Sunday, 5 August 2012

KOSHER PICKLES by Naomi Elana Zener

 “What’s your name,” the stern looking woman with the clipboard inquired.

“Sam,” I replied quietly. “Sam Zuker.”

“Table 3,” the woman advised without making eye contact.

I looked over at empty Table 3. Accompanied by two plain grey plastic folding chairs, it sat barren in a mirror-walled non-descript banquet hall.  Hope sprung eternal from the venue that played host to the waves of weddings and bar mitzvahs that had passed through it. Table 3 was my lifeboat destined to rescue me from a life of emptiness.  All I could do was take my seat and wait. The once silent great hall was buzzing with the electric anticipation of the other men betting on the same game, each of whom could have been my doppleganger. With dark hair, cleanly shaven dressed in a white shirt, black pants, black shoes and sporting a yarmulke, the other men anxiously awaited the arrival of the women. Hoping to set myself apart, I wore red socks. The nausea in my gut made me wonder if I would have been better off wearing the same white gym socks as the other men had worn. It was too late, as a bell was rung signaling that the gong show had commenced. Like the stampede witnessed at a midnight madness sale at a department store, a tornado of women descended upon the room in a blur of long black skirts.  Before I could figure out what set each woman apart from the other, a blonde-haired angel took up residence at Table 3 and was looking squarely at me.

“I’m Tzippi,” she whispered.

“Sam. Ok Shmuel, but no one calls me that except my mother.”

“Don’t be nervous,” she whispered daintily seated with her hands tucked away in her lap.

“I’m not nervous,” I stated boldly, but grateful that we would not be shaking hands, as my clammy mitts certainly would have betrayed me.

“Shhh,” she said noting the scornful eyes of the chaperones in the room. “We are not supposed to speak to each other until they ring the bell again.”

I nodded silently.

Finally, the second bell was rung.

“So, come here often?” I asked playfully hoping to inject some humour into the situation, but praying that her answer would be no.

“Third time,” Tzippi replied. “You?”

“First time - like a virgin,” I chuckled to no reaction. “Get it? Madonna?”

“So, you are more modern orthodox,” Tzippi noted quietly.

“And you’re not?” I asked.

“I was raised Lubavitch, but with the new laws emerging from the Israeli rabbinate, I’ve become more flexible,” she replied. “I like your socks.”

I smiled. Maybe this woman would be the one.

“So how many brothers and sisters do you have?” Tzippi inquired.

“Four brothers, two sisters. And you?”

“I’m an only child,” Tzippi replied shamefully. “But I’m certain that is not hereditary.”

“Of course not,” I offered. “The sins of our fathers are not those of the children.”

Tzippi relaxed, realizing that I was not as uptight as the other men she had met at similar past events.

“Tell me about your favourite things,” Tzippi asked.

“I love a nice aged bottle of Manischevitz wine. I eat chocolate-covered matzoh even when it’s not Passover. I met both President Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu in the same week, which was a thrill of a lifetime for a political-junkie like me,” I informed her. “Oh, and my favourite high holiday is Yom Kippur. I enjoy fasting.”

Tzippi took in the last nugget with an ounce of skepticism as she noted my healthy rotund belly protruding over my pants. She quickly realized that it was my modern sense of humour at play once again and half-smiled at me.

“Why have you never been married?” she asked cutting through the niceties of small talk.

“Just haven’t yet,” I said.

“But you want children?” Tzippi asked longingly.

“Of course!” I stated emphatically. “Would I be here if I didn’t?”

“I guess not,” she surmised.

Without warning a third bell rung alerting the room that it was time for a change in the speed-dating dance. Within seconds, Tzippi and I were joined by a man clad in the same standard issued white shirt-black pants uniform as me, but was set apart by his black hat and long beard.

“This is Noam,” Tzippi advised as she introduced us while remaining seated.

“Shmuel,” the man interrupted with an outstretched right arm to shake my hand.

