COVID-19 AND THE GREAT HANNUKAH SURPRISE

The Zoom call lasted twenty three minutes and forty seven seconds. David Kornblatt had enjoyed talking with his sister Jeannie, her husband Jonas, and their kids Herman and Rose. He loved watching them light the menorah and sing with their whole hearts. They lived in Caesarea and the weather in Israel looked bright and sunny.

After switching off the call, David looked outside and it seemed snowy, dreary and gray. His emotions were unsettled. His Sister had asked why he wouldn’t consider moving to Israel. Their brother Otto lived with his family in Australia and Dave was the only one of the Kornblatts still in Canada. The fact he was alone must have been very hard. He shrugged it off ‘’I love Toronto, I love being in Canada, I really don’t have any desire to be anywhere else.’’ She told him she always had a place for him, and that was the end of the conversation.

The reality was David was in big trouble. He had operated a Knish cart in downtown Toronto. People loved his different flavours, and it was an all cash business. His friend Morris Finestine had a catering facility and he made two hundred knishes a day for David, and they were generally sold out by three o’clock. Since Covid-19 there was no desire or demand for food cart sales. He had to pay his enormous license fee, and Finestine was focusing on making meals for Shivas. It was a confluence of everything happening at the same time. David’s cash flow and savings were almost non-existent.

He had talked to his Super who had passed on to the landlord that David was late with the rent because of Covid and cash flow issues, and he felt sick. He was getting eighteen hundred dollars a month from the Government and his rent was fifteen hundred, his phone bill was one hundred and thirty five and his credit card bills were four hundred a month. He had to eat, and if it wasn’t for the Shtumpy knishes in his freezer he would have been starving. The funny thing was that David learned eating knishes for breakfast, lunch and supper kept you fat. He thought he would be losing weight but stepping on the scale in his bathroom indicated he had put on twelve pounds.

When David pulled his own Menorah out of a drawer he stopped and cried. How had everything gone so wrong. It started with Tamara his former girlfriend. He had loved her, but she simply didn’t feel the same way. When he proposed marriage, she instead said she needed to break up. ‘’David, you’re a happy and complacent guy. You like waking up at five in the morning, going and picking up knishes and selling them on the street till three. You like to come home and watch television, eat dinner, and go to sleep. Do you realize you do that seven days a week. It’s boring and when do I get quality time. I’m sorry David but you are the definition of melba toast, and I can’t see spending the rest of my life with you. I wish you good luck.’’

He had thought about driving for Uber but he had asthma and his Doctor had told him that with an underlying condition, Covid-19 could be fatal, so he should stay in home isolation and go out as little as possible.

David put the candle in for the Shamash (the one used to light the other candles) and the first candle for the first night of the eight nights of Hanukkah. He thought about how joyous Hannukah nights had been in the past and a feeling of depression washed over him.

He had always tried to do the right thing, help the less fortunate by giving charity, work hard and honestly and never do anything that would bring any kind of shame to the family name. He missed his Mom and Dad who had instilled his values. He wondered what his Dad would be thinking about the mess he was in.

The phone rang and he looked to see it was a Facetime call from Australia. Otto and Elsie and their kids Joe and Sylvia were waving at him as their Menorah was on display. ‘’We miss you David, anytime you want to come to Sydney we’d love to have you. Why don’t you think about moving here. My business is doing very well and you could join me. We love you, Happy Hanukkah.’’ David thanked everybody for the warm wishes and told them he’d think about the offer but he loved Toronto. As cold and crappy as it was out, there was something about the city that held him prisoner.

It was almost time to light the menorah, David put on a Yarmulke and the phone rang. He was feeling in the dumps and wasn’t going to answer, but it was Finestine’s number, so he thought he should take it.

‘’Happy Hanukkah David. It’s me Morris. Listen I have some news.’’ David answered him like he always did, ‘’Finestine, Great to hear from you, Happy Hannukah what kind of news?’’ There was a pause that seemed to last forever. ‘’You know I have a very smart Granddaughter, her name is Jill. I think you’ve met her, very smart, very smart. Anyways, she works for this company on Bay Street. It’s some kind of fund. A Hedge fund or something. So I’ve been sending lunches there, because some of the Executives still come to the office. My Jill is an Executive. She knew that by ordering the lunches she was helping me and feeding the hungry.’’ David wondered why he should care about hungry Bay Street power players eating lunch. ‘’So anyways, last week they wanted something different, so I had four flavours of your knishes in the freezer. I sent them the Mushroom, the Spinach, the Halomi Cheese, and the Kosher Pepperoni. I didn’t think anything about it. Then two days later they wanted the same thing. Then yesterday the same thing again, they really loved your knishes. Oh, I owe you money for them. Anyways, today my Jill brings two of her bosses with her to visit and they want to know about the knishes. Weird right, so I tell them you created them, you created Knish Niche and they want as much information as I can give them. I tell them you sell fourteen hundred a week at five dollars a knish and could probably sell more if you had more carts and a bigger supplier. This guy Ed Moses he tells me he wants you to call him. So his number is, write this down, 416–925–7884. He’s waiting for your call.’’ David thanked Morris and was completely curious. ‘’Morris you’re a mensch, I am going to create a special knish named after you.’’ He hung up and for the first time in days felt a spark.

It was four o’clock and normally David would have waited till the next day to call, but he picked up his phone and dialed immediately. It was answered on the second ring. ‘’Ed Moses’’ David introduced himself and the conversation lasted for seven minutes. Ed Moses and his team were looking for a new food product to invest in. They wanted to become partners with David, they would provide the financing to create a manufacturing facility in Oshawa (45 minutes East of Toronto) and wanted to set up Knish Stands all over the Greater Toronto Area. They would package the knishes for supermarkets and create an online presence for delivery. They would pay David an initial sum of two million for a fifty percent interest in his company. The goal was to expand and grow and then take Knish Niche public through a stock offering. Ed would courier over the documents for David to look at and as soon as they were signed he’d send over a check. The only way to describe what had happened was to call it a Hanukkah Miracle. David’s tears of upset had instead turned into tears of joy.

He lit his Menorah with a feeling of light inside of him. His story was really the Hanukkah story, when he thought things were as bad as they could get, they turned around for the better. He had held true to his values and he had been rewarded. He thanked Gd and sat down to eat a plain old potato knish with apple sauce. He would never complain about eating them again.

That night before he went to bed, David could only think one thought. It was lucky he had always loved the taste of a knish. It had led him to create some interesting flavours and it had paid off. However, once he had his check in hand, he was really looking forward to eating something that wasn’t round and filled with stuffings. A steak was sounding very nice.

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.

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