“Yonatan is perceptive. He sensed how much I want him to do things my way… and how much my feelings for him depend on that”
"Sandy, so good to see you again! And how are you, Mrs. Eliav? Please, come right in.” Matthew Fried, senior partner at Goldblum & Fried Accounting Services, was all smiles. He himself had stood waiting for the Eliavs at the entrance to the office’s outer corridor. Diana, his secretary, had bought nicer refreshments than usual and had set them up beautifully, complete with a small arrangement of purple and white tulips in a crystal vase. The members of the professional team were seated at their stations, ready to answer any question likely to come up in the course of the meeting. Even the lawyer was already sitting at the meeting table, waiting for Sandy and Marta.
“All right, let’s move on to my new investment,” said Sandy, after an hour of looking over the general state of his business affairs and tax liability, with illustrative charts. “As I wrote to Matthew, I’m preparing to buy a ground-floor commercial property here in Jerusalem, to be rented out to businesses.”
“Are you thinking of registering it in the name of one of your existing companies,” the accountant asked, “or will you open a new company?”
“That’s what I want to ask you,” said Sandy. “Which is better?”
The lawyer spoke up. “Each approach has its advantages. First of all, do you have co--investors, or will you be the sole owner of this property?”
“No co-investors, but I’ll be buying the commercial space along with some apartments on the floor above the shops. One apartment for us, and the others to rent out. It’s a very nice project, we both fell in love with it.”
“And what about your son, who’s getting married?” asked Matthew. He was a family friend as well as a business associate. “Are you buying an apartment for him?”
“Well, we wanted to, naturally,” said Marta. “We said to him, ‘Yonatan, we’re going out to see some building sites. Come with us, and we’ll invite your kallah, too, and we’ll pick out a beautiful apartment for you.’ We were thinking of Mishkenot Ha’uUmah for them, or one of the new projects on Rechov HanNeviim.”
“And then he put on this sad face,” Sandy continued. “I thought maybe those places weren’t frum enough for him and his kallah, so I said, ‘If you want a more chareidi neighborhood, we could look at the new projects in Romema. They have high-end apartments there, too.’”
“So you’re buying in Romema?”
“No,” said Marta, picking up the thread. “Yonatan seemed uncomfortable with that idea, too, and he told us, a bit awkwardly, that they were dreaming of a place in Nachlaot. That’s where he’s got his bachelor quarters now. Do you know that neighborhood? Old, small buildings, narrow alleys, gates painted blue, flowers out front planted in old shoes — that sort of thing. So I told him, ‘If you like that area, no problem. There’s a beautiful apartment tower right nearby.’ And then he looked really uncomfortable and said, ‘But Mum, we don’t want to live in a high-rise building. We want to live in a house, a little house in Nachlaot or Shaarei Chesed, in a narrow street without traffic, with bay windows, and flowers out front, and wrought-iron window bars. If necessary, I’ll renovate it.’”
After a few more minutes of chatting, Matthew and the lawyer returned to the main item on the agenda, the registration of Sandy’s next acquisition. If Sandy was to be the sole owner, then probably there was no need to list it as a new company’s holdings, and then the question to settle was:, under which one of his existing companies should it be registered? But first they’d better consult Jacky. He was their expert on tax treaties between countries, and he could help them ascertain whether it wasn’t better, after all, to register the property in the name of a new company….
Jacky came in, and Sandy’s thoughts began to wander. He fixed his gaze on the window, the view obscured by fog, and thought of his firstborn, his only son.
“Could it be that Dad would love me more if I would want to live in Mishkenot Ha’uUmah, like he had in mind for me?” That was what Yonatan had said to Marta. In just those words.
Marta, loyal spouse that she was, had told Sandy about it last evening as they stood on their hotel suite’s large balcony. Sandy had bit his lip nervously. Yes, of course he could launch into a speech about a parent’s unconditional love. He could start babbling about loving every child equally, no matter what.
But Sandy chose to look reality in the face and admit the truth: Yes, Yonatan read me accurately. There’s something in me that would love him more, or at least like him better, if he would let me buy him a nice apartment like I planned, instead of taking some old wreck and renovating it.
“There are some charming old houses in Nachlaot,” Marta had said in Yonatan’s defense. “I walked around there with him this afternoon, and the neighborhood does have a special atmosphere.”
“I know that,” Sandy replied. “But that isn’t the point.” He spoke without turning toward her.
“So what is it that’s bothering you?” She tried to catch his eye, but he seemed to be completely absorbed in the view.
“Yonatan is perceptive. He sensed how much I want him to do things my way… and how much my feelings for him depend on that.”
“You love him very much!” Marta protested. “I could testify in beis din how much you love him! You’re about to spend nearly a million pounds on his wedding and apartment, aren’t you?”
“The fact that I spend a lot of money on somebody’s wedding doesn’t prove that I love him unconditionally.”
