The Halvah Man comes every Purim. Until one year, he’s missing
As Told to Etty Fried
The Halvah Man comes every year, before the Purim seudah — when ribbons and nuts and exposed Styrofoam are still strewn about.
He once told my father he comes before the meal, before the meshulachim arrive, so that my father can listen, really listen, to his story. Not just stroke his beard and rip off a voucher, as though he’s a tipsy yeshivah bochur in a Dr. Seuss costume.
My father listens — and gives — generously, and they talk news, politics. He brings halvah-filled hamantaschen with him every year, no bow or ribbon, just the plastic box, price on. He lays it on the table, magnanimously, and says, “Ess abissel.”
My mother doesn’t like halvah, but she takes one, just to see his smile, to watch his back straighten a little on this day when, door after door, he’s a taker, taker, taker. Then he disappears into the noise outside, and the box stays in the center of the table for the meal, mostly untouched.
The Halvah Man, as my brother called him some years back, has been coming for 15, maybe even 20 years, and counting. A tradition of sorts.
The meal starts this past year. Drinks spill, bits of liver blintz get trampled under chairs, kids’ costumes trail along the floor. Dancing feet, spirited teenagers, and music tumble into our house, the noise spilling in from the streets. It’s lively and busy, so it’s only after the main course that my sister notices she hasn’t seen the meshulach who comes before the meal, the Halvah Man.
“Where’s the Halvah Man?” she calls to my father, across the table centerpiece that’s lying on its side. It takes him a minute to get what she’s asking, and he shoves a couple of coins into a little monkey’s hand before mouthing, “He passed away.”
I don’t know why, but my heart drops, and there’s a lump in my throat. I look to the center of the table, where the halvah-filled hamantaschen had claimed space for years, and a million questions I never thought to ask crowd in. Who was this man? What was his name? Where did he live? How old was he? I don’t even know. A nameless man touched our lives and then disappeared.
We’re clearing up the mess later when my sister rushes in, breathless. In the chaos, I didn’t realize she’d even slipped out. She’s brandishing a plastic box that she slowly, sacredly, places in the center of the half-cleared table.
We all stare. “For the Halvah Man,” she whispers.
I take her hand and we sit at the table, next to the hamantaschen, for a long time. Thinking about the man (father? son? husband?) who was part of our Purim every year.
Then, my mother goes first. Gently, she reaches for a small, halvah-filled hamantasch, and slowly makes a brachah.
l’illui nishmas the Halvah Man
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 784)
Oops! We could not locate your form.