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Inside, Outside

Did Nechemiah learn there? Was it a yeshivah? He spent a lot of time there, and she knew he was learning chassidus (“mindblowing stuff,” he liked to tell them)

"Here’s the thing you have to know.” Dovi Deringer spoke pleasantly, his smile spreading all the way up to his eyes as he tapped Yossi’s arm lightly, like they were best friends. “Nechemiah is a great kid. A great kid.”

He delivered this line like he’d done months of testing and was happy to share the diagnosis.

Yossi knew he should smile and just say thank you. That he should be grateful that Nechemiah had somewhere to hang out, a place other than the bedroom where he used to spend twenty-two hours a day. That there was light in his son’s eyes and purpose to his days and—

“He’s one of our superstars.” Deringer was still tapping, like Yossi’s arm was a drum. “But it doesn’t surprise me. You know, Rabbi Grabner, the first time I met Nechemiah, I knew he had what it takes… The other ones along his journey unfortunately missed it, but”—and here Rabbi Deringer lowered his voice conspiratorially—“that doesn’t surprise me either. That’s what they do best.”

Sorrow seemed to flow through him, a river of sadness washing away the last remnants of the wide smile.

The others, Yossi told Hindy that night as she was frantically trying to get ready for Wilder’s chasunah, didn’t just mean the rebbeim and teachers, but also them, the parents.

“Us, Hindy, in case you don’t understand. Us. We’re the enemy, the ones who ‘missed’ seeing how great Nechemiah is.”

Yossi had made his tie, but now he undid it and started again. “I mean, what do you expect — we have seven other children and we both work and Nechemiah is just one of the children, you know? We were distracted, of course we missed it. We wanted him to fit into a box, to make us look good. Cookie-cutter parenting, all about appearances, yada yada yada.”

She couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic, and she turned fully to look at him.

“Yes, Hindy, I’m being sarcastic.”

She was quiet. She understood his hurt. Yossi had done it all: woken up early to learn with Nechemiah when it seemed like that was the solution, then he’d stopped tutoring in the afternoon to go shoot baskets with Nechemiah when that looked like that might help, and then given up his night seder chavrusa to hang out with Nechemiah when the rebbi said that would make things right.

Yossi and Hindy had gone to meetings — so many meetings, long, drawn-out affairs in cramped menahel offices with buzzing fluorescent lights and orange tiles and confidential admissions that “we tried everything, the rebbi is really very good,” and then, of course, the next hallway: Go through Door B to start with the professionals. So they’d done that too.

ADHD, ODD, depression, certainly an executive function issue, you must get an appointment with Blanker, he’s the best. Swipe, fill out this form, swipe some more. Nechemiah had dutifully gone along as his mother, forced to take off from work, would try to spin it as some pleasant day off. Let’s go for ice cream. Let’s discuss which toppings, hot fudge or colored sprinkles or both, ten minutes after an overly tall doctor with a nasal voice asked if you ever think about doing something harmful to yourself, you know, and how often.

Yossi wasn’t done yet. They were going to be late for the chasunah, but he needed to lean against the edge of the dresser and wave his hands to say this. “And we’re actually worse, because all parents are bad, but kal v’chomer a chinuch family. The father’s a rebbi! The worst. Teaches others people’s children and can’t reach his own, look at that.”

His imitating-voice, a cross between Dr. Middos and a Borscht Belt comedian, was always the same. He used it for Uncle Chaim, the president of the school where he taught, Janklowitz the mortgage guy, and now, it was apparently Dovi Deringer.

She waited until they were in the car to speak. He knew her arguments: Nechemiah’s happy, Rabbi Deringer is a fine person, it’s better than being home all day. But deep down, she agreed with him that Rabbi Deringer and the whole Inner Dimensions thing was a silent war against the parents, a small, yellow converted house down Squankum that stood as a monument mocking the system and its failures.

They were going to miss the smorgasbord, she knew, and arrive just as somber-faced waiters would be resolutely slamming the lids on heating dishes and pulling away the last of the chicken lo mein and pineapple beef, and that would do nothing for her husband’s mood.

