| Encore |

Encore: Chapter 21

“Jacobs, you’re from Baltimore, you probably know real English, write him some good words,
come on…”

"O

oooh mamesh the next Ishay Rebo,” Boruch Zeldman crowed. “Someone needs to get you a black shirt and you’re all set.”

“Oh stop it, I just used a few Hebrew words, that’s all.” Chesky Lorb lowered the guitar and used his freed-up hand to push his glasses back up on his nose. “I don’t know too much Hebrew. I just thought it was cute.”

“You though it was cute to use Lev Sheli in the first five words? You didn’t chap that it’s like, a total rip-off from Ribo?” Zeldman’s tone was teasing, not mocking, and Lorb laughed easily.

“Okay, okay, I’ll change it. I have other Hebrew words I know. Kisei. Shulchan. Mah Koreh achi. That’s it.”

“Hashulchan sheli, that’s going to be a megahit,” Dovi Korman said slowly, “I can see it.”

Lorb, not sure if it was a joke or not, looked up hopefully. “You serious? What does that mean, isn’t like it, like,” he paused and translated in his mind, “the table of mine?”

Dovi Korman felt badly and quickly backtracked. “It was a joke. Those aren’t the greatest words, but you do have an awesome voice and watching you work the guitar strings is something else. You’re a beast.”

Chesky Lorb brightened and Dovi reminded himself, again, that not everyone was Boruch Zeldman who was used to his deadpan style of speaking.

“Maybe drop the Hebrew, the oilam here will help you with English lyrics.” Dovi said this seriously; Lorb could play and the song was nice.

“Yeah,” Harari said as he jumped off the table where he’d been sitting. “Yeah, so maskim. Something like, Yerushalayim, sunshine, believe, heart, blah blah Shabbos, does that work?”

Noach Perensky got into it. “Then like, a really dramatic violin solo and boom, Lorb, you burst in with another round of the high part, the oilam is mamesh crying along.”

“Wait.” Dovi Korman had an inspiration. “Jacobs, you’re from Baltimore, you probably know real English, write him some good words, come on…”

Jacobs looked up and blushed with pleasure. “Me? Sure.”

Shuey Portman, standing just outside the door to the dormitory room, was frozen. He had never eavesdropped on a conversation before and it felt rotten. Even in his old office, when he knew that Mr. Kohl and the boys were having a meeting about him and he could have easily overheard every single word from the closet near the bathroom, he didn’t care to listen. It wasn’t his style.

But this was chinuch. The rosh yeshivah had asked him to find a way to reach Shlomo Bass, and this was it. He kept waiting for someone to mention his name: “You know, we should really speak to Mr. Portman about this, he knows the business inside and out and has music flowing through his veins,” or, “Let’s play it for Mr. Portman, he’ll know in one second if it has the right vibe.”

 

Wait, Shuey suddenly thought, did they call him Mr. Portman behind his back? Was it Shuey? Something else, some nickname, maybe?

He wished he could step in and tell them that right there, in the little jumble of people and guitar and lousy lyrics, they had the medicine to help a friend: if they would only include Shlomo Bass, they could bring a smile to the sullen features.

Shuey tried to imagine Bass sitting there, in the large group, jumping in with a joke or idea of his own. Nah, it didn’t work.

Shuey tiptoed away and headed to his room. It was well after midnight and he was tired. He hoped that they didn’t call him Porty, like his roommates in high school used to, a nickname he’d hated. Probably not, he decided, as he let himself into the room and slipped off his shoes.

***

Penina Wasser sat at a round table that had once served the only suite at the Old Orchard Inn and tried to make a Yom Tov menu, like she would have in Lakewood. She had offered to host the whole yeshivah for one meal, the first night, because she thought Sholom would appreciate it.

He looked nervous at the thought, but then started measuring the large living room, trying to figure out if he could fit everyone in and who would sit where.

“Sholom, I want to cook too,” she’s said. “Not from the caterer, okay? First night is on me?”

Gratitude flooded his features. “Wow, if you can handle it, that’s awesome. It’s all of us, plus Ephraim of course. The Portman family might be joining us too,” he added and she looked up.

“Really? Henny said she would come? Shouldn’t you have Terrence preparing their rooms for them, maybe painting?”

“Look, Shuey confirmed he’s davening for the amud, how can they not come? He’s never davened on the Yamim Noraim — can you believe it, such a talent? — and I’m sure it will be special.”

She saw insecurity in his face for a moment, and she knew precisely why.

She knew he’d struggled about who should daven which tefillah. A yeshivah, on the Yamim Noraim, was a big deal, and he felt that the rosh yeshivah should daven mussaf. But while Sholom was an adequate baal tefilla, Shuey Portman was the one with the voice. She’d heard Sholom call his own rosh yeshivah and go through the various options, and she knew that the rosh yeshivah had advised him that today’s bochurim need as pleasant a tefillah experience as possible and that Shuey Portman was a fine choice for mussaf. Because she was his wife, she also knew that Sholom was a bit disappointed, so she hadn’t asked too many questions about the schedule.

She was right that he was disappointed, but she wasn’t right about the reason.

***

Feeling confident, Sholom had called Avi Korman to invite him for the yeshivah’s first-ever Yamim Noraim tefillos. He knew Avi would be proud, and he had every intention of sharing the glory with the yeshivah’s founder and only supporter.

He could imagine it already, Avi would get an aliyah the first day, maybe Sholom would even thank him publicly in his drashah before tekios, hakaras hatov was important. One day, Sholom knew, there would be two hundred people in the beis medrash and the way things were done would establish the yeshivah’s mesorah forever and ever — so it was a big deal.

It wasn’t that Avi Korman had turned him down — he hadn’t, he’d been very polite, he said he’d talk to his family and wasn’t sure he could leave his shul and his father-in-law needed help. It was that Avi Korman had been distant, as if he hadn’t created a yeshivah and handpicked Sholom Wasser and invested real money into making it work.

The rejection had left Sholom feeling rattled and he wished he could tell Penina. He couldn’t, though, not now, after she’d finally made the move and gotten settled.

Deep down, he thought it was about money. It’s always about money, his mother used to say, and he worried that Avi Korman had undertaken more than he could carry.

He brightened, then, thinking that Selichos were starting and it was time to get serious about tefillah and all would be well.

Now, he looked back at Penina and said, again, “You’re really amazing that you would cook for everyone, to make a seudah…but they deserve it, Penina, no one can do it like you.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 804)

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