Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar 5766 - March 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

by Gita Gordon

Serializing a new novel.

Chapter 15: Daniel in Jerusalem (September 2001)

Daniel-Dean is studying at a large yeshiva in Jerusalem, having arrived there through a fortuitous chain of circumstances that began with fleeing from men who he overheard plotting to murder him.


Daniel began his day as usual by rising before dawn. A brisk walk took him to a small shul at the very edge of the Meah Shearim. There, with a small congregation of regulars, he began his day with the Vosikin (sunrise) service.

He then walked to the grocery shop. First he helped the old man with the supplies that needed to be dragged in to the shop. Then he went about completing his self-imposed task, to organize the contents of the shop more methodically.

This had begun a few months back when he had been asked if he didn't mind fetching some goods from the storeroom above and bringing it to the shop below. There he noticed a pile of biscuits, identical to some that he had pulled in earlier that day. "You know you already have these upstairs, don't you?" he said.

"Oi vey iz mir, no I didn't" was the answer.

"Can I bring them down? They will go out of date there," said Daniel.

From this incident, slowly and careful not to hurt the feelings of the old man, Daniel had set himself to clear the excess stores above and also to arrange the store itself in a more customer-friendly manner.

Every holiday, his father had insisted that he work at one of the supermarkets. Daniel had learned all the different skills that went into running a store successfully. Daniel felt that the principles were the same for this small grocery store as they were for a large chain of supermarkets. One of the things he had learned was that change only comes about when a new idea was presented to someone very tactfully. He remembered this and so he slowly, carefully worked at change.

Now Daniel brought down a big box filled with packets of popcorn. "These will go out of date within a week. How about selling them on a special offer, just to cover the cost?" he said.

Then he made known the result of his labors in rearranging the goods downstairs in a more compact fashion and, in so doing, gradually cleared the extra stock that remained upstairs, often quite forgotten.

He was silent for a moment and then he said quietly, "Oh, there is nothing left upstairs."

"Nothing? Really? How can that be?" The old man went slowly up the stairs with Daniel following behind.

They stood together viewing the empty space. Daniel said, "I think that there is enough room in your shop for this space to be kept clear. I see that this used to be an apartment. Maybe you could rent it out."

After some moments the reply came, "When we first began this store, we used to live here, in this small apartment, my wife and I. The people used to disturb us at all hours. They just forgot to buy bread; they just forgot to buy sugar. How could we refuse a neighbor? So we moved out.

"You say I should rent it out, but that isn't possible. You see how there is only one way out, through the store itself. Still you have done a good job emptying this space. It is much easier for me now with everything downstairs. Also, lately more people come into the shop. Someone said to me last week, `I like the way things are now. I can find everything so much more easily.' You say you are a yeshiva bochur, but you seem to know this business. Why?"

Daniel wished he could tell him. He felt a dreadful loneliness overwhelm him. Then he pulled himself together. He pondered on just how to answer the question. "During the holidays I used to work at different supermarkets. I did all sorts of jobs. I suppose something rubbed off."

He didn't say, "At first I only went because my father insisted."

He didn't say, "Oh, how I miss my parents and wonder every day where they are."

Daniel pulled himself away from these thoughts and said, "Now I must get back. The others will be at breakfast already."

However, thinking of the times he had worked in his father's supermarkets cut into him and caused the sharp pain of loss and bewilderment that he felt to rip through him.

But all he said was, "Well, I had better be getting back to Yeshiva now or I will miss breakfast."

The hurt that Daniel had felt had been noticed.

"Such a nice young man. His family must need the money badly for him to have worked all the holidays in stores. He never mentions his family. Strange."

Then the first customer entered the shop and all thoughts were put aside.


Daniel determined to call America once again, to see if there was any news of his parents. He called regularly from different pay phones, sometimes the number of their lawyer, sometimes the head office of the supermarket. But always the response was negative.

Daniel forced himself to think of the work that lay ahead of him. He had prepared for the portion they were to study today by sitting up alone late the previous night. He had found that learning with his chavrusa proved a challenge that he could overcome only by preparing well ahead.

The lessons with Reb Shimon in Bnei Brak, he now realized, had been amazingly thorough. He had been provided with all the tools he needed to go on with his studies. However they could not make up for all the years when he knew nothing of Torah. Only by going through everything ahead of time could he cope with each day's learning.

The chavrusa and his brother were both Israeli, so Daniel found that his few moments of spare time were spent with Israelis rather than Americans. This suited him. Americans would ask too many questions that he was unwilling and unable to answer.

He had been invited to spend Shabbos at the homes of his friends, but he always refused. He still felt most secure within the walls of the Yeshiva. Occasionally he traveled to Rav Shimon and his wife in Bnei Brak, and occasionally he went to Rav Dov's home. But even then, as he returned and went in through the wide double doors of the Yeshiva building he breathed a sigh of relief.

There was nothing logical in this that he knew. There was no way that anyone would connect the bearded yeshiva bochur with his previous life. Besides, to all intents and purposes, there was no way he could be traced to Israel. However the more he thought about the events of that last day in New York, the more he was filled with confusion and despair.

Had he made the correct decision when he had grabbed his bag, filled it with documents and cash, and fled? Was his life in danger then? Should he have left quietly, but then gone to the police? Should he return and look more actively for his parents?

These ideas he had discussed with Rav Dov. At first no answer was forthcoming. Then, after some days, he was told by the Rov, "I went to discuss these things with a great Rabbi. He listened carefully and told me that he needed to think before he gave an answer. Yesterday I went to him again. He said you should remain here. You can do no good by going to America. You should say every day the following Tehillim for the safe return of your parents."

Daniel wondered what the basis was for the decision. Yet he accepted it. Daniel concentrated on his learning. He said the Tehillim.

Yet he was constantly troubled by the thought that — just maybe — the advice had not been correct, and he should have the courage to return to America, to tell the police of what had occurred, to travel to Brazil and try and find out what had happened there.


Today was Thursday. The next day was special. Each Friday morning he learned with Rav Dov. They both kept this as quiet as possible, because this was a rare privilege, usually granted only to the most senior, most able, bochurim. However these few hours together were a source of great pleasure for Daniel as he listened to great ideas and insights, that made all that he had learned in Harvard seem tame and dull by comparison.

Now, as he made his way to the study hall he was stopped by one of the older married men. "Daniel. I was talking to my wife about you. She can't understand why you keep refusing our invitations for Shabbos. She is determined that after the chaggim you make a promise to be with us for Shabbos."

Daniel smiled, said something noncommittal, and walked to his place. How could he have guessed that this casual encounter was to have far-reaching consequences?


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