It is said that the word Paramus means “land of the wild turkey,” in the Lenape language of the Native Americans of Northern New Jersey. Some say it means “pleasant stream.” I have always believed it meant “the land of the wild shopping mall.”
You can find a store in Paramus that sells almost anything. The Shade Store on Route 17 specializes in window treatments. The Dance Bag specializes in clothing for dancing, although they are also happy to help you with other exercise equipment as well. Batteries plus Bulbs sells just what you’d think. And Yankee Candle in Paramus Park sells, well, you get the idea. Of course there are misleading names as well. The Fossil Store has no geologic samples offered for sale. Anthropologie has nothing to do with “the study of human beings through time and space.” Wild Birds Unlimited is a tossup. Yes, it had bird feeders, but there are no actual birds in the store. And what people—especially Jews-- do in the Christmas Tree Store in February remains a mystery to me.
So as a native of Bergen County it should have come as no surprise to Walter Weinstein that on Route 4, just past the Hyundai dealership, there was a store called Doorknobs by Diane that featured only doorknobs. But it did. When his wife Rachel told him they were going to spend the morning shopping there for doorknobs for their new house, Walter thought she was kidding.
She was not.
It was a wondrous establishment, filled with every possible doodad you could possibly imagine to open a portal. Rows and rows of them. Walter was looking up at a doorknob near the ceiling that seemed to resemble a large emerald, when a salesperson appeared before him.
"And who might you be?"
"Walter. And you are?"
"I am Diane."
"One and the same."
Rachel then appeared from behind a display of brushed nickel knobs.
"Oh, I see you've met Diane."
"I'm truly honored," Walter said.
"Yes, I get that a lot."
"So to continue our conversation," Rachel said," I was looking for something bold for our bedroom. Something that would really stand out."
"Have you considered one of our estate knobs from the new Dynasty series? There is something truly striking in Venetian Bronze. And it comes with a six option lock set, if you truly crave privacy."
Diane popped it up on her iPad and showed it to Rachel."
"Hmmm. No, I think I want to go more traditional."
"Well then. I think you'll really like our fluted glass knob on a traditional bronze base. Not only is it elegant, but it can be linked to an Amazon Echo to lock and unlock remotely."
Diane showed Rachel another picture, and this time she oohed and aahed appropriately.
"That IS nice. Honey, what do you think?" Rachel handed the iPad over to Walter.
"I think this is a bit crazy."
"Surely you jest," Diane said.
"No, I do not jest at all, not one iota. I know that we live in the ultimate consumer culture here in the U.S., but even so, I just can't get that worked up over doorknobs."
Rachel gasped, and for just a moment, Diane looked like she was going to faint, but she quickly regained her composure. She was a doorknob professional, and she was not going to let a skeptic get in her way.
"You know, Walter, they say G-d is in the details."
"I have no idea what that means," Walter confessed.
"It means that whatever one does, one should do thoroughly, and that details are important. In fact, if you take the time to look you'll see that this week's parsha is filled with important details."
Now Diane has his attention. Who knew that a doorknob specialist would be giving him a dvar Torah in the middle of her showroom?"
"What do you mean?" Walter asked expectantly.
"Well, in parshat Trumah, when G-d tells Moshe about building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, He gives so many design details, it's astounding. When He describes the building of the shulchan, the table, He goes out of His way to describe the molding that should be built. What an astounding level of detail. And many of the commentators ascribe great allegorical meanings to all these details."
"Fascinating," Walter agreed.
"Oh, you have no idea," Diane said proudly. In the description of the menorah, G-d states that the arms should be decorated alternately with kaftor vaferach. A ferach is a flower. But do you know what a kaftor is, Walter?"
"According to the Artscoll translation, Walter, it's a knob. And according to the Soncino Chumash it's a knop."
"What on earth is a knop?" Rachel asked.
"It's a decorative form of knob," Diane said proudly.
"The Abravanel suggests that the seven branches of the menora correspond to the seven types of wisdom represented in the Torah, "Diane continued." And the cups, knobs, and flowers symbolize the various sciences that branch out from each other. That's just one of many interpretations that exist. But no matter how you look at it, knobs play a prominent role in the menora. They add to our appreciation of one of the most enduring symbols in our tradition.*
"So are you suggesting the Menorah was decorated with doorknobs?" Walter asked, rather flabbergastedly.
"I think you should draw your own conclusions," Diane said. "I'm just giving you the facts."
"So this somehow relates to our buying fancy doorknobs at your store?"
"That connection is entirely up to you. I just think that the symbolism of a knob may add meaning to your life, whether spiritual or intellectual. And if that comes from a beautiful doorknob, then so be it."
"Diane, you present a compelling argument," Walter observed.
"Well, I am the doorknob queen," she said semi-modestly.
"I would say that is a title you have earned beyond a shadow of a doubt."
* Unlocking the Torah Text, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Shmot, pgs 234-5