[The World to Come]


Mr. and Mrs. Cherkiss are a nouveau riche couple in America who have all but abandoned their Jewishness, and he in particular has begun to worry that they will lose their share in the world to come. The Hebrew teacher, Mr. Kvotshke, has told them that they can buy it back in a simple ceremony involving a pious Jew and two witnesses. While they go off to change into clothing befitting the occasion, Kvotshke calls in the Jew, in false beard and sidelocks, and instructs him to pray with his face turned to the wall and speak to the couple as little as possible. When he does talk, it should all be in Hebrew, even if just phrases from Psalms and the prayer book. The Cherkisses return, dressed to the nines, and are impressed by the Jew’s praying. Mrs. Cherkiss asks whether she’ll be able to get into heaven on the bit that her husband is buying. Kvotshke answers no, and brings the Jew to negotiate how much of his share she can buy. He answers in sentences from the prayer book, and Kvotshke pretends to translate. She ultimately buys a quarter of his share for forty dollars. Kvotshke recites the blessing with two witnesses looking on, the couple pays him, and they go to change and bring in cold drinks. Once they have left the room, Kvotshke divides the profits, but the witnesses aren’t happy with their share. One of them gets into a fight with the Jew, and rips off his beard. At that moment, Mr. and Mrs. Cherkiss return and realize what has happened. All the characters stand frozen in place as the curtain slowly falls.