Rabbi Nachtner: He's making a plaster mold - it's for corrective bridge work - in the mouth of one of his patients. Russell Kraus. He's a delivery dispatcher for the Star and Tribune with chronic mandicular deterioration.
Well, the mold dries and Lee is examining it one day before fabricating an appliance. He notices something unusual. There seems to be something engraved on the inside of the patient's lower incisors. Sure enough, it's writing. This in a goy's mouth, Larry.
Tet resh nun lamed nun shin tsayin.
What is that? "Tiranu linoshets"? "Help me"? Is that what it says? Or is it a name? It's not Kraus's name.
He checks the mold, just to be sure. Oh, it's there all right. He calls the goy back on the pretense of needing additional measurements for the appliance.
Notice any other problems with your teeth? Anything peculiar, et cetera? No. No. No. Visited any other dentist recently?
There it is. "Help me"?
Sussman goes home. Can Sussman eat? No. Can Sussman sleep? No. What does it mean? Is it a message for him, for Sussman? And if so, from whom? Does Sussman know? Sussman doesn't know.
Back in the dental office Sussman pulls boxes containing other molds off the shelf. Sussman looks at the molds of his other patients, goy and Jew alike, seeking other messages. He finds none. He looks in his own mouth. Nothing. His wife's mouth. Nothing. It is a singular event. A mystery.
But Sussman is an educated man. Not the world's greatest sage, maybe, no Rabbi Minda, but he knows a thing or two from the Zohar and the Caballah. He knows every Hebrew letter has its numeric equivalent. Seven digits. A phone number, maybe? It's a Red Owl grocery store in Bloomington. Sussman thinks, am I supposed to go to the Red Owl to receive a further sign? He goes. It's a Red Owl. Groceries. What have you. On the wall behind the store, a stain. Could be a nun sofit. Or maybe not. Sussman goes home. What does it mean? He has to find out, if he's ever to sleep again. He goes to see the Rabbi, Nachtner. He comes in and sits right where you're sitting now.
What does it mean, Rabbi? Is it a sign from Hashem? "Help me". I should be doing something to help this goy? Doing what? The teeth don't say.
I should know without asking? Or maybe I'm supposed to help people generally? Lead a more righteous life? Is the answer in Caballah? In Torah? Or is there even a question? Tell me, Rabbi, what can such a sign mean?
Larry Gopnik: So what did you tell him? Rabbi Nachtner: Is it... relevant? Larry Gopnik: Well, isn't that why you're telling me? Rabbi Nachtner: Okay. Nachtner says, look. The teeth, we don't know. A sign from Hashem? Don't know. Helping others couldn't hurt. Larry Gopnik: But is that what it meant? Tet resh nun lamed nun shin isayin, was it "help me"? or a number? Or was it... Rabbi Nachtner: We can't know everything.
Larry Gopnik: What happened to Sussman? Rabbi Nachtner: What would happen? Not much. He went back to work. For a while he checked every patient's teeth for new messages; didn't see any; in time, he found he'd stopped checking. These questions that are bothering you, Larry - maybe they're like a toothache. We feel them for a while, then they go away. Larry Gopnik: I don't want it to just go away! I want an answer!
Why does he make us feel the questions if he's not gonna give us any answers?