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From Place to Place

A crowd of teenage boys is waiting at the bus stop, each with a suitcase at his side


IT’SSunday morning, the second day of Iyar, and the summer zeman is about to begin.

The first thing I notice at the Bar Ilan/Shmuel Hanavi bus stop is the suitcases. Usually this bus stop is filled with ponytailed girls hurrying to school, adults headed to work, the standard mother/baby combo. Today it’s different. A crowd of teenage boys is waiting, each with a suitcase at his side.

A bus lumbers into the stop to the background music of the a cappella selection playing from the hardware store, and we climb inside. I look around and take in all those suitcases.

One suitcase belongs to a boy with a blond shock of hair and ruddy cheeks — imagine if Norman Rockwell would live on Bar Ilan for a week; this is the boy he’d draw.

Then there’s a dark, thin boy with glasses and serious air. I take a quick glance at a redhead with a soccer-style hairdo, fitted pants, and low boots. Then I look again — stringy ginger peyos curl from his ears down to his shoulders. He has a suitcase too.

At every bus stop, I see more boys waiting. Through the window, I get a close glimpse of one boy gripping his suitcase as he scans the traffic for his bus. Set in front of him is a bag with the logo of the boutique where his sister must have bought her Yom Tov dress. He doesn’t know or doesn’t care that a pink bag isn’t very masculine or yeshivish. Peeking out of the bag is a pack of sour sticks.


wo newly arrived Americans board the bus, and from their darting glances and tight clutch on their suitcases, you can see the bravado unsuccessfully masking their confusion as they navigate a city that’s meant to be home but feels so foreign. They anxiously check the overhead screen for their stop. I can’t know, but I imagine they’re wondering at a country that seems to live its life so publicly — in shared apartment buildings, in laundry lines swinging over major boulevards, in people conducting heated conversations about in-law tensions or major surgery or bank overdrafts for all the world to hear as the bus swings around a corner and everyone lurches in unison.

As we head into Givat Shaul, the bus driver pulls up to a foursome of fresh-faced chassidish bochurim with round felt hats. They march on with matching green suitcases; one’s holding a Broadway Clothiers bag, another has his tefillin bag on his lap. There’s the tiniest bit of tension — or is it anticipation? — in their shoulders as the bus continues on its way, and they resume their conversation.

The back door of the bus swings open to admit another young man. The first thing I see is his backpack. In classic army style, it spans his entire back, rising way past his shoulders, held firm with two sets of straps buckled across his shirt. His tight jeans and combat boots complement the backpack, and the AirPods and smartphone finish off the look. But his untucked shirt is white, and there at the bottom of the placket is a tag with the insignia of XSOS — the classic Israeli yeshivah brand. I take another look, and see that he’s balancing a black hat on his thumb as he leans against the bus card sensor.

He’s also going to yeshivah. They’re all going to yeshivah.

Just a month ago we parents welcomed them home after a long winter zeman. We reshuffled the kids’ sleeping arrangements, stocked the pantry and fridge with extra coffee and milk, baked extra cake, and fired up the grill. We set the boiler to ensure enough hot water for shower after shower long past midnight.

We welcomed the sight of jackets and hats draped over dining room chairs, welcomed the gracious help with Pesach cleaning and schlepping, welcomed the shavers perpetually plugged into sockets and the ever-full laundry hampers and the occasional tender interactions with a little brother or nephew.

More than anything, we wanted them to feel that this, our home, is their place. That within these walls they can always expect a warm welcome, a nourishing meal, and an open bed. That in this haven, they can be loved and celebrated for themselves.

But today we’ve said our goodbyes, stuffed fresh cookies into suitcases and money into pockets. If prayers were visible, you would see an aura of prayer surrounding each boy, too.

For one blessed month their place was home. Now we hope and wish and daven that our boys — the studious ones and the playful ones, the quiet ones and the schmoozers, the ones who thrill at deciphering a Rav Baruch Ber and the ones who find their thrills in the latest music and the precious bochur with the AirPods and smartphone — we pray they will each find a place, a sense of belonging, in the walls of the yeshivah.

—Shoshana Friedman

Managing Editor


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 958)

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