No, not that one, not the psychologist. Rather the Abraham of the Lower East Side of the turn of the 20th century. He and his family also came from Kiev, and also came here with essentially nothing.
He had no formal education beyond studying the Torah and the Talmud, which he did in the old country assiduously, here not so much.
To make his way in New York, he became a tinker, an itinerant sharpener of knives mostly, with a cart constructed for the purpose. Some of the tenements seemed almost to empty when he came by every few weeks. It became a social occasion for the women and children. Abraham had a certain charm and, truth be told, over the years, a few of the women succumbed to it.
When Abraham was dying, in the 1920s, he didn't really regret these liaisons; in fact, he would have regretted not having them, had he not had them. But it weighed on him enormously that he had sharpened the knife of Amelda Shtern, who used it to kill her husband Morris.
As the fights between Morris and Amelda escalated in volume and violence over a period of years leading up to the crime, everyone feared that it would come to this.
Of course it would have happened anyway, with a mallet or a frying pan or an axe. But it happened with a very sharp knife, and one the edge of whose blade Abraham had lovingly traced in the street before handing it to her and collecting his three cents. He was an accomplice of a sort, even though he did not wish Morris any harm.
The rabbi could only counsel Abraham to seek the same general atonement as all the others. This he did but without ever feeling truly "cleansed."
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