Here and there, a face from Chevron popped out from the crowd. But I tried not to think about Chevron
hat do you think?” Faiga asked, holding up a small round ball. She had painted it green to look like an apple. “Does it look good?”
I reached for the apple and held it up against an old brown dress that I had found. It would fit Leiba in a few years, but for now it would make an amazing base for a Purim costume. Perfect. I nodded at Faiga and she smiled back at me. “They are going to be the cutest trees! Let me go outside and collect some leaves and we can glue them on over here.” I pointed to the collar.
“Great,” Faiga said, not looking up from the apple she was painting. “Don’t forget we need some for Bracha’s costume, too.”
I nodded, and skipped down the steps to the courtyard in front of our building. Purim wasn’t the greatest time for collecting leaves from the trees, but I was still able to gather a whole bunch.
By the time Purim came, all our costumes were laid out and ready to go. We headed off to shul to hear the Megillah looking like a merry group — a tree with Haman on it, Queen Esther, Vashti and a cute little Yisroel dressed as a clown. Even Dovid joined in the fun and wore a clown costume, like Yisroel. He was in shul already, but Mama said she would bring his pointy clown hat so he could put it on after Megillah.
Shul was a mass of colorful people, all dressed in different costumes.
“Look, Mama, there’s Bracha,” Leiba squealed, racing off to sit next to our cousin. Bracha’s tree costume was based on an old green dress of Faiga’s, but other than that, the two of them looked the same. The same apples. The same Haman doll. It was so cute seeing them together.
Mama sat near the back, Yisroel on her lap, ready to make a quick escape if he made any noise. But ever since he came back from the hospital, he was much better at sitting still and being quiet. It made me a little nervous to think about what happened at the hospital that was causing him to sit still, but at least we could bring him to hear the Megillah. If Mama needed to run out, though, one of the bochurim who lived in our house promised he would lein for her when we got back.
I looked around at our new, now familiar neighbors. Here and there, a face from Chevron popped out from the crowd. But I tried not to think about Chevron. I pushed aside thoughts of the delicious baked goods the Sephardi baker made, and focused on the gorgeous costumes I had worked so hard on. And it worked. The joy and happiness that was Purim seeped into my heart and I couldn’t help but smile.
“Baruuuuch,” the baal korei began and suddenly a hush fell throughout the shul, everyone silent, ready to hear about another time and place when things didn’t go so well for the Jews but we still persevered.
We were up to perek vav and Mordechai was about to be placed on the horse when Yisroel started to fuss. Maybe he was tired or something — after all, the Megillah leining had started really late. I wanted to stand up, take him from Mama, and go outside so Mama could stay and listen to the Megillah. But I didn’t. We had discussed this before. If Yisroel made noise, Mama was going to go out and I would stay to walk Leiba and Miriam home.
As soon as Megillah leining was over, I looked around for Dovid.
“Dovid,” I called, catching him on his way out the door, “can you tell that bochur that Mama needs him to come lein for her? She needed to leave in the middle because of Yisroel.”
“Mmm hmm,” Dovid responded, and instead of turning right, toward our house, he turned left and headed toward the yeshivah.
I quickly hurried home, Leiba and Miriam in tow, ready to help Mama bake hamantaschen and prepare for the seudah tomorrow.
Zalman was on the side of the beis medrash, flipping through a sefer, when I found him.
“Um.” I cleared my throat, hoping he would look up. “Zalman?”
He looked up at the sound of his name. “Oh. Dovid. Hi,” he said, snapping his sefer closed. “Does your mother need me to lein for her?”
“Okay. I’m coming now. Would you just wait for me by the entrance while I go get my Megillah and my coat?”
As I waited, a soft rain began to patter onto the pavement and the few people still out on the street sped up to make it home before the drizzle turned into a downpour.
“Ready?” Zalman called from behind me, and we set off together.
The house was warm and smelled of hamantaschen frying. My mouth watered and I quickly took a peek inside the pan. The hamantaschen had date filling, sweet and hot. “Yum, Mama.” I turned toward where she was sitting at the table, “Delish. Can I have one?”
“Dates?” Miriam complained, peering over my shoulder. “Can’t we make some with raisins?”
“After I hear Megillah,” Mama said, rinsing her hands and wiping them on the towel. “Come, Zalman,” Mama added, moving into the dining room and sitting down. “Do a good job and we’ll even treat you to some hamantaschen.”
Zalman chuckled. Mama couldn’t resist feeding her bochurim and he knew it.
“That’s a beautiful Megillah,” Mama commented after Zalman had finished leining. “And you lein beautifully, too.”
“Thank you,” Zalman said, coloring a little. “I actually wrote it myself.”
“Really?” I ambled into the dining room. “How?”
“My father’s a sofer,” Zalman explained. “He taught me.”
“Can you teach me?” I asked, coming over to see the Megillah up close. It hadn’t really interested me before, but if Zalman wrote it, well… that was something else. I thought of the sofrim I’d seen, wielding their long feather pens dipped in ink, scratching the surface of the klaf ever so gently as they wrote.
“Um,” Zalman looked a little uncomfortable, “I guess. After seder each day I can show you a little. But we’d need to learn some halachos first, too.”
“Okay.” I nodded enthusiastically, burning my tongue on the hot date syrup. “When can we start?”
“Well, Shabbos is Purim, so today and Sunday will be busy. How about Monday night?”
I started. Monday? I was supposed to meet Yitzchok, Zev, and Avi on Monday. Avi had gotten his hands on some sort of weapon and he wanted to show it to us. “Can we start the next day?”
Zalman nodded. “Tuesday night it is,” he said. “I’ll come straight to you after seder.”
“And you’ll eat supper with us,” Mama broke in. She couldn’t pay him for the lessons so of course she was offering to feed him instead.
“Thank you,” Zalman said, accepting the offer. “How about we work together two or three times a week until Pesach?”
“Wow! Really?” I asked. I wouldn’t be as available for meetings with Yitzchok, but right now this seemed more exciting.
“Sure,” Zalman said, reaching for a hamantasch from the plate Miriam was offering him. “As long as you keep feeding me these yummy hamantaschen!”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 928)
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