| Encore |

Encore: Chapter 10

Once the zeman started, the boys who still hadn’t found yeshivos needed to be handled with care


Yerachmiel Plaut was leaving shul on the second day of Elul when Nachman Tzuker made a comment that annoyed him.

“Finally you get to catch your breath, might as well daven at the nine o’clock minyan, huh? What’s the rush?”

Yerachmiel knew he should laugh easily, maybe reply with a joke of his own, but he couldn’t. If Tzuker only knew what sort of aggravation today would bring — the second-day-of-the-zeman guys.

He rented space in a Lakewood office building that was in a bit of a decline. The promised conference room was shared with several other businesses, so there wasn’t much privacy. This bothered Yerachmiel. His people came to discuss sensitive matters, and when a boy came together with his parents, the small office really couldn’t accommodate all of them.

Today, for the second day of the zeman, he’d reserved the conference room for the whole morning — and let Mrs. Minsky from Tza’akas Hatzaddik and her endless robocalls figure out how to deal with it. Too bad. Before the zeman, the boys who came to see him weren’t special cases, for the most part. But once the zeman started, the boys who still hadn’t found yeshivos needed to be handled with care.

He moved into the conference room possessively, clearing out Mrs. Minsky’s brochures and the Grand Insurance mugs, pushing the chairs properly around the table. He would be ready.

The first meeting of the day was with the Bass family. He frowned as he read the information. This was a new name to Yerachmiel Plaut.

At precisely nine fifteen, Yerachmiel went out to the small parking lot, determined to greet the Bass family as they entered, to put them at ease and make the experience pleasant.

Yerchamiel Plaut had been doing this for years; it had started as an informal chesed he could do from the back of the beis medrash, but he’d been so good at it that askanim had urged him to set up an office. Yerachmiel had never formally been in chinuch, but he had an eye for bochurim, the askanim agreed, and he made it his business to remain up to date on the yeshivah world. He knew every hiring and firing, which dormitory was drafty and where the food was inedible. He knew which mashgichim said shmuessen in Yiddish and which spoke in English, which rebbeim knew how to talk and which knew how to listen.

At 9:20, he saw a Volvo XC90 pull in, the driver going to the far end of the parking lot, as if unwilling to expose his car to the jumble of Siennas and Camrys clustered together closer to the building. The man who came out of the car was wearing sunglasses and a three-piece suit, and, unbidden, the word “weirdo” popped up in Yerachmiel Plaut’s mind. He wasn’t proud of this, and he compensated by smiling broadly in the man’s direction. This proved a miscalculation, because it took close to a minute for the father and son to make their way across the empty parking lot, and Yerachmiel was left smiling for way too long, leaving him feeling like a Walmart greeter at holiday season.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 793)

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