Oif simchahs, she thought as they found a spot at the very end of the parking lot and walked in together.

 

 

*****

 

A few years ago, Hindy’s sister Miri had remarked that it wasn’t appropriate to talk about parnassah with people you didn’t know. No one knew who was struggling and it could be uncomfortable. These days, Hindy felt that way about chinuch. No one should ask anyone else where their kids went to school.

She was at a mixed table, some women from her neighborhood and some of Nechama Wilder’s bungalow colony friends, a very different crowd. It was her bad luck to be stuck between the bungalow colony ladies, listening to an intense discussion about how loud the music was.

The woman to Hindy’s right, an assertive type who believed that whoever paid for the wedding should decide the decibel level and the young people should stop hijacking simchahs, introduced herself. They made small talk, and when she heard that Hindy had a twenty-one year old son, her eyes narrowed and she leaned in close.

“Oh? Where does he learn? Let’s hear.”

Hindy smiled and tried to look casual, taking a long sip from her glass of water.

“Well, he’s actually at a place called Inner Dimensions. Rabbi Deringer?”

Did Nechemiah learn there? Was it a yeshivah? He spent a lot of time there, and she knew he was learning chassidus (“mind-blowing stuff,” he liked to tell them), and some halachah, for sure, and also, he was playing guitar and talking, talking, talking so much, as if to compensate for years of silence. There was other stuff, she knew, a weight room and basketball court and some strange exercises like walking with plates on their heads to learn discipline and control or something, maybe she was making it up, she wasn’t sure. Could be she had read about that in a magazine article.

“Deringer,” the woman frowned, “I know most of the yeshivos, I’m pretty active in shidduchim. There’s Rabbi Dorfman, do you mean him? In Staten Island?”

“The yeshivah isn’t in Staten Island,” Hindy said.

 

*****

 

Nechemiah was home when they came back, sitting in the kitchen eating a soup cup, her tall, handsome, serene, unreachable son contentedly picking at a dehydrated piece of carrot.

“Hey.” He grinned when they came into the kitchen. “What’s up? Where you guys coming from?”

Chasunah, Wilder. So nice that you’re home,” Hindy said, then feeling like maybe it wasn’t enough, she smiled and rubbed his shoulder. “A treat.”

It was true. Nechemiah wasn’t around much anymore.

Rabbi Deringer had suggested they get him his own car, and he came and went, always busy. One day it was a gig, playing for some old people in a nursing home. Nothing lifts you up like bringing joy to others, Nechemiah told Yossi with a serious face. Nechemiah was helping with renovations; they were adding a new section to the beis medrash. He was going with Rabbi Deringer to a wedding in Baltimore and would be gone for two days.

Yossi complained about it, the lack of real schedule or direction. “If he had a job, if he stacked shelves at Gourmet Glatt, whatever, at least his life would have a tzurah. Now he’s in this yeshivah-slash-basketball-team-slash-traveling-band-slash-validation center for people whose parents messed them up, and he has zero schedule.”

Hindy listened, nodded, and felt torn to bits, proud that her son was growing and also sad for her husband who felt challenged by Rabbi Deringer’s success in reaching Nechemiah.

“Ephraim Wilder?”

It got quiet in the kitchen, all three of them having the same memory, how Ephraim Wilder and Nechemiah Grabner used to ride bikes after supper every night, sharing a single lock as they parked outside Farm Fresh to buy sodas. They went to day camp together, and even sleepaway camp for one year, when they were twelve; by thirteen, they’d already gone different ways.

Did he know? Could he know?

Hindy studied her son’s open, oblivious face and felt a blanket of guilt wrapping itself around her. Could Nechemiah know that sometimes, she would pretend, in her mind, that he was following the very same path as Ephraim Wilder? Yes, she would say in her imaginary conversations, Nechemiah’s going to Rayim Mesivta the second month, we want him to enjoy the summer before he starts at Philly. Can you believe it? Nechemiah wants to go to Eretz Yisrael, Yossi’s cousin has pull in Brisk, so we’re hopeful…

“That’s awesome. We used to be boys,” Nechemiah said without a trace of bitterness or cynicism. “Nice that he got married. Haven’t spoken to the guy in years.” He successfully lifted a single long noodle with his fork and exulted, waving it like a trophy. “Sweeeeet,” he said.

