| Always on Me |

A Deposit for a Lifetime

Is there something you always carry on you, even if it’s seen better days?


Project coordinator: Rachel Bachrach

Illustrations: Menachem Weinreb


I nervously waited for Rebbi to give back our tests. We all loved Rabbi Sroy Levitansky’s fourth grade class; with his great stories and candy treats, he always made the learning enjoyable. And though we generally did well on his Chumash tests, this one was a bit harder than usual. Rabbi Levitansky handed me my test paper, and I held it close to my shirt so no one would see the horrible grade I’d anticipated.

My fears were well-founded. I had gotten a 65.

I blinked back my tears so no one would know how upset I was — I didn’t want them to figure out why. I refused to reveal my grade to anyone. Instead, I crumpled the offending paper and stuffed it deep inside my knapsack, in the pocket I cleaned out only once a year, zipped it shut, and hoped it would be forever forgotten.

Alas, my hopes were short-lived. A voice reached me from the front of the classroom: “Tzaddik, make sure you get that paper signed.”

I froze. Why? Why do I have to get the stupid test signed? Isn’t it bad enough that I failed? Does Rebbi have to add insult to injury by making me get the test signed, too? Haven’t I gone through enough shame?

Of course, I didn’t express any of these thoughts to Rebbi, and head held high, I pretended all was fine.

Hopefully, the consequences would be quick and painless — my parents weren’t the punishing type. But this was a pretty poor showing, due to a lack of proper studying, so the fallout, whatever it would be, would be well-deserved. If I was lucky, it would be an early curfew. If I was unlucky, it might cost me the baseball game I was planning to attend.

I figured I would wait until right before supper when everyone was busy. That would be the perfect moment to show my parents the test. But when it comes to these things, there really are no perfect moments. Supper came and went. Day turned into evening, evening turned into nighttime…

I waited up in bed for a while, but the test stayed unsigned. I decided to wait until the next morning, when I’d join my father for Shacharis. I put the test in my pants pocket and went to sleep.

The next morning, the two of us went to the downstairs minyan in the Young Israel, where I always sat next to my father. Shemoneh Esreh concluded, and I held onto the paper in my pocket, fidgeting nervously, still waiting for the right moment. Then, as my father put his head down for Tachanun, I decided to go for it. I slipped the paper next to his tallis bag. A moment later, my father looked up and noticed the test paper. Tilting his head upward, he peered at it through the bottom half of his glasses (something I thought I’d never do, but actually do quite often).

“Daddy, can you sign it? We’re supposed to get it signed.”

My father didn’t say a word and barely even glanced in my direction. Instead, he pulled out his checkbook and removed a deposit slip from the back. He uncapped his felt pen and wrote a note on the slip. After folding the paper, he handed it to me and stroked my cheek. Curious and surprised, I unfolded the note and read.


Dear Rebbi,

Yechiel is a wonderful boy who just “happened” to get a 65 on his test. It won’t happen again. Thank you.

I looked at the paper and read it once, then a second time, and then a third.

Is this what Daddy really thinks of me?

I hugged him and quickly made my way to school. I could hardly wait for class to begin! As soon as Rabbi Levitansky came into the room, I ran to present the note. Rebbi read it, smiled, and turned back to unload his briefcase.

I had one request. “Rebbi, would you mind if I held on to the note?”

When I came home that day, I placed the note between the monkey bars above my bed, which was the lower level of a bunkbed, with my other valuables — a couple of treasured baseball cards (an Andre “Thunder” Thornton and a Kurt Bevacqua bubble gum-blowing champion card) and a few dollar bills.

The note sat there for years. Occasionally, I would take it out and reread it, relish it for a moment or two. When I went to Eretz Yisrael to learn in the Mir, I decided to take the note with me. I placed the folded deposit slip with its well-worn edges in my wallet so I could keep it close even in the Holy Land.

After Yom Kippur that year, I returned to my dirah to discover that some Arabs had used the day to break into the bochurim’s apartments, including ours. Among the articles taken was my wallet, containing 300 shekalim — and a very precious note.

At first, I was devastated. After all, I had held onto it for the longest time! But then it hit me. I no longer needed a note to remind me of how my father felt about me. For it was through that note that I learned that whether I got 100 or 65, my father always knew that Yechiel i s a wonderful boy who just “happened” to get a 65.


Rabbi Yechiel Spero is a rebbi in Baltimore and the author of the Touched by a Story series (ArtScroll/Mesorah).


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 860)

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