“Conditionally or unconditionally, what does it matter? What matters is that you love him.” Marta wasn’t enjoying this discussion, and she wanted to finish it.
An Israeli company? A foreign company registered in Israel? Sandy tried to push last night’s conversation away and focus on Jacky’s explanation. If he didn’t do this properly, he could end up paying taxes both here and in the UK. But the memory kept niggling at him. And why not? There were other things that had to be done the right way, too. What about Yonatan? What about unconditional love? And what about his homeless brother?
“By the way, there’s a rumor that Yerachmiel Poiker did teshuvah,” said Yanky, as he glanced through the seforim Meir had just bought at the book fair. “These are great seforim, Meir. How much did you pay for them? And how late are they open there?”
“All of them together cost me 140 shekel,” said Meir, “and they’re open until midnight. And yes, I also heard that Yerachmiel’s goyte wife left him, and he went to learn in a yeshivah for baalei teshuvah in Monsey. Does that sound right to you?”
“No. But unlikely things do happen.”
“They didn’t happen this time,” their father cut in.
“How do you know, Tatty?” Yanky and Meir both turned to him at once, curious as little children. Tatty was actually speaking about Yerachmiel Poiker!
“I know,” said Rav Reuven Chaim. “First of all, his wife isn’t a goyte. And second, she didn’t leave him. They’re living happily together in some suburb of Los Angeles.”
“And he isn’t learning in a yeshivah for baalei teshuvah?” Meir asked. If his father was volunteering information, he wanted to get every available drop.
“Yerachmiel doesn’t need a yeshivah for baalei teshuvah,” the mashgiach said with a bitter little smile. “Any time he wants, he could go to the best yeshivos in Bnei Brak, and he’d go straight to the top. What would he do in a baal teshuvah yeshivah? Learn the basic concepts of Gemara, or hilchos muktzeh and berachos? Neither of you can even imagine what he was.” Beneath the mild sarcasm, sadness lay deep in his voice, and the air around him was filled with yearning for his lost chavrusa, his irreplaceable Reish Lakisha.
His sons were silent for a long, respectful moment. Meir was the first to speak.
“You know, Tatty, they talked about it in the yeshivah. They even brought Yerachmiel as an example to show that anyone who leaves, comes back in the end.”
“That’s what they said? Who said it?” The mashgiach was surprised.
“One of the ramim. If you want, I’ll find out who exactly. I heard it from friends who have sons in the yeshivah. And Rav Kitovitz also said something along the same lines.”
“Strange that they would say things based on random rumors that are floating around.”
“They’re not just floating around anymore,” said Yanky. “They’ve got hands and feet, and they’re walking around in the dorm, very sure of themselves.”
“I wonder why nobody thought to ask the family,” Meir said, thinking out loud. “His parents could have told them right away the rumors aren’t true.”
“I guess people still have a bit of sensitivity left,” said Yanky. “Enough tact not to go asking a family about their off-the-derech son. And besides, the Poikers are pretty quiet people, you don’t see them around much, now that they don’t have kids in the mosdos anymore.”
Their father opened his Gemara and started learning. Meir looked at his watch and packed up his new seforim. “Nu, shoiyn. As long as the bochurim got some chizuk from the story, that’s all that matters,” he said. “I’ve got a bus in ten minutes —, you want to walk me to the bus stop?”
Yanky’s love of truth was prickling him. As soon as they were out of the building and on their way, he spoke his mind. “What do you mean, ‘as long as the bochurim get chizuk from it’? You want them to get chizuk from a lie?”
“Yanky, come on, it isn’t exactly a lie. All right, that particular rumor is false, but there’s still some emes in the story. For sure there’ve been people who went off the derech and came back. So let’s say the story was about them, not about Yerachmiel.”
“But they told the story about Yerachmiel! And he didn’t come back! How can you be mechanech bochurim with lies?”
“Factual truth isn’t a supreme value in Yiddishkeit,” Meir answered serenely. “You’re allowed to alter the facts for the sake of shalom or pikuach nefesh. And you don’t always have to tell the whole truth. And besides, even if Yerachmiel hasn’t come back yet, I’m sure he will one day. So let’s say the story is about that future day.”
Yanky merely gave an exasperated sigh. They walked on in silence.
At the bus stop, Meir turned to his brother. “Yanky,” he said, “do me a favor and don’t broadcast all your thoughts in public. I know you’re smarter than me and almost everybody else in the kehillah, and I know you have a wise old mentor and I don’t, but take some advice from a brother who’s older than you, and more experienced: Don’t tell everyone what you think.”
Yanky didn’t answer. Bus number 291 pulled up, and the brothers parted. Meir watched Yanky from the window until his figure disappeared around the corner. He fervently hoped his younger brother wouldn’t get himself into trouble.
He hoped in vain.
Various vague scenarios flitted about in Meir’s worried mind, but he couldn’t imagine how much trouble Yanky was in.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 805)
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