Yossi wanted to leave the kitchen, Hindy could tell, to put away his Shabbos hat and take off his tie.

“Good day, Chems?” Yossi asked.

“Yes!” Nechemiah said brightly. “Amazing. You want to hear something mind-blowing? If we could see the spiritual life-force that really sustains every person, then we wouldn’t even see their bodies at all. It’s like this”—Nechemiah pinched his arm—“this is nothing compared to that. We think this is real, because we can’t see the actual light… Isn’t that awesome? It’s from the Tanya. Or maybe Rebbe Nachman. Someone holy.”

“That’s nice. And true,” Yossi said, smiling apologetically. The Shabbos hat really needed to get back into its box.

 

*****

 

They didn’t have time to talk again until late Thursday night, after Yossi came home from tutoring.

“We need to finish up Libby’s résumé, Hertz called again,” she said, sliding the paper across the kitchen table. “Can you give me five minutes?”

“Looks good, looks good,” he said absently. “I don’t really daven at Tiferes Chaim that much, only Friday nights, change it to Lerner’s. The references and all that, you know better than me, so it’s good.”

He started to hand it back to her, then stopped. “Wait, wait… I don’t know what you should write here, by siblings… Inner Dimensions? Doesn’t the yeshivah have a real name too?”

She sighed and made a mark next to Nechemiah’s name. “Okay, I’ll find out.”

This was an old argument, but she didn’t have the energy to go for another round. She’d gone through the stages years ago, the denial and acceptance and grief and all that and made peace with it. But there was another stage, one she had never discussed, not even with Yossi, even though she knew he had the same thoughts as her.

The stage was called Look, it could have been worse. Look at Minsky’s kid. At Mauer’s kid. Yossi would comfort himself, pointing out that Nechemiah had no tattoos and didn’t do drugs and kept Shabbos. He was sweet and polite and nice-looking, even if he didn’t do very much of anything and his life didn’t seem to have any particular direction.

Nachas, she had decided, meant not having the opposite of nachas. That was nachas enough. It was sad and reassuring at once, and she would never articulate this, not even to herself.

“One more thing,” he said, “my father spells his name Avrohom, not Avraham, if you don’t mind fixing that.”

“Sure,” she said too quickly, happy to be back on firm ground. “Sure. I’ll fix it.”

 

*****

 

The ad was just one more in a pamphlet full of them, a quarter page next to the announcement that the granite people had “Fifteen More Colors” available and nothing could spark your kitchen back to life like new countertops, under the ad for the Somech Melaveh Malkah, with a picture of a young boy looking through the window, huge eyes pools of sorrow, with the words “Who Will Give Him a Shabbos Treat?” in bold red letters.

This one was modest by comparison, a dark green background with a picture of five boys gathered around Rabbi Deringer at a shtender: three of them in hoodies, one in a sweater, and the last in a crisp white shirt, as if to say “we do that too,” hinting at Rabbi Deringer’s favorite little speech, “The boys you don’t know are in crisis are the most in crisis.”

Hindy lifted the advertising circular to her face and studied the picture. It was odd that Nechemiah wasn’t in it. Besides the fact that he had the camera-ready face, the tranquil expression and gentle blue eyes, he was one of the stars of the yeshivah, “my right hand,” according to Rabbi Deringer.

“Growth,” it said in middle of the ad. Then, in smaller letters, “Growth you can see and growth you can’t see. Outside and inside. Invest in a yeshivah that reaches deep.”

Then there was information about a 24-hour matching campaign. “One day only: Yeshivah Zichron Yerucham — Inner Dimensions, where the inside is who you are. Come inside and take part.”

She put the circular down, finished her coffee, and got ready to leave for work. She would ask Nechemiah about it later.

 

*****

 

Three days later, there were signs all over Lakewood.

Inner Dimensions goes outward. Join us for a livestreamed kumzitz, featuring our rosh yeshivah and talmidim, along with some of the biggest names in Jewish music.”

Hindy had a weird feeling, but she wasn’t sure why.

