Friday, September 30th 2022   |

Beged Ka’as: His Coat of Anger

By TED ROBERTS, the Scribbler on the Roof

I had an interesting challenge the other day. One of my favorite editors of a Midwest Jewish newspaper, knowing my reputation as a connoisseur of Midrashim, said:  “OK, Ted, what about Beged Ka’as”.

I clearly answered, “Oh yeah, Beged Ka’as”.  Sure Beged Ka’as, which wasn’t a lie, was it, since I had no idea what Beged Ka’as meant, except it could be Hebrew.  “Well,” said the anonymous editor, “why don’t you write a story about it?”  Definitely a challenge to my aging imagination.

Why didn’t I write a story about Esau’s marriage to Ishmael’s daughter?  Because I wasn’t there and knew nothing about it – and usually misspelled Ishmael.  But aided by my super computer, I Googled it.  Turns out that it means “Coat of Anger,” invented by a famous Chasid who thought anger was bad for your soul and blood pressure.  The idea being that when your wife undercooked the chicken so badly that it cackled when you tried to cut it – you ran for your Beged Ka’as and by the time you found it, buttoned it up, and adjusted the belt, your anger had cooled.  “Dear, this bloody raw chicken is delicious.”  (“Cock-a-doodle-doo,” said the slightly warm bird.)

It reminds me of the famous Chasid (all Chasids are famous) who dearly loved the fig tree by his door and his lovely wife.  He regularly, every morning, stood at his front door and said the blessing:  “Blessed art thou, Lord of the Universe, who bestowed upon us fig trees.”  He would pop a few honeyed figs in his mouth and look forward to a fig dessert for lunch.  Suffice it to say he loved that fig tree.  Those jealous of his learning said – yeah, almost as much as his wife.  UNTIL one dark, gloomy day his wife had a Hadassah meeting.  What to serve as cocktail snacks?  Oh, she thought, how about those plum-sized, purple figs that adorned her husband’s second love, that magnificent fig tree by the door.  And so she did.  Picked it clean, she did.  There weren’t three figs left, hidden among those big, green leaves.

Now it’s 5:30 – our Chasid comes home from his studies at the synagogue.  As he approaches his front door he hears the musical chatter of female voices.  He also notices that the plump, purple fruit no longer is sprinkled among the green leaves of his second love.  Being a Chasid, a student of Torah and Talmud, he was no fool.  He immediately understood the combination of NO FIGS and female voices.

His wife – she was the one – his blood boiled.  But being a man of heart as well as intellect he rushed through the door to find his Beged Ka’as.  He must muffle this terrible rage to squeeze his beloved wife’s neck till her eyes looked like two near ripe figs.   But where was it?  It was not in its usual spot.

As he rushed around the house, from closet to closet, his rage grew.  He must find his mystical coat.  He tried on three other coats, buttoned to the chin.  But the desire to throttle his greedy fig-eating wife, who also misfiled coats, did not decline.  As he tried on the forth coat, his Chasidic face flushed with irritation and temper.  He thought, I should have married plain Miriam, the Rebbe’s daughter who probably hated figs and who was renowned as a housekeeper and . . . but then his wife entered the room bearing a bowl of figs so beautiful that Cezzane would have leapt from his grave to paint them in subtle shades of purple and crimson.  Yeakor the Chasid stopped buttoning his fifth coat of the evening.

How lucky he was to have such a wife and a fig tree that would replenish itself in a few weeks.  When he finally found his Beged Ka’as he would give it to a fellow Chasid with an ugly, stingy wife who lacked a fig tree.  He would need it.

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