| All I Ask |

All I Ask: Chapter 55

Raizele suddenly found herself wishing fervently for the Beis Hamikdash. She would run straight there and bring a Korban Todah, if only she could

 

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hat was really beautiful,” said Sandy, his voice rising to a high pitch as he yawned. He’d just given the young couple a ride home from the lavish sheva brachos Marta’s sister Hindy had made for them in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Sarah Bayla headed inside, while Yonatan stayed outside for a moment to say good night to his father.

“It really was nice,” he agreed. “Tante Hindy, she should live and be well, put out enough food for five meals!”

“And tomorrow is the last one,” said Sandy, yawning again. He was hosting the final sheva brachos in a stylish hall on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Everybody was invited — all his friends and relatives, all his local business contacts, and the kallah’s whole extended family, as well.

“You know,” Sandy said after a pause for thought, “I’d really like for Shalom to be there tomorrow.”

“But you have no way of inviting him,” Yonatan reminded him, a little too hastily. The Kleiners say they promised not to share any information about his whereabouts, and they don’t think it’s appropriate to give him any messages from us, either. They said he really freaked out that time he met Dad on the tram… and they’re nervous it might affect his health if they so much as hand him an invitation to my wedding.

“I know,” said Sandy. “But still, I’d love to have him there.”

“You realize he would probably show up in his old coat, the one he holds together with paper clips instead of a zipper. He only wears his ‘better’ coat when it’s literally freezing.”

“So let him come in his old coat, with the paper clips.”

“And he’d be going around to all the guests, jingling a cup of coins at them.”

“So let him go around and jingle.”

“Tante Hindy would faint, Dad, when she found out who he was.”

“So let her faint.”

Yonatan couldn’t understand his father. “You’re thinking Hindy might not recognize him?”

“Oh, she’d recognize him all right.” Sandy leaned on the stone fence, stroking a tall green shrub. “He’d be sure to attract attention, and people would catch on pretty quickly who he was, and probably there’d be whispering about me all through the dinner, all about how scandalous it is that I could leave my own brother in such a state. Who would believe that he refuses to take a penny from me?”

“And… you wouldn’t care?”

“No, not a bit. I’ve done all I could, Yonatan. This is who my brother is… and I love him.”

Yonatan looked at his father’s face, then looked away. He pulled his scarf a bit tighter around his neck. The silence yawned, but he had no idea what to say.

“Try to find him, Yonatan,” Sandy urged him. “I don’t mean now, while you’re a chassan, and not in time for tomorrow’s sheva brachos. But after things settle down a bit, find him, and tell him that.”

“I should tell him that… you love him?”

“Yes.”

“Are you thinking that… that if I tell him that, it’ll break down his resistance, and he’ll come to London finally and get his yerushah?”

“I don’t know. I doubt it. But that’s not the point.” Something Yonatan had never seen before was shining softly from his father’s face. “It makes no difference, Yonatan. Whether he decides to come and get the money or not, I just want him to know I love him.”

This sounded so odd. “So… you want me to find Shalom just for that? Just to say three words to him?”

“Yes. Just to say those three words to him. Keep looking for him, Yonatan, until you find him. Those words are worth more than any amount of money.” A veil had been lifted, and everything was so clear to Sandy now. He knew now what he really wanted to say to his brother. Not, “Stop being a fool, and take your money,” and not, “You’re a disgrace to the family,” but simply, “I love you.”

Sandy wished his son good night and turned back toward the parking spot he’d found further along the street. Yonatan watched him. His father cut such an impressive figure: tall and authoritative, with broad shoulders, and an energetic gait. Sandy disappeared around a bend, and Yonatan cast his gaze down to the gray pavement of Rechov Shomron. Something was trembling inside him, like a little bird left out in the cold.

“Tell that to me, Dad,” it pleaded.

 

********

“Your architectural magazine came today,” said Raizele, waving the sleek, plastic-wrapped periodical. The cover depicted the interior of an impossibly elegant studio apartment.

“Oh, that? Okay, I’ll have to find some time to read it,” Yanky replied. “Put it in the basket on my night table, would you, please?”

Magazine in hand, Raizele went to do her husband’s bidding. She bent to put it in the basket and noticed the January issue was still there, untouched in its wrapper.