On Shabbos, after the seudah, she asked Nechemiah, who was happily playing a board game with the little kids, about the event.

There was a flicker in his eyes as he looked up at her from where he was sitting cross-legged on the floor.

“Yah, it’s a big deal. The yeshivah needs money. Some guys are helping.”

She knew then that she was missing something. Either he wasn’t involved and was hurt about it, or he was very involved, but he was keeping it from them. Maybe he sensed his father’s wariness about the yeshivah. Maybe it was shyness. Maybe it was just Nechemiah.

Once, she’d been at the dermatologist and all they had in the waiting room was a pile of old copies of Reader’s Digest. An hour into the wait, Hindy had picked one up and started leafing through it. There was a joke there.

A man is walking around with earplugs in his ears and his wife asks why he is wearing earplugs. He doesn’t hear her, so he ignores the question. She comes closer and shouts, “Do you realize that you have earplugs in your ears?” But again, he doesn’t react. Finally, she stands right in front of him and hollers, “You have earplugs in your ears, do you know that?”

He looks at her and shrugs. “I’m so sorry, I can’t hear a word you’re saying. You see, I have these earplugs in my ears.”

Hindy didn’t really get the joke, but at that moment, in the corner of an eerily dark waiting room in a forgotten section of the hospital, she knew that this was her Nechemiah.

You see, I have earplugs in my ears.

 

*****

 

To the other children, Nechemiah was just Nechemiah: their oldest brother, kind and easy-going and completely unknowable, like a polite, genial piece of furniture they had to get around to reach the kitchen table.

To Hindy, he was the center of the house, and everything — Yossi going to Avos U’banim with Gershon, the twins playing basketball in the backyard after supper, even Miri’s learning to play piano — sent little coils of guilt to wrap themselves around her heart. Maybe if they’d gotten the fancy backboard when Nechemiah was young, if they’d sent him for guitar lessons earlier…

Maybe, maybe, maybe…

Most of Hindy’s secrets were connected to this boy, her eldest; secret only because she would never allow herself to express them. One of those secrets was that she didn’t agree with Yossi that Nechemiah was a bigger success than Minsky or Mauer or any of the other kids — so, so many of them — that she saw around Lakewood.

Minsky had tattoos, but he had also started to turn it around and was now learning in Eretz Yisrael and at the end, he would be have a long beard and write seforim, she knew that. And Mauer hadn’t flipped out, and he was a bartender in the city, but he had spoken by his sister’s sheva brachos and made everyone cry — there was a person inside. The Sitler boy with all the problems had donated a kidney to a first cousin. Nechemiah was sweet, and harmless, but she had no idea what drove him, what he was passionate about, if he’d ever made a decision that was difficult for him.

At least there was the guitar, finally. At twenty-one Nechemiah seemed to have something that drove him. He spent hours in the basement practicing, his face a mask of determination and focus. One day, passing through with a basket of laundry, she’d stopped to watch, unable to tear her eyes off him, her son looking so different from usual.

Lately, she’d heard him singing, too; soft, easy songs as he strummed. He didn’t do it when the other kids were home from school, but in the morning, before she left to work, it was often just them in the house, and if she pretended she didn’t notice, he could let himself go.

There was a little Torah, too, the occasional idea or vort he dropped, always in the name of Rabbi Deringer. To her, anyhow. Around Yossi, he was more careful. Yossi would smile and compliment and clap Nechemiah on the shoulder and say “great vort,” but Nechemiah could see his father’s eyes and he knew that however powerful an idea it seemed, Yossi Grabner’s mind wasn’t blown. Not even a little bit.

 

*****

 

Hindy was driving on the 9 when she noticed the huge digital billboard: “Inside/Outside. An uplifting musical experience with superstars — present and future. A gift to your inner world.”

The date and website were there. “A Yeshivah Zichron Yerucham-Inner Dimensions event.”

She slowed down to read it even though people behind were honking, and then, even though she’d planned to stop at the cleaners to pick up Brochi’s skirt, she headed home. Nechemiah’s car was there, and she headed straight for the basement.

