| Shul with a View |

Full Circle

Each grandfather looked at the other. They both felt they had been wronged by the other


Everyone was silent as the bar mitzvah bochur approached the shtender. Yanky was the final speaker of the evening.

Both families were choshuve mishpachos with a long line of yichus behind them.

Yanky’s paternal grandfather was well known not only as a lamdan, but he was also a pikeiach, a person of insight. Bochurim came to him for eitzos and hadrachah.

His maternal grandfather was heralded as a baki b’Shas and known to have finished the Daf Yomi cycle five times.

Both grandfathers had already spoken at the bar mitzvah. All that remained was for Yanky to speak, and then there would be dancing.

Yanky approached the shtender nervously. He held tight to crumpled sheets of notebook paper, his pshetel, buried deep in a pocket of his new (and only) suit pants. He would deliver the pshetel in Yiddish, and had prearranged with his classmates to interrupt him during the speech to help him avoid embarrassment.

As soon as he started speaking, his friends began to sing. However, his grandfather stood up and thundered, “Tor nit areinzingen! [You mustn’t interrupt with singing.]” The boys immediately fell silent, and Yanky continued in his singsong voice.

Finally, he finished. All that was left was for Yanky to say the requisite “thank-yous.” Yanky thanked his parents and grandparents, his rebbeim, and his menahel. And then, to everyone’s amazement, instead of returning to his seat, Yanky continued to speak.

“Dear Tatty, Mommy, Zeide, Bubbe, Zeidy, and Bubby. You have all asked me what I wanted for my bar mitzvah, and I always answered, ‘I’m good.’

“However, I changed my mind today. I now know what I want.

“The thing I want most at my bar mitzvah is to dance together with my two zeidys and my father and all my uncles on both sides of the family in one big circle.”

The simchah hall fell silent.

The elephant in the room had suddenly materialized.

The terrible rift in the family, precipitated by his parents’ divorce four years before, was now on full display. The uncomfortable reality of the two sides of the family sitting separately, garishly ignoring each other, was now exposed. The plan for each side to form two discrete circles under the guise of “Covid restrictions” was now revealed for what it was, a thinly veiled attempt not to have contact with “them.”

The room was eerily hushed.

Suddenly, shy, quiet, introverted Yanky looked at the bochur at the keyboard and faintly said, “Please play.”

The keyboarder began a leibedig tune, as the adults sat shell-shocked.

And then bashful, self-effacing Yanky walked over to his father’s father and gently pulled him onto the dance floor.

He then grabbed his mother’s father by the hand, and led him to his mechutan.

Each grandfather looked at the other. They both felt they had been wronged by the other. Both knew they had daas Torah on their side. In their minds were thoughts of settling the score.

But then it happened.

Yanky pulled both grandfathers around in a circle.

At first they acquiesced begrudgingly, under duress, to dance.

But when they saw the smile on Yanky’s face — a smile that had been noticeably absent for over four years — the animosity and hostility they had held onto for far too long melted away. Miraculously and amazingly, Yanky’s father and all his uncles on both sides joined them to create one large circle.

Yanky’s face beamed with joy. The entire room was aglow from the light of Yanky’s smile. Tears flowed freely from the eyes of the women clustered near the mechitzah to watch this miracle in progress. The music was loud, the pounding of the men’s feet on the dance floor  almost deafening.

Yet if one listened carefully, you could hear the footsteps of Mashiach coming closer.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 899)

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