A time to forgive and forget (where you put your glasses)

Everybody knows about Yom Kippur and its repentance theme, even Jewish humorists who hang out at Kosher food shops where you get a discount on corned beef ends that are turning green:

Bright turquoise — 30 percent off. Green like parsley — 40 percent.

No problem. A heavy smear of hot mustard hides the color, the odor and that fishy taste.

“This is a delicious gefilte fish sandwich.”

“Yeah, it’s the newest thing — the chef at the Tel Aviv Hilton came up with it.”

Like I say, we know about repentance.

What a bargain — only once a year and you’re clean.

My son calls every year right before erev Yom Kippur. The phone ring sounds like a shofar blast. I can tell by his tone that this is an official call.

No “Hello, Pop.” — It’s “Father.”

“Yes?” I answer with gravity and some trepidation.

He couldn’t have wrecked the family car again since he’s 50 years old, owns a car of his own and lives 500 miles away.

“Father, have I done anything to offend you this past year?”

His humility sounds like Isaac when he asked Abraham to forgive him for lagging behind, climbing up to the sacrificial site atop Mount Moriah.

(“No, no, Isaac, considering you were the offering and therefore depressed — you did just fine.”)

“If so,” my son continues, “I want to ask your forgiveness.”

Given the formal generality of the request, what can I say besides, “sure, you’re forgiven”?

I’d prefer he’d tell me he was wrong when he tried to convince me that “K-Pax” (Kevin Spacey) was a great, great movie thereby aggravating me so badly that I was forced to re-rent it and write an 800-word critique proving conclusively that it was a B-film.

Besides that, he still didn’t admit that I was right when I told him that Catherine Zeta Jones was spectacular in “Chicago.”

That’s the real spirit of Yom Kippur; the admission by the youth that an elderly, forgetful father (where’d I put my glasses?) is correct one time out of a hundred.

Losing the glasses is a trivial oversight relative to a thorough knowledge of the prophets — including the name of Hosea’s wife. After I clipped him with that one in a father/son telephone conversation, I went in for the kill, “OK, then rebbe, what’s the name of Hosea’s mother?”

He didn’t know. (I neglected to inform him that her name isn’t mentioned.)

Since it’s still my job to inspire, I tell him the oldest forgiveness joke on record. (It didn’t make the Talmud — maybe the next edition.)

A swindler ruins the life of his partner, steals his money and frames him on a fraud charge. The partner, penniless and confined to an 8-by-8 foot jail cell, even loses his wife, the love of his life.

He’s lost everything.

Years later the swindler hears the shofar’s blast in his heart. He yearns for forgiveness from the poverty-stricken, lonely ex-jailbird. He seeks the elusive victim for years, spends a fortune … (drag it out as long as you like).

Finally, here the ex-partner is in a lonely monastery — did you say monastery? — in the Kamchatka peninsula (or any other exotic, hidden land you like).

The victim is in a monastery because he’s a priest.

He converted.

He’s Christian; a turner of cheeks.

He not only forgives his Jewish ex-partner, but shares with him a bottle of 30-year-old brandy that’s worth maybe 50 bucks and writes his forgiveness on a 10-by-12 framed certificate.

And has it notarized.

The sinner flies home. Straight from the airport he drives to his rabbi’s home. In a flush of ethical ecstasy, he confesses the whole dirty episode to his rabbi — the sin, the repentance, the absolution.

But as he paces the room, the rabbi gloomily stares into his cup of tea.

“What’s wrong?” shouts the ex-crook, “Don’t you get it? He forgave me!”

“He’s a good Christian — they forgive everybody,” says the rabbi, squeezing his teabag with his spoon.

“But, you did tell me. Between the two of us, I think you’re OK.”

Ted Roberts is a humorist based in Huntsville, Ala.