Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Cheshvan 5766 - November 9, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

On the Harvard Campus (May 2000)

by Gita Gordon

Serializing a new novel.

Chapter 4

Dean Barton sat in his room at Harvard, but his thoughts were not on his current assignment. He was thinking of his parents' forthcoming trip to Brazil. He was pleased that his mother was also going on the trip. He was pleased that his father continued the Jewish custom of giving ten percent of the business profits to charity.

However, he was less than sure about the charity itself. When his grandfather had been alive the money had always gone to support some cause for Jews who were having financial problems.

Then in later years it went to the inner-city charities that his mother worked with.

Now, this was a new departure. People said that global warming would cause catastrophe world wide, so perhaps this idea, of helping charities that worked to prevent the destruction of the rain forests of South America, was a good idea. It was the shortfall in the inner-city charities that concerned him. His mother had tried to help by spending as little on herself as possible and contributing the money she saved in this way, but it in no way came up to the sum given in previous years.

His grandfather had disapproved of the lifestyle that his parents led. He wouldn't visit, since they no longer kept kosher. He wouldn't leave his small poky apartment for a more luxurious one. "What, leave my shul? Leave my friends? No thank you" he had said. However, he kept his peace so that they would continue to visit him every Sunday morning.

Dean had noticed how religious practice in their house dwindled. When he was just beginning school his mother would light the candles on Friday night and set the table with a white cloth and special plaited bread and a great goblet of wine. Sometimes his father arrived home on time and they shared the meal. Sometimes his father was late and they ate alone. By the time he was approaching his teens the candle lighting remained, but little else.

If his grandfather was aware of these things, he said little. Only once had his grandfather spoken in angry terms. It was in the year he turned twelve. "What, you're not making a Bar Mitzvah for him? What nonsense is this? You want to send him away to a school where there are no Jews? Where he will be far away from home? where he will eat treif! You say this is giving him a good start in life! Where did I go wrong when I raised you? How can a son of mine behave in this fashion? What is to become of my grandson?"

They didn't visit for many weeks after that. However, the visits did begin again, though with this difference. His grandfather would always take him for a long walk, talking to him of many things, while his parents remained behind in the apartment.

It was on one of these walks that his grandfather hatched a plan for his bar mitzvah.

"Can Daniel spend the last weekend before he leaves with me?" he had asked. Dean had begged to be allowed to do this.

So it came to be that on every walk his grandfather took him to a little park near to his home. They sat together on a bench as Dean learned the blessings that were said before and after the reading of the Torah. Sometimes his grandfather took a small Chumash out of his pocket. "I don't have enough time to teach you to lehen your parsha, but together we can learn about it."

So each week Daniel absorbed some of the words of Parshas Re'eh. One particular phrase stuck in his mind. Before the Jews crossed into the land that was to be theirs they heard the words: "He will give your rest from your enemies all around and you will dwell securely."

In that way, when Dean spent that longed-for weekend in his grandfather's little apartment, they had walked to a small shul, and Dean, or rather, Daniel ben Eliezer, had been called to the reading of the Torah. Afterwards there had been a celebration, with sweet wine and pickled herring. Dean had enjoyed every minute. He truly felt that now he was a man. He basked in the approval and the excitement around him.

All this was kept secret from his parents when they came to collect him the following day. All through the lonely years at boarding school, Dean had turned in his thoughts to that day, to give him endurance and courage as he faced the hostile taunts. Being a Jew in the society he found himself in was not a plus, he soon discovered.

However, whenever he was faced with snide remarks, he calmed himself by thinking of that wonderful moment when he had ascended the Bimah and chanted the age-old words of blessing. He longed for the day when he too would be given a "rest from all his enemies," when he too could "dwell securely."


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