“Pleasure to meet you sir,” I replied reciprocating the gesture. A menacing grip alerted me to the stark realization that the rest of this meeting would not be a walk in the park.

“So let’s cut to the chase,” Noam instructed uncomfortably, “how many kids do you want to have?”

“As many as God will grant me,” I replied humbly.

“And you come from a big family,” Noam stated acutely aware of my biographical information since he had witnessed my conversation with Tzippi from behind the one-way mirrored walls.

“Not that the size of my family is any indicator of what my success will be in my attempts to be fruitful and multiply,” I said protectively trying to defend Tzippi’s honour.

Noam quickly retreated from his aggressive territorial opening stance.

 “So do you think you are ready to be my wife’s mancubine?” Noam asked sheepishly.

“If Tzippi will have me, I would be honoured,” I beamed. The new rabbinical decree from Israel had made it abundantly clear that married Jewish couples who could not reproduce, or where the husband did not want to procreate, and the husband would not grant the wife a divorce, the wife could take up with a kosher mancubine to help her to fertilize her eggs. Nothing could have pleased me more – a lifelong commitment-phobe without a desire to marry, but wanting to  give my parents grandchildren before they died– I finally was given the best Chanukah present in the world by the Israeli rabbinate. I could spread my seed without having to sign a ketubah for one had already been signed.

“And what kind of a man wants to be a kosher mancubine?” Noam inquired with resentment.

“What kind of man refuses to grant his wife a divorce when he cannot or refuses to bless her pristine womb with children?” I shot back.

“This is not a game of my Tefillin is longer than yours,” Tzippi spat. “Rather than fight, why don’t we figure out how Sam will fit into our lives.”

“Yes, Tzippi, why don’t you tell your husband how this mancubine will fit into you,” Noam stated sarcastically. “Sorry, I meant your life.”

“Don’t start with me Noam,” Tzippi ordered. “If you didn’t suffer from a non-existent sperm count we wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

“My sperm count! How can you talk about such things, about my testicles, in front of a stranger?” Noam bellowed. “I’m the son of a rabbi!”

“What, sons of rabbis don’t have testicles?” Tzippi spat. “So then give me a divorce!”

“And shame my father?” Noam replied haughtily. “Are you wearing your wig too tightly again?”

The room fell silent as other mancubine prospects’ and couples’ eyes darted in our direction to consume the drama of the Orthodox and the Childless. The woman whom I first met upon my arrival quickly ran over to our table in order to prevent the bursting discord from spreading to neighbouring mancubine interviews.

“Please stop fighting. Instead, why don’t you review and discuss this,” the woman offered handing each of the three of us a sheet of paper. “It will help to structure the negotiations.”

The three of us bowed our heads in silence and embarrassment to peruse the document. The paper read: Helpful Tips for a Successful Mancubine – Marital Relationship:

Due to the unprecedented demand for kosher mancubines, we here at Kosher Pickles have developed this set of tips to help guide mancubines and marital couples navigate these new uncharted waters. While our tips are non-exhaustive, we believe that they, along with a series of helpful questions, will provide both the mancubines and marital couples with practical ideas to consider in the establishment of healthy boundaries for their relationship.

Tip #1 – Define the living arrangements. Where will the mancubine live? Does he require his own apartment or will he have a separate bedroom in the marital home? Will the mancubine become part of the family or will the mancubine be a marital secret?

Tip #2 – Determine the nature of the relationship. What will the role of the mancubine be in connection with the marital couple? Will the mancubine provide emotional support to the wife? Does the wife want the mancubine to provide ‘cuddling’ after conjugal visits? Will the mancubine be expected to plan ‘date nights’ to romance the wife? Or rather, will this be a relationship limited to sex, after which time the husband will resume immediately his role in the marital bed and provides ‘cuddling’ for his wife?

