Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Kislev 5766 - December 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

by Gita Gordon

Serializing a new novel.

Chapter 7 Dean in Jerusalem (July 2000) — Part 2

Fleeing from sinister figures who are clearly out to harm him, Dean has taken a flight to Israel using a passport he found in the airport. He has come to Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim to return the passport, but has no clear plans beyond that.

"Look, I only came to return the money and the passport. I will get a cab to a hotel." Dean got up and took his small case.

"No, wait. Clearly you can't register at a hotel. For that you will need a passport. The money you have brought won't last forever. Don't you have family in Israel?"

"No, no family, not in New York and not here."

There was a silence as the Rabbi sat, looking, listening, not appearing to respond.

Dean continued. "My father arrived alone from Germany, just before war broke out. My grandmother's family didn't approve of the match. They were long-time American citizens and they disapproved of his religious ways. So I never knew them. My mother was an only child. Perhaps there are distant cousins somewhere, but I have never met them."

The Rabbi had many years experience in assessing young men. By their mannerisms, or inflections, he could tell when they were telling the truth and when they were putting an untrue gloss on the events they spoke of. This boy seemed to be telling him the truth. Yet what a strange tale he told! Rav Dov sat there, pondering what to do.

There were some moments of silence as Dean finished his tale.

Then Rav Dov spoke. "Today my sister went to England to be with her daughter. Her husband has been ill and didn't want to go along. No sooner had she left, than the person caring for my brother-in-law received a message that he must return home. How would you like to take his place? The work isn't arduous. The pay isn't bad. Nobody would dream of looking for you in a small apartment in Bnei Brak. We will have time to think of what the next step should be."

In later years, Dean was to look back on this first morning in Jerusalem with wonder. A stranger had listened to his story, had made no judgment, and had set about helping him. However that day he had merely followed, automaton-like, buying extra clothing, eating lunch in a large, full, noisy dining room. Later he found himself getting on a mini-van and traveling with Rav Dov to a place called Bnei Brak, where he was about to become a helper to an old man. His previous well- ordered life seemed remote, gone forever, and his new life was beginning.

Rav Dov, on the other hand, was to remember returning home and feeling unease. There was something he hadn't noticed, some worrying detail that he should have spotted and drawn an inference from. It was the same feeling he got when he thought he had solved a problem in gemora, only to realize that a strand had been left unanswered, hanging loose, waiting to be resolved. For a long time he tried to go through the events of the day once again. No clue came forth to help him. The worried feeling remained.

The following day, mid-morning, he called his brother-in- law. "Well, how is your new helper working out?"

In the background the sounds of pots and pans banging together could be heard.

"Listen. I don't want to say he isn't a good boy. He listens carefully and does everything I tell him. But are you sure he is a Yid? From neggel vasser, he knows nothing. The prayer for tzitzis, I must teach him. Milchig and fleischig . . . that too I must teach him."

Rav Dov paused and thought what to say. "Yes, but I have seen his parent's kesuba. He told me. His folks didn't bother too much with our ways. They sent him to some boarding school where there were only a few Jews — and all like himself, knowing nothing. He said he is willing to learn."

There was a moment of silence and then a reply. "Listen, hear him wash up from breakfast? He doesn't know how to do that properly either. But willing to learn. Oh yes. You can say that. A fast learner, that's for sure."

Every few days Rav Dov called his brother-in-law. Every few days there seemed to be news of progress, "Now he can read and begin to daven. Very slow, it's true, but still with such kavonah you must see it to believe it."

Rav Dov thought again about the young man. He had tried to check his strange story, but if two New Yorkers had gone missing in Brazil, it hadn't appeared in any newspaper.

How was he to know, that in order to keep the supermarket shares at their high level not a word of the mystery had been allowed to reach the press? In fact the number of people who knew of the event was in single figures.

The siddur had appeared genuine enough. The kesuba had appeared genuine enough. Yet somehow the thought that he was missing something important nagged at him.

When his sister returned from her stay in England, Rav Dov called the day after her late-night arrival. After hearing about her trip he asked. "How do you find the young man helping Shimon?"

"A jewel you sent us!" she replied. "When I woke up, the breakfast table was set like a Shabbos table: white cloth, everything in place. He had even picked a small flower from the balcony and placed it peeping out of the napkin. I asked him who he worked for before, that he knew such fancy ways. But he just laughed."

In November, Rav Dov made his usual call to his sister-in-law and issued the usual invitation. "Will you be visiting us during Chanukah?"

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone, and then she said. "I will have to see. I don't know. This young man who looks after Shimon, he keeps him so busy that we hardly have a moment to talk. It is like old times when he was teaching."

"What does he do"?

"It starts in the morning. After they have been to shul they do exercises together. This young man was a football player at college, he says. He knows special exercises to strengthen the wrists and the legs. Shimon still limps a bit, but now he can get about without the walker."

"Nu. That's not all day."

"So then they learn together. That young man knew nothing when he came here . . . but nothing! Now you should hear him read and discuss things. This boy — Daniel — he told Shimon that as soon as he doesn't need a helper, he will leave us and then he wants to learn in Mir. Shimon says the boy learns as if his life depends on it."

Rav Dov remembered the conversation in his office. He remembered the young man saying, "I feel safe here. No one would look for me here."

He thought his sister's comment apt. The boy did feel that he would be safe in Mir and was concentrating all his efforts on coming up to standard. He truly was learning as if he felt his life depended on it. "Isn't this too much for Shimon . . . . . . .all this teaching?"

"No, I think it is making him fit just as much as those exercises are. It gives him an interest."

Rav Dov was pleased that things were going so well in his sister's house. However, he wondered what he would say to the boy when he once again requested to come to Mir. There was no way he could reach the standard of the bochurim, no matter how diligently he learned with his brother-in-law. Some other solution would have to be found.


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