She couldn’t help but smile at the sight. The watchmaker was so wise! Who would have believed that Yanky, the would-be architect, would subscribe to a building design magazine, just as a minimal indulgence for his passion, and then leave it unread, without even opening the wrapper? He, who was fascinated by every building plan, whose imagination was ignited by the mere mention of architecture, was letting these magazines pile up, to be read “whenever he could find the time?”

She took a breath and adjusted her tone to sound casual before saying, “You know, you didn’t read last month’s issue yet. You never even unwrapped it.”

“I didn’t?” Yanky said quizzically. “Funny… I forgot all about it. I’ve been so busy this past month, preparing shiurim and getting used to the new place, I haven’t had time for magazines. And you know, now that I think about it, architecture doesn’t really excite me that much anymore.”

Raizele suddenly found herself wishing fervently for the Beis Hamikdash. She would run straight there and bring a Korban Todah, if only she could.

It was Rosh Chodesh, and Yanky went out to Goldenkrantz’s seudah as usual. Raizele stayed home, her heart bursting with happiness. Everything was so good, she didn’t know how to contain it all. Yanky was learning with such obvious satisfaction, and he was so pleasant to be around, it seemed as if a dark cloud over their heads had passed on. Finally his inner truth was now fully in sync with his outward persona, forming one beautiful whole. She didn’t know what she’d done to deserve it. When she thought back to the summer, to those days of darkness and confusion, she wanted to cry. She’d been so worried, so fearful that he might drift away to a point of no return. Only she and Hashem knew how close Yanky had come to that point.

She hoped Goldenkrantz’s seudah would go well. Her shver would be there, and her brothers-in-law, and the Rebbe and Feivele, too. Last month, after Yanky had been fired from the yeshivah, he’d felt embarrassed, sitting there with them all as if nothing had happened. Surely with time it would get easier.

*******

The tables were elegantly set, as always. The waiters cleared away the fish plates, and while they served the soup, the Rebbe spoke.

“People come to me sometimes looking for chizuk,” he said softly. “They ask what they should do to improve themselves. They point to the tzaros so many Yidden are dealing with, or maybe they have a son or daughter at home who’s still single, or a child who’s unwell. They want an eitzah, something they can do to come closer to the Ribbono shel Olam.”

The diners were all ears. There were more guests than usual at the seudah this time; Goldenkrantz had invited more relatives, and several staff members as well.

“So many Yidden, so many reasons.” The Rebbe’s voice got a little louder. “Yidden come from far afield, Yidden who are doing teshuvah because they’re dealing with tzaros… Yidden who are dealing with some sort of loss or accident or an illness. They all want to come closer, to be more authentic, more genuine in their connection to Hashem. And that’s very good. But there’s something better.” The Rebbe paused.

There was total silence in the hall. Every eye was fixed on the Rebbe. Every ear was attentive. Everyone wondered where he was going with this.

“Sometimes we see a man who has everything,” the Rebbe said. “He was born and raised among us, a full insider with every privilege. He didn’t come in from the dark, he knows Torah and mitzvos, and you assume he has no need to search for anything, because he has it already. He should just be content with what he has.”

With a little smile, Nochumku nudged Yanky with his elbow, and then directed a sidewise glance at him to make sure he got the hint. He means people like you, Yanky. You shouldn’t be looking for anything!

But the Rebbe’s next words made Nochumku freeze in place. “What is this man lacking?” The Rebbe raised his voice, he was nearly shouting. “He lacks for nothing! But he goes and searches. Why? He is seeking a deeper connection with his Creator because that is what he truly values. He’s not looking for money, or for better health, or for hatzlachah for himself or his children. He’s already seeing success in everything he undertakes. People look at him and shake their heads. ‘What are you doing this for?’ they say. ‘Everything was fine, you had no problems. Why are you wandering down all these side paths and alleyways? And when you find the one you’re looking for, what will you say to him? What troubles do you have to share with him?’ They don’t understand that when someone is seeking that kind of connection, it’s not because he lacks or wants anything. It’s for the sake of the bond itself.”

Meir pinched Nochumku, and then himself. Neither of them could believe their ears. The Rebbe, right there in front of everybody! He was giving Yanky his full backing! Feivele was staring wide-eyed at his father. The avreichim at the next table were stealing glances at the Kleiners. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that stopping short of saying the words “Yanky Kleiner,” the Rebbe had made himself perfectly clear.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 811)

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