“Hey.” He lowered the guitar and looked up her, eyes clear and innocent. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” she said, waiting for the conversation to evolve, somehow, so that she could ask her question. It didn’t. With Nechemiah, it wouldn’t.

“Chems, what’s this event your yeshivah’s hosting? Looks so cool. Tell me about it.”

He got busy with his guitar picks, looking for the right one. He put one in his mouth as he shuffled through the case and she knew he wasn’t going to answer.

She couldn’t help it. “Who’s singing?”

“Oh, we have some of the big names coming, I think Shwekey, maybe Benny… not final yet. The rosh yeshivah will be speaking. It’s a fundraiser, so people will be donating the whole time, you know how it works… Kind of a kumzitz–slash-online-fundraiser.”

She would tread cautiously. “Are any of the boys singing? It says future superstars too.”

She wasn’t sure what she wanted the answer to be. Nechemiah could play, and he could sing, but superstar? Would he embarrass himself?

“Some of the boys are singing, yah.”

He was quiet, and she couldn’t come out and ask it. She reached out and tousled his hair. “Amazing. We can’t wait. It’s a great yeshivah and they deserve all the help they can get.”

He smiled, so grateful, and she felt even guiltier. Brachi would have been spitting fire— “Why are you asking? What do you really want to know? Why is everything a game?” But Nechemiah just folded himself over his guitar, his long bangs blocking his eyes from her as he started to play again.

 

*****

 

“Hi, Rabbi Deringer, this is Hindy Grabner. Nechemiah’s mother.”

That was it. She’d called and now there was no turning back. She was like the heroine of a book, one of those mothers in prewar Poland who would do anything for her child, courageous and bold.

“Nechemiah’s mother… wow, what a zechus. Ashrei yoladeto. Do you what that means?”

No, she thought, I became frum this morning and barely know Krias Shema and have no idea what “ashrei yoladeto” means, it’s just too difficult to figure out.

“It means lucky is the one who gave birth to him.”

Praiseworthy, she thought. Praiseworthy. Not lucky. Whatever.

“Nechemiah is very special. Baruch Hashem we caught him in time, he’s really flourishing now.”

Did he stress the “now”? Was she being like Yossi?

“Baruch Hashem. We’re very grateful.”

To you. She couldn’t bring herself to add that. He could figure it out himself.

“Anyhow, I had a question, Rabbi Deringer. I’ve seen the signs for your event, so exciting… I’m trying to understand something. Is Nechemiah meant to perform? Is he part of it?”

He was quiet, as if considering how to answer.

She’d been right. Maternal instincts. There was a story here, something. She’d picked up on it and she’d been right.

“We very much hoped he would, he was meant to be the surprise. He wrote a song especially for this. It’s really something incredible, so much depth for such a young man. We still hope he will.”

“But?” She was aware that she sounded pushy. She hoped he knew that she really wasn’t pushy, not at all.

“But now he isn’t sure. I’m not sure. It’s not clear.”

“But why?”

He cleared his throat, as if buying time. “I think that you have to ask Nechemiah that question.”

There was accusation there.

“Thank you, Rabbi Deringer.” She was going to take the high road. She knew her son and she wasn’t embarrassed to celebrate that fact. “Nechemiah and I are very close. I’m going speak to him straight, no worries.”

“Great. And Mrs. Grabner… Let me just say that it would be very unfortunate if Nechemiah didn’t get to play. It opens up she’arim, gates, inside a person when he’s creative, and he needs this.”

 

*****

 

Nechemiah didn’t come home until she was already asleep, and the next day, he was away, gone with the yeshivah on a trip to kevarim in Queens.

She finally got to speak with him Thursday morning, her day off from work.

She was going to do it right, no preambles and no careful introductions. She came into his bedroom and sat down at the end of the bed, like old times.

He moved under the blanket and she had to stand up and start again.

His head emerged and he squinted at her. “Hey.”

“Nechemiah, I need to ask you something and you have to be honest.”

“I’m always honest,” he said, surprising her even though it was perfectly true.

“Are you playing at the yeshivah event?”

He frowned and fixed his yarmulke. “Am I playing by the yeshivah event,” he said, a statement more than an answer.

