Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Adar II 5765 - April 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Let's Have Some Light
by N.Zur

Freyda Klein came home from the clinic with her baby Eliezer, at a quarter to five one afternoon. Thank G-d, apart from an ear infection and a stomach bug which ought to pass within a week, the baby was fine. As she started going up the stairs with the whimpering child, she thought she would put on an extra spurt, 'just three flights of stairs and I'll be home'. And then she saw itåagain.

She had hung countless notices at the entrance to the building, complaining about the waste of electricity. She had begged the person who was sticking toothpicks into the light switch so that it wouldn't go out, to desist. The house committee would once again present the inhabitants with an enormous bill because of one pampered person who was too lazy to press the light switch on the next floor, after the light had gone out.

They had considered installing long life bulbs on the staircase. It was expensive, but they would eventually get round to it. She could not even begin to guess who the culprit might be. All the neighbors were pleasant, honest people who wouldn't dream of misappropriating the electricity shared by others. They all paid for the shared garden and other communal bills promptly. It had to be someone, but who? She would have to hang a stronger and more explicit notice in the entrance, pointing out that whoever was doing this, making the light of the staircase burn day and night, was stealing from others. Oh well, no doubt the new notice would follow its predecessors into the waste paper basket and show the world that directives were one thing, and reality was another. The only other choice was to play detective and try to discover who the culprit was.

Not an hour had gone by when Freyda heard a sound from the entrance hall. It was momentarily quiet in the house as the tape she had on as background noise while folding the laundry had stopped. Standing on tiptoe, she peeped through the spy hole at the door. She couldn't believe her eyes. A dark haired boy with a velvet kipa was doing something at the front entrance to the building, then the lights went on. She flung open the door but there was no one there. Oh yes, there was the toothpick in the light switch button.

It couldn't be! There was only one boy in their building with dark hair and a velvet cappel. If you were asked to point out the best child you knew, Binyomin Frank would be your first choice This boy — with a pure, innocent face and perpetual smile, who ran to catch his school bus at 7.30 each morning and then sat inside patiently while the stragglers arrived? This child — who wouldn't dream of throwing a candy wrapper anywhere except in the garbage? This perfect boy? Did his parents know that he was the one who was boosting the electricity bill?

She stood rooted to the spot. When she recovered, she quickly pulled out the incriminating toothpick and went back inside. Now at least she knew who the culprit was, but what was she to do with the information? For the next few days, Freyda watched the staircase and entrance hall. Binyomin didn't come the next day, and she began to think that she had made a grave mistake; perhaps she had just jumped to conclusions about an innocent boy and his family. But the day after that, at almost the same time of day, she heard the same suspicious noises. Looking through the spy hole, she once again saw Binyomin sticking the toothpick into the switch. While she was still thinking about whether to open the door and confront him or not, he disappeared. Every morning after that, she saw Binyomin catch his bus in the morning and tamper with the light switch in the afternoon. After the second week, Freyda had more than enough evidence, and waited for Binyomin at six o'clock. As soon as she heard the scratching round the light switch, she flung open the door. The sweet-faced boy glanced at her apprehensively, and disappeared in a flash. One single toothpick was lying on the floor. Freyda picked it up, and felt relieved. As she closed her front door, she understood that Binyomin knew he had been found out, and would have to find some other form of entertainment now.

Around eleven o'clock that night, Freyda had finished preparing next day's dinner. Her husband had gone to an out-of-town wedding and would be home late. She sat down for a few minutes before getting ready for bed, and froze. Someone was trying her door handle. The door was locked, but the person didn't leave off. Over and over again, the door handle was pushed up and down. Freyda was petrified: it was too early for her husband, and her father, who had always felt free to come and go as he pleased, was not alive any more. Nobody else would just walk into the house. She wanted to scream, but, first of all, was afraid of waking the children, and the scream stuck in her throat.

It seemed as if the person had gone away and Freyda thought of ringing her husband. As she got up from the armchair to get the phone, she saw the door handle moving again. Common sense prevailed over fear, and she crept up to the spy hole to see who was there. It was pitch black outside, and she couldn't see a thing. She was sure that the would-be intruder could hear the pounding of her heart, so she moved away from the door. For a full hour she stood leaning against the wall, watching the door, till she heard a familiar knocking. At laståshe opened the door wide.

"You look pale," was the first thing her husband said, "Has anything happened?" She related the events of the past couple of hours, and her husband listened sympathetically. He frowned, trying to make sense of the frightening experience.

"Did you see anyone on the stairs as you came in, Dovid?"

"No, I didn't see anyone."

"Maybe downstairs in the entrance hall, or the lobby?"

"Not a soul. Only Elyokim Frank was sitting there. He looked as if he were waiting for someone."

"You're sure you didn't see a stranger?"

"There was no one."

Freyda took a deep breath. She was a practical, down-to-earth woman, not used to delving into the occult. But now she thought it seemed as if this mystery was trying to tell her something.

Dovid Blau went into the kitchen for something to eat and she joined him for a cup of tea. He was just helping himself to a slice of cake when he heard it, too. The door handle was moving again, and then silence. Dovid walked to the door softly, and looked through the peep hole. He pressed the inner switch which lit up the staircase and breathed "Elyokim Frank." "Elyokim Frank is trying to open our front door?" gasped Feyda. "He certainly is," replied Dovid as he went outside, closing the door behind him. She wasn't frightened now and waited by the untouched cake. Five minutes, tenå.. where was Dovid?

He came in with a bemused expression on his face. "Have you ever asked yourself why we haven't seen Elyokim for a while?" he asked her.

"What do you mean ... yes, you're right. I used to see him every morning when I took Eliezer to the baby sitter, but haven't seen him for a long time."

"I used to meet him in shul every morning and I am ashamed to admit that I hadn't missed him till this evening, when I saw him sitting downstairs with a strange look on his face."

"Perhaps you'll tell me what happened?"

Dovid took a deep breath, "Elyokim has suffered a minor stroke."

"I don't believe it."

"I didn't believe it either. They never said a word. This happened some weeks ago. He was discharged from hospital and since thenå Maybe you don't know what a stroke can do to people?

"I don't know exactly how much disability he is left with, but I do know that he can't see in the dark, not even to locate the light switch. Nor can he remember exactly on which floor he liveså."

Freyda felt a wave of pity. This strong energetic likeable man, knocked down in the prime of life by a stroke.

"He doesn't usually come home alone, or someone sees to it that the stairs are lit up. He walks very slowly, so that the light is off before he can reach the next floor. Tonight he was alone and the stairs were dark; after one flight he became confused."

"So he tried our door instead of going up to the next floor?"

"He did, indeed, but he wasn't sure if he was one flight above his own house, or below. He was completely helpless."

Freyda's fingers slid along the table, picking up the wooden toothpick which the best boy in the whole world had dropped in his fright. They would install long-life bulbs which burnt day and night. It was a well worth investment, for now and in the long run.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.