few advertising circulars lay on the white sofa. Yanky turned the pages absentmindedly until his gaze focused on an ad for a milchig fish restaurant.

“What do you want with restaurants?” Tzvika gave him a quizzical look. “Just yesterday that rich guy what’s-his-name, Goldenkrantz, gave you a feast fit for Shlomo Hamelech.”

“What do I want with Goldenkrantz and his feasts?” said Yanky. “I’d rather pay for my own meal than feel like a chesed case.”

Tzvika’s eyes opened wide “A chesed case? That’s a good one. Don’t worry —Goldenkrantz didn’t feel a dent in his pocket from that meal. You don’t realize what kind of rich we’re talking about. I’m just a minnow in the pond compared to him. To him, paying for a spread like that is like throwing a coin to the beggar by the Central Bus Station.”

“Thanks for the delightful comparison,” said Yanky, tossing the circular onto the coffee table.

“What, you’re insulted?”

“No… I just thought your phrasing was a bit inappropriate. My father is a little more respectable than a street beggar.”

“I respect your father more than you do, and you know that, Yankele.”

“Nobody could respect him more than I do!”

“Okay, it’s not a contest. Tell me about Goldenkrantz’s gourmet spread.”

“Well, the appetizer was cut fruit with some special sauce, and these crackers —not crackers, really, more like thin wafers. Arranged all fancy, of course on these diamond-shaped plates.”

“Sounds nice.”

“The next course was smoked salmon roses with broccoli salad on the side. That was on a square plate, with three little triangle-shaped bowls of different dressings.”

Tzvika groaned. “A meal like that, wasted on people who can’t appreciate it! They should’ve invited me instead of saintly tzaddikim like your brother Nochumku and that holy brother-in-law Feivel.”

Yanky grinned. “Nochumku didn’t know where to start eating, and the holy Feivele didn’t even look at his salmon, he just swallowed it like it was gefilte fish. As for Meir, I don’t know… he never gives you a hint of what he’s thinking. Twenty-nine years I’ve been his brother, and I still can’t say I know him.”

“What about the Rebbe? And your father?”

“My father spent most of the time talking in learning with Meir and Nochumku, and the Rebbe came at the end, as usual. He washes, has a bit of bread, gives a little derashah —starting with his gratitude to the host, of course, and bentshes with us.”

“So why does Goldenkrantz spend so much money feeding you?”

“Because Feivele is the Rebbe’s son, so he’s choshuv. And me and my brothers — well, we’re the Rebbe’s mechutanim, so we’re choshuv by marriage. Plus, our father’s the biggest mashpia in the chassidus — that’s also pretty choshuv. So Goldenkrantz figures he makes a seudah for us every Rosh Chodesh, maybe he’ll be choshuv, too.”

Tzvika felt the bitterness in Yanky’s words. “Don’t go all nebach on me, Yanky. I meant, why does Goldenkrantz order a meal at a hundred dollars a plate for the Rebbe, who comes in at the end and eats a k’zayis, and for your father, who can’t tell the difference between rib-eye steak and grilled chicken?”

“Or for Nochumku and Feivel, who can’t tell the difference between tilapia and gefilte fish?”


“Maybe it’s for me.” Yanky spoke in a measured tone. “For HaRav HaTzaddik Reb Yankel Kleiner, the beloved ben zekunim of HaRav HaTzaddik Reb Reuven Chaim… who likes good food and good wine.”

“I like good food and wine, too,” said Tzvika. “And it’s not like I’m wallowing in guilt about it. You, on the other hand…”

“That’s because you’re not the son of a mashpia, with everybody expecting you to live on some higher spiritual plane,” Yanky said.

Tzvika was about to retort — something sharp and clever — when he noticed the pain in Yanky’s eyes. He closed his mouth instead. For a long time, neither of them spoke.