A silky tablecloth gathered in folds around a wine decanter
and a single rose. All in various shades of beige. Elegant and
classy. A cover to fit this fine book. Both vintage and
contemporary. Excellent reading, quality, caliber, yet very
comfortable. Not only for leisure but for the needed spiritual
boost called for at this time of year: true stories with an
impact. Stories whose cud (message) you chew during the day,
come back to, mull over and internalize.
Heart and Soul deals with a broad variety of the usual
themes: hashgocha protis, prayer, good character
traits, hope, reward and punishment, but executed with skill
and expertise and a fine-point pen rich with description. The
twenty-one stories in this book include both events in modern
setting and past history in an appealing style that makes you
want to read more, or stop to think. The people are everyday,
even in stories which take place a century or two ago, which
makes their message all the more real to the reader. The
women, especially, are real down to earth characters we can
relate to and be proud of. One of my favorites is about Miri
Schwartzman whose tenacity through wisdom prevents her husband
from running off to America -- and saves his life -- not only
his spiritual one.
I have chosen one particular story on prayer as a timely
message and a tempter for the readers to get their own copy to
enjoy over Chol Hamoed. For the second time round, I am
THE PRAYER FOR BOOTS
David Greenspan was a jeweller from Antwerp who often flew to
Eretz Yisroel to do business at the Ramat Gan Diamond Bourse.
Europeans are used to constant air travel for business, and
David made Israel one of his regular stops before traveling to
London and sometimes the Americas. This particular trip
occurred a few days before Rosh Chodesh Kislev, when the new
rain was welcomed, the fallen leaves swept across the
pathways, and the freshness of winter began to set in.
On this occasion, David was supposed to meet a certain
business colleague who had some unique gems to show him and
had promised to introduce him to further business connections
that David hoped would prove worthwhile. Arriving at his hotel
room, David sat down to relax in an armchair and began to
organize his itinerary for the next few days. One of his first
actions was to call his colleague's office with the intention
of making an appointment. He was in for a minor
"Mr. Greenspan, Shalom," his colleague's secretary greeted him
cordially. "There seems to have been a small misunderstanding
about the time that you were due to arrive. My boss thought
you would be coming in to Israel at the end of the week. In
the meantime, he was called away urgently on other business
and cannot see you today."
David was worried -- had there been some hitch in his proposed
business deal? He hoped that delaying tactics were not being
It was all from Heaven, David told himself, deciding not to
let the matter bother him.
To make the most of his extra time, David drove his rented car
to Yerusholayim to visit the Kosel. From there he went to
visit his uncle Aharon and his family. The family welcomed the
overseas visitor warmly, and David was invited to spend the
night with them.
The next day was erev Rosh Chodesh, and David and his
uncle went shopping together in the neighborhood of Meah
Shearim. The hours flew past without them noticing until Uncle
Aharon suddenly caught sight of his watch. He clicked his
tongue in dismay. "Look, David, it's getting late. We'd better
join the minyon here in the shteiblach for
mincha and Yom Kippur koton."
David agreed, and they made their way through the shuk that
runs parallel to Meah Shearim until they found the old beis
midrash lovingly referred to as "the shtieblach" by
the local residents.
The minyon was well attended. David and his uncle
squeezed themselves into a corner next to a father and six
small boys with long, dark peios. David observed that
the boys' trousers were shabby and patched and that some of
the children's shoes had been cut open at the toe to allow for
growth. It was obvious that the family could not afford to buy
The little boys davened mincha beautifully together
with the rest of the congregation, and as David's eyes
lingered again over the family, he noticed that the boys, but
not their father, all wore new warm sweaters. It was clear
that the father's coat had seen many a year and was quite
Putting the matter out of his mind, David focused on the words
of the tefilla -- the vidui and slichos
of Yom Kippur koton culminating in the acceptance of
the yoke of the Heavenly kingdom. Cries of "Hashem Hu
HaElokim - Hashem is the One G-d" lifted from the hearts
of all those gathered and filled the air to the skies.
When it was over, David drew a deep breath. All around him the
congregants were wishing one another "Ah gutte chodesh"
and shaking hands in friendship. As the crowd began to stream
out the door, David overheard a whispered prayer. He turned
back -- the second youngest boy from the family sharing his
bench, a small child of about seven, was davening
fervently in Yiddish. His father was deep in conversation with
another man, while his brothers had dispersed. Only David
heard him say, "Hashem Who looks after all of Am Yisroel,
after the fathers and the little children, please give us
shoes! My Tatte spent all his money on winter sweaters for me
and my brothers and sisters, and there is no money left for
boots. Now the rain has begun and our feet will get wet!"
David was moved almost to tears by this earnest plea.
Approaching the small boy, he bent down and put his arm around
him. "What did you daven to Hashem, yingele?"
With the innocence of childhood, the little boy replied, "My
Tatte has no more money left for boots for us, so he said that
we should daven to Hashem to help us. And that is
exactly what I did!"
There is surely a reason why I overheard this prayer
today, David told himself. Standing up again, he located
the father and asked him to come outside where they would not
be observed. In the fast-falling dusk, David pulled out his
wallet and counted out several large shekel bills and Belgian
francs. "This should help you buy boots for the children and
maybe a new overcoat for yourself," he said, pressing the
money into the startled man's hand. Before he could protest,
David retreated hastily back into the shul in search of
his uncle Aharon. He turned his head only fleetingly to shoot
an encouraging smile at the father, who stood rooted to the
spot in amazement.
"Sie gebentched mit alles -- Be blessed with
everything!" was all the poor man managed to say.
David returned to Ramat Gan. The business that he had sought
through his colleague came easily into his hands this time,
and he clinched a deal worth ten times more than anything he
had dreamed of. "Sie gebentched mit alles!" The
blessing of the poor father rang in his ears.