“Right. I see the signs and I keep expecting to hear that you’re the star of the show, but you’re not telling me that. You’re not telling me anything.”

The last part came out kvetchy and she regretted it.

He leaned against the pillow, then slowly lifted his head, as if it took effort.

“I was going to. Now I’m not. And don’t argue and don’t ask me why and just let me be, please.”

This was chutzpah, by Nechemiah standards, and she let it sit there.

“Okay, sorry. I just don’t want to do it. Why? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s a great song and everyone will be watching and what if it goes viral and Who’s this kid Grabner, wait, his father is Rabbi Grabner, from the new cheder, seriously? Remember the PTA?”

If the laundry hamper, which hadn’t been used since the first week she put it there, had suddenly opened, Hindy might have jumped in and hidden inside. The PTA. She’d always thought Nechemiah heard Yossi that night, though he’d never mentioned it.

It had been months earlier, at the beginning of the school year, just after the first PTA with the new class’s parents. Yossi usually came home from PTA exhausted and hungry, and she wasn’t surprised when he dropped his jacket on the couch and said, “What’s up,” sounding deflated.

“That bad?” she’d asked, and he shrugged.

“Nah, it wasn’t that. It was more that it got awkward, I’m having this intense debate with the Bulbachs, they hold that they’re chinuch experts, that’s it’s healthy for teenage boys to have access to the Internet ’cause it will help them know boundaries later on, blah blah blah, and it was taking wayyyy too long, and none of us were budging.

“I maybe got a little tzuhitzt, I was like, ‘Listen, there are other parents waiting and you don’t seem that interested in what I think anyhow,’ and Mr. Bulbach leans across the table and says, ‘Okay, thank you for your time. By the way, regards from your son, I daven Minchah at Deringer’s place and I see him around. He seems like a nice kid.’ Hindy, it was like he was saving that all night, and he was so freilech that he got to use it…”

“That’s not fun,” she’d said, feeling like Nechemiah might be in the living room and he might have heard every word.

She motioned to Yossi to change the subject, but he looked wounded, as if even she didn’t have his back, so she gently changed the subject, did he hear Vogel was moving to Waterbury and who was going to take over?

“PTA,” she said dully, but he was back under the blankets, completely invisible.

She walked toward the door of the room, opened the door and closed it, pretending she’d left, a trick she hadn’t used in years. It had worked on him when he was five and meant to stop reading and go to sleep.

It was perfectly still in the room, a triangle of sunlight pierced the white blinds, creating a pool of what looked like spilled honey on Nechemiah’s bed. Part of her willed him up and out from the under the covers, to experience the joy of expressing the music inside him, to turn on and live — and the rest of her silently hoped her son would sleep, under the covers and in denial and everything’s okay, don’t hurt Tatty more, let it go while he still has some pride left.

This would hurt Yossi, she knew that.

“I know you’re there,” he muttered.

“Good,” she said. She could do this. “Nechemiah, if you love me, if you appreciate me, if you appreciate this house, if you want to do what the Torah says, then listen.”

He sat up and stared at her, the wide eyes hooded with sleep.

“You had better get up there and do your thing. You have a gift and Hashem wants you to use it and if you don’t you’re stealing from Him and from me and from yourself and I will be so sad.”

His eyebrows rose slightly and he rubbed his nose.

He wouldn’t make anyone sad, her Nechemiah. She slipped out of the room.

 

*****

 

On Sunday afternoon, a week before Purim, Hindy set up her laptop on the kitchen table, a group of chairs forming a semicircle around the fourteen-inch screen. There was a platter of cut-up watermelon and a cheerful yellow bowl of popcorn, and Hindy took a picture.

Your fan club is getting ready to cheer you on, she texted Nechemiah.

So nervous, he wrote back.

At 1:30 the site went live, broadcast on Yeshiva World and Matzav. It opened with a group of bochurim sitting on stools around a singer in black shirt and huge yarmulke, looking like a poor man’s Ishay Ribo, sitting at a piano and playing Carlebach.

