Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This is a story about a love and marriage, a life and death, enhanced and embraced by spirituality. Here the daily laws, rituals, and customs of Judaism provide two simple and ordinary people the opportunity to rise above the mundane trappings of the physical world and to sanctify their humble lives.

A portrait of simple but beautiful piety, “Short Friday” examines the role of faith and religion in one’s life. All aspects of life are included: Shmul-Leibele and Shoshe apply their beliefs to their work, their marriage, their sexual relationship, and ultimately their death.

A slow and sloppy tailor, Shmul-Leibele uses only the strongest thread, the finest materials, and returns scraps to his clients. Shoshe not only keeps a proper home but also acquires additional money from outside sources. Having married each other for their serious and pious natures, the couple achieves a love so great that not even their inability to bear children (one of God’s commandments) threatens their future together.

Shmul-Leibele remembers the Law even during moments of great passion for Shoshe. Aware that the sexual act is intended for procreation, he nevertheless permits himself to experience pleasure from caressing and exploring Shoshe’s physical beauty. “The great saints also loved their wives,” he maintains, planning to attend the ritual bath the following morning in recognition of any transgression. For Shoshe, Shmul-Leibele’s praise...

(The entire section is 593 words.)