought that chocolate fair and square––it was for a Chanukah party we were throwing for Yachad kids! We had to move it here and guard it because you keep trying to steal it!”

So, I had figured Michal wrong. She was on the up and up. But I still needed to find who was the authentic malefactor in this case. “Listen kid, I am not the thief. I’m looking for the same person as you. You have to stay out of my way and trust me.”

“Why should I trust you? Hillel HaZaken says in Pirkei Avot 2:4 to not even trust yourself–– until the day before your death!”

“Yea, well Rabbi Eliezer says in Pirkei Avot 2:10 to do teshuvah a day before your death, but many commentators say that really means do teshuva every day, because we could die tomorrow. So who knows––this might be my day to be trusted.”

“Alright”, Michal said, “but I am coming with you.”

“Sorry kid, I work alone. Crowds are good for making a minyan, not for snooping.” I hightailed it out of there fast as a hungry guy leaving shul after Yom Kippur.

I knew I needed to head back to my client. I found him just getting ready to sit down at a table with a plate full of steaming fresh donuts. “Why Mister Maggid. Nice to see you again so soon. Come on in and have a seat to enjoy a donut. Then you can tell me what you have found.”

I sat down across from him and helped myself to the biggest one. “Will the rest of your family be joining us?”

“Why yes. Let me introduce them. There is my sister Sarah, and here is my son.” Two sizable individuals walked in. The sister Sarah I had never met before. But the son I recognized, just like I figured I would. It was Sol from the warehouse. “Say, wait, what’s the big idea––how did you know I had family coming?”asked Sam Sufgan.

I looked him straight in the eye. “You double crossed me Sam Sufgan! You sold that chocolate gelt to the Beis Rachel Bombers, fair and square. But that wasn’t enough for you, was it? You figured if you could steal it back then you could sell it again and again––making one delivery of chocolate gelt last for all eight nights of Chanukah! And you wanted me to be the heavy.”

Sam Sufgan knew I had him dead to rights. “It was going to be my own personal Chanukah Miracle!” he wailed. “By the end of eight days, I’d be rich––the king of all Chanukah!”

“Don’t you know your Jewish history and what happened to the original Chanukah kings who got greedy?”I asked. “After the Chashmonaim saved the Jewish nation from the Greeks, later generations took both the Kingship and the Kehuna Gedolah, became corrupted, and King Alexander Yannai persecuted the Rabbanim. In the end, Herod came and replaced them all and there was nothing left of the Chashmonaim. You are falling into the same trap.”

But Sam Sufgan still had a few tricks up his ample sleeve. He suddenly kicked over the table on me so that I was pinned down. Then the sizable Sam Sufgan, Sam Sufgan’s son Sol and Sam Sufgan’s sister Sarah all leaned their weight on the table, making it impossible for me to move or breathe. I tried to shout for help, but Sarah stuffed a donut in my mouth, gagging me. They had gotten the drop on me all right. If only I had not sat down for that delicious donut. Now it might be curtains for the Maggid of Manalapan.

Just as I thought my time was running out – I heard a noise like a fast and low whistle, followed by a series of three distinct “boink” sounds. The eyes of Sam Sufgan, Sam Sufgan’s son Sol and Sam Sufgan’s sister Sarah all suddenly showed surprise as baseballs bounced off of each of their heads. A moment later they fell back out cold.

It was Michal Mantel! The kid had followed me and taken out the Sufgan goons. “What were you saying about needing to work alone Mister Maggid?”

“You’re alright, kid. And that arm of yours sure came in handy. But don’t get cocky.” The flatfoots came for the Sufgan family and gave them a one way ride to the clink.

I didn’t get my fee in the end, but I did get a donut, and the Yachad kids got their Chanukah party. All in a day’s work for the Maggid of Manalapan.

Dan Barenholtz moonlights by day as a corporate international tax and governance director. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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