Always, the subject of Shuey’s job was taboo. They could talk about anything, but not that
"What’s with you? Why aren’t you pumped?” Boruch Zeldman frowned.
Dovi Korman was playing with a straw, looking straight down into his pepper steak.
“No reason. Maybe just bummed out that bein hazmanim is over, you know?”
Zeldman snorted. “Oh, please, it’s not just today and you know it. On Chol Hamoed, you scowled the whole time at the park, and that was after we had to beg you to come. You were all moody. What’s the deal, Dov Ber?”
Dovi hated when his friend called him that, and Boruch knew it. He wouldn’t have done it if he hadn’t felt the situation warranted it.
“Are you not in the mood for going back to yeshivah? Like, you lost cheishek?” Zeldman asked suddenly, his face colored with concern.
“Ha.” Korman looked around Glatt Bite, the tables crowded with bochurim reveling in the last night of bein hazmanim, and waved his hands. “I guarantee there isn’t a single guy in this room happier to go back to yeshivah than me.”
Zeldman relaxed. “Yeah, Modena is the place, maskim. It’s great. I hope your father bought land next to it, ’cause when it happens, it’s gonna happen.”
He spread his arms apart, as if to show how big the yeshivah would get, and knocked into his can of Dr. Pepper. It tottered dangerously for a moment, then righted itself.
“My father didn’t buy land next to it,” Dovi Korman said, his voice harder than he meant it to be, and Boruch Zeldman understood, suddenly, what was going on.
huey Portman held the restaurant door open for his wife and bowed.
This was the best Shuey, Henny thought, happy and comfortable in his own skin, like in the early years of his career. It had been a long time since she’d seen her husband this way, flushed and playful, even silly.
Believe was the hottest restaurant in Lakewood, (Raising the bar yet again, was their ad) but Shuey knew the manager from his old job (We overlapped in the food industry, he told Henny nonchalantly) and was able to swing a table. He announced this to Henny in the morning, telling her it was sort of a goodbye party, a new zeman was starting and he was back on the road again.
She spent the rest of the day calling sisters, friends, and neighbors to casually drop the fact that she was going to Believe for supper and soliciting suggestions for what to order.
They had gone out over the years, anniversaries and birthdays, different occasions, but always, the subject of Shuey’s job was taboo. They could talk about anything, but not that.
Once they had gone out to eat together with Henny’s Aunt Myrna, visiting from Israel, and she wanted to know all about what Shuey did.
“Tell me every detail,” she said as she clapped her hands together. “Uncle Manny was also in sales and I loved hearing about his different antics, the way he always managed to talk his way into any office… Your uncle, he was such a character…”
Shuey had told her that it wasn’t really like that, he didn’t have to talk his way in to people, they either wanted small-sized bags of pretzels in bulk or they didn’t.
“Do you love your product? Because that’s very important,” she said, tapping the table like she was giving a lecture. “Uncle Manny would get so excited about lighting — wherever we went, he would be checking out the lights, asking questions, learning whatever he could. Oh, he could have written a book about lighting.”
Shuey said he liked to eat pretzels, maybe that counted, and then he’d fallen silent. A few minutes later, he excused himself, leaving early because he didn’t want to miss his shiur, leaving Henny alone with her aunt.
Aunt Myrna had pushed her chair back and looked at Henny through narrowed eyes. “Passion for work is the wife’s job, Henny. You have to convince him he’s the world’s best salesman, that he can do it all… If he’s feeling blah, honey, then it’s you who needs to up their game.”
Henny had wished she had a shiur to go to at that very moment.
Now, as they were seated at a corner table — the manager did in fact know Shuey and seemed genuinely happy to see him — Henny knew that things had changed.
Shuey wanted to talk about the new zeman, and was excited to talk about the new zeman. He placed his phone on the table, eager to show her pictures of what Terrence had done over bein hazmanim to “their” apartment and how nice the freshly painted beis medrash looked.
“Look.” Shuey made a punching motion with his hand. “Terrence punched out windows in the back wall, it will be even airier now,” he said proudly.
“This is really beautiful,” Henny said as the looked at the screen. “I’m excited for our next visit.”
Aunt Myrna was long gone, but she would have had nachas. Henny felt the passion.
he parking lot in front of Glatt Bite was filled with cars. Bochurim were sitting on hoods and trunks and leaning against doors, a last-night-of-bein-hazmanim party before they would wake up and march off to yeshivos across the state and country, settling in for the long winter zeman.
Normally, Dovi Korman would have been high-fiving and fist-bumping, greeting old friends and making new ones.
Tonight, he was sitting behind the building on a bumpy gravel lot, throwing stones and chewing his lower lip.
“Look, it’s not a bankruptcy, baruch Hashem my father is okay, he’ll be fine, I heard him talking to my mother and he said not to tell my married sister anything. Nothing will change, he said. But l’maiseh he can’t do the yeshivah anymore, it’s too much. He’s falling apart from the strain.”
Dovi Korman threw another stone, watching it skip over the pavement and strike a metal garbage can, the echo ringing across the empty lot.
“That’s takeh rough,” Zeldman said, “but I’m sure they can find eitzos, Portman, even the rosh yeshivah, they can figure something out. Other yeshivos manage, somehow. Relax.”
“My father says this is different, every yeshivah needs a plan for the first year or two, until they have parents who buy into it, a base of supporters, and he was the only plan.” Dovi was still speaking without looking his best friend in the face. “He said there’s mamesh no money coming in.”
“Dovi, Dovi, just calm down. Hashem runs the world. The rosh yeshivah is a smart man. You can’t let this ruin your zeman, it’s not your problem. You’re just a talmid in the yeshivah and your only focus has to be on getting back and having a good zeman, nothing more.”
“A good zeman?” Dovi Korman’s voice rose. “A good zeman? My father told my mother last night that he doesn’t see how the yeshivah can continue past Chanukah! He said that he didn’t have the heart to stop a yeshivah from re-opening, but according to his cheshbon, there’s no way we can go on much longer.”
“Dovi.” Boruch Zeldman moved and stood directly in front of his friend. “None of this is your problem. You just come back regular and let G-d run the world.”
Dovi Korman raised an eyebrow. “Pshhh, look who’s Charlie Harary now,” he said, “listen to the hashkafah schmooze.”
But he was smiling when he said this and Boruch knew he would be okay.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 817)
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