“Ven freyt zikh an oremen?” asks the Yiddish proverb. “What makes a pauper rejoice? Az er farlirt un gefint, When he finds something that he’s lost”––because a pauper can’t afford a replacement. This is especially true when what’s been lost is one’s youth.
I was interviewed last week by a journalist whom I’ve known since we were in high school. Though never close, he and I have always been cordial; we were both good friends of a third schoolmate and saw a fair bit of each other at one time.
At the end of the interview, he said, “I’ve got something for you. It’s a little embarrassing, but, well, we’ll see what you think.”
The term “embarrassing” covers most of my waking moments since I escaped from the teeming ghetto of Lethbridge, Alberta, and I had no idea what he could be talking about. Bill, the journalist, reached into his briefcase and laid a book on the table. It was a paperback copy of The Liveliest Art by Arthur Knight, the first book on film-as-art that I ever read. “When I told Mike,” our mutual friend, “that I’d be interviewing you, he couriered this book to me. He said that he borrowed it from you in the ninth grade and wanted to give it back. Apparently, it’s been bugging him.”
I’ve been mourning this volume since 1968. Hashoves aveydeh, the return of missing articles, is a wonderful mitzvah. What you’re returning could be someone else’s innocence.
This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week. Below are some items for sale from eBay for those of you with an interest in Yiddish.
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