On the bottom of the screen, numbers moved in a row. In honor of Berri Schwartzman keep it up, Zaidy and Bubby, 360.00, and To the tzaddik Rabbi Deringer, no one like you, Eddie Sutton 1800.00 and To our nephew Yitzy keep shteiging, from Dovid and Meira 72.00.

She didn’t see Nechemiah on screen, but she saw Rabbi Deringer on the side with Nechemiah’s friend Zevy. Then the camera focused on a Breslover mashpia from Meah Shearim who somehow spoke a perfect English and believed that this yeshivah, with this rosh yeshivah and these bochurim were bringing Mashiach.

The music started again and the bochurim in the studio had their arms around each other’s shoulders, Rabbi Deringer sharing the mic with Benny now, real emotion on his face as he sang Ki nafshi sa’arog eilecha, and Hindy felt tears coming to her eyes.

She hadn’t told Yossi any of it, not a word. She didn’t know if Nechemiah was going to end up singing, because they hadn’t discussed it since that day in his bedroom. She knew Yossi would be home any minute, though, and she was davening along to the music.

He came home at two fifteen, exactly on schedule.

“Whoa, what’s up?” He came into the kitchen and craned his neck, looking on with interest. “Ah, this is that matching campaign for Deringer’s place, very nice. Pashtus we have to give, no?”

He stopped walking when he saw the screen, the boys, several of them holding instruments, as Yehuda Green taught a new song. Yossi didn’t pull up a chair, but he stood there, watching over Bassi’s little head and not speaking.

The donations kept flowing, Go, go, go Rabbi Deringer you’re a rockstar, your talmid A.J. 100.00 and Your friends at QualiCarpets salute you 180.00.

Rabbi Deringer spoke again, looking confidently at the screen and telling his viewers about dreams, his own fascination with dreams, how there was nothing more real than a dream and then he turned, the camera moving with him, to a young man Hindy thought she recognized. His name was Mordy something and two years before he couldn’t read and didn’t care that he couldn’t read and now he was being mesayeim Taanis, and in a shaky voice, he spoke about what the yeshivah had done for him, and there was a creak in the kitchen as Yossi pulled out a chair and sat down.

There was more singing, and a prepared video of a brachah from a gadol in Bnei Brak, and then Rabbi Deringer said, “Now, friends, we’re reaching the climax of this beautiful event. I’m told that we have close to ten thousand people joining us, from all over, and every single one of you will be inspired, guaranteed.”

The amazing Rabbi Deringer chazak ve’ametz Moshe and Linda Haberman 540.00. To Benjie Korn our best big brother, Levi and Sarale 18.00.

Even before she knew what was coming, Hindy knew it was time.

Nechemiah was wearing a navy blue hoodie and he looked nervous. Bassi squealed and the twins high-fived each other and Yossi exhaled.

Rabbi Deringer gave Nechemiah an encouraging nod, and then Hindy’s son’s face filled the screen, his blue eyes flashing with earnestness.

“This is a song, a special song, which I wrote about the yeshivah. It’s called ‘Light.’ ” Hindy could promise that Nechemiah’s face lit up as he said that. “It’s called ‘Light,’ and it’s about what really goes on here.”

He lifted his guitar and started to strum. “But there’s something I have to say. The yeshivah opened a door and showed me a room full of diamonds. Rabbi Deringer showed me how to open that door on my own…”

He was quiet, still strumming, and a new emotion flooded his face.

“But if someone shows you diamonds and you don’t know what they are, then you’ll keep walking. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t know when you’ve found it… So anyhow…” He lifted an arm and pushed away his bangs. “Anyhow, I have to thank the one who taught me what a diamond is, what has value, so that I knew when I found it. My father, Rabbi Yossi Grabner. He’s not just the greatest rebbi in the world, he’s my greatest rebbi.”

And in one move, Nechemiah shifted and started to play, suddenly, and Hindy didn’t move but she felt Yossi’s smile and saw his shoulders start to relax as he watched his son sing for the first time.

Our neighbor Yehuda Wiener you make us proud, the Hirsches, 36.00 said the bottom of the screen, and on top of the white letters, Nechemiah raised his head as he played and he winked at his mother and she felt like she could scream from nachas, pure nachas, from her son.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 806)

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