Tip # 3 – Setting up the calendar. Set out the number of conjugal visits per month that the wife will have with each of the mancubine and husband. Will sex with the mancubine be strictly functional or will the wife require the mancubine to provide sexual pleasure visits as well? Will the wife still be required to provide sexual pleasure to the husband? Will the wife be expected to provide sexual pleasure for the mancubine? Or, will the mancubine be permitted to enjoy the company and sexual pleasure of other Jewish women? NB: Wives must increase the amount of sexual intercourse with the mancubine during the time of ovulation. For this reason, wives are not to have sexual relations with their husbands during ovulation in order to maximize the chances of conception. If the mancubine is permitted to enjoy the sexual company of other Jewish women (not that such pleasure exists outside of the confines of marriage or mancubine relationships), he is reminded to always wear a condom.

Tip #4 – Parental roles: who’s your Daddy? Will the mancubine be a mere sperm donor or will he play the paternal role of “father” for the children? If the mancubine is to be the father, what will the husband’s role be? If the mancubine is to be known as “daddy,” what will the children call the husband? Once pregnant, who will be responsible to responding to each whim of the wife? Who will make the midnight kosher ice cream runs, the mancubine or the husband?

Tip #5 – Establish the financial arrangement. Will the mancubine be compensated for his sperm, regardless of whether he assumes the paternal role of “father” for the offspring? Will the mancubine be financially responsible for the offspring or will that obligation rest with the husband?

Tip #6 – Labour and delivery. To reduce confusion and jealousy, we recommend that only the wife’s mother (or if her mother has died, then wife’s sister or other female relative) assist in the labour and delivery room. This will reduce any unwanted tension between the mancubine who has successfully impregnated the wife and the impotent husband.

Tip #7 – Ongoing therapeutic support. We highly recommend that the mancubine and marital couple seek counseling with a rabbi or therapist to help guide the mancubine and marital couple through the roller coaster ride of this complex relationship. This will help to ensure that no stumbling block will ever be an obstacle to success and the three of you will go on to have a successful mancubine-marital relationship bountiful with wonderful children.

Remember, once you have signed a mancubine contract, there is only one mancubine to a wife. There are no “brother husbands” under the new law!

Having finished reading the helpful hints before Noam and Tzippi, I studied the look of horror on Noam’s face as his eyes trailed down the page. Clearly, he was rethinking the notion of divorce.  On the other hand, Tzippi looked up at me with a giant smile.

“So, Sam, I’m game if you are,” Tzippi advised. I grinned back in agreement, of which Noam quickly took note.

“Don’t get ahead of yourselves,” Noam warned us both. “I never said that I was on board.”

“Who asked you?” Tzippi asked rhetorically. “The day your swimmers failed to go upstream was the day you lost your vote.”

Faced with the reality that he would remain married to Tizppi until the end of time and that the new rabbinical law compelled him to accede to his wife’s demands for a mancubine, Noam finally surrendered. However, Noam stared me down determined to protect his masculine image.

“Under no circumstances will there ever be any threesomes! That is non-negotiable,” Noam ordered waving his finger at me.

“Excuse me, I’m the one who makes the rules. He’s my mancubine, not yours!” Tzippi stated emphatically.

© 2012. Naomi Elana Zener. All rights reserved.


  1. This story was inspired by the following:

  2. Question: How does the mancubine get out of the contract? Is he in it for life also like the Ketuba in marriage? Is there a Get for a mancubine? What if the mancubine isn't fuitful and can't multiply to the husband and wife's satisfaction? Shouldn't the mancubine have some sort of exam or 'track record' established to determine he is a worthy candidate before a contract is signed at Kosher Pickles or did they get screened before their 'pickled' adventure? If you answered these questions, Naomi, in the text I will need to read it again, which would be a delight!!! Just the frustrated lawyer in me thought I would add to the thought process, lol. It is very clever and I totally enjoyed the story. Congrats on your new endeavor into the exciting world of being an author.

    Robin D. Bronstein, Ph.D.
    Clinical Psychologist
    San Diego, California

    1. These are very good questions - certainly ones I will consider before Kosher Pickles is open for business. I will say this much, at Kosher Pickles we only accept New Dills, not Old Dills, Sour Dills or Gherkins.

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