| Second Dance |

Second Dance: Chapter 43

“Oh, I don’t know, I imagine you have dreams, like every rosh yeshivah, and maybe this can help you realize them?”


Reuven had not been invited to Rabbi Klarberg’s wedding. Not that he’d expected to be, but still, it wouldn’t have been unexpected had the call or text came, something informal and friendly.

The wedding was on a Wednesday night, and Reuven didn’t reach out until a full week later.

On Thursday morning, he sent a text.

Was wondering if tonight would be a good time to meet some of the chevreh here? Maybe a bit of a Q and A, or a shmuess on the parshah or something?

The text went unanswered. By Thursday night, Reuven stopped compulsively checking his phone and decided to give the rav some slack. He was a newlywed, even if he had a gray beard and had written seforim.

At ten-thirty p.m., the text came. “Good to hear from you R Reuven, we can do a Q and A, how does Sunday sound?”

And as Reuven read, then reread it, he knew that Rabbi Klarberg had read his mind and seen through his plan to go head-to-head with Heshy’s leil shishi. That’s why he’d waited until now to answer.

Reuven shook his head. The rav would do this his way.

It would mean another Shabbos of avoiding Heshy, who had been looking at him with the expression of someone about to win an intense chess game. He was sure that Reuven would be so eager to take back the neighborhood that he would hire Chaim Brucker just to be rid of Heshy.

Reuven liked Chaim Brucker, and thought he was a tremendous talmid chacham and role model, but he still didn’t see him as the right person to lead Alameda Gardens.

“Great, will be in touch next week, GS,” he texted back, all businesslike again.

A chassan had davened Shacharis in shul but left before Krias haTorah, and there was some uncertainty whether or not to say Av Harachamim. Greenman made a joke to Reuven about checking if he could find a rav on Amazon and that maybe he needed Prime. He repeated the Prime part louder, feeling very worldly, and Reuven smiled smugly because he knew that tonight, and again tomorrow morning, and then in the afternoon as a reminder, he was about to wow them with the rav he had found.

At the kiddush, Reuven poured himself a l’chayim and specifically searched for Heshy, who sat surrounded by his little group in the corner of the hall. Reuven felt confident enough to extend his hand warmly and initiate the “gut Shabbos.”

Heshy smiled his accepting, genuine smile and grasped Reuven’s hand for an extra moment.

“I hope you’ll have good news for the oilem,” he whispered. “You will lift up this whole neighborhood if you listen to me, you can’t do better than him.”

Reuven nodded politely, but said nothing.

Heshy caught something and looked up in alarm. “What, you have another mehalech?”

Reuven smiled, shrugged, and walked away, feeling like he’d come a long way from Queens.

Later, before Minchah, Heshy stopped him on the street and said, “You know, Reb Reuven, Boro Park has no rules. It’s just a place with people who daven where they want, you know? Alameda Gardens is also just a place, and it doesn’t davka need rules. Let things happen as they unfold, everyone will be happier.”

Then he beamed at Reuven, like he had just complimented him on his new tie, and walked on.

Reuven had no idea what Heshy had been trying to say and he wondered to himself if Heshy had any idea what Heshy was trying to say.

Reuven sat down after Havdalah and worked on the email. It took a few drafts, but he came up with a version he felt good about.

The subject was: Zeh hayom asah Hashem. If it was too dramatic, then so be it.

He wrote about what a privilege it was that Rabbi Mordechai Zev Klarberg, recently of Khal Zera Yaakov in Chicago, was considering the vacant rabbinic position in their kehillah. It had been months of discussions, Reuven revealed, and now that those conversations were bearing fruit, he was thrilled to introduce Rabbi Klarberg to the people for their take.

It was a democracy, after all, he thought, as he wrote the words. Their take. As if this was a talent show in camp. Whatever.

Anyhow, the general meeting would be held in the shul after the eight o’clock Maariv on Sunday night.

Rabbi Klarberg hadn’t committed to the idea of a Question and Answer session, but he hadn’t turned it down either, so Reuven thought it was okay to write Light Refreshments/Question and Answer Session.

Light refreshments, ha. No Glenlivet, no tequila, and none of Heshy’s homemade cocktails. Just seltzer and peanuts and maybe some kugel. Like normal people.

Early Sunday morning, Reuven headed out, giving up on his usual exercise session.

He drove to the younger Lauer brother’s house in Toms River to pick up the check. He had done his research and gotten the name of the yeshivah correctly, Zichron Yerachmeil, spelled for some reason with the “e” before the “i,” which irked Reuven — but it wasn’t his yeshivah.

He accepted the check, but didn’t overdo it with the thank-yous because the Lauers weren’t doing him a favor, he was doing them the favor. The money the Lauer brother promised him personally for figuring things out — money that Reuven never had any intention of accepting — was instead going to be given to Rabbi Glatter’s yeshivah.

Then, Reuven thought proudly, things would fall into place.

Rabbi Glatter was at the yeshivah, which was in what appeared to be the back part of a trailer that also served as a caterer’s kitchen. There were a few bochurim in front, and a few more inside a small beis medrash, but that was it.

It didn’t look like much of a yeshivah to Reuven.

Rabbi Glatter was warm and sincere, with an effusive manner and wide smile, and he welcomed Reuven as if it was normal for a middle-aged man to saunter in during first seder and he’d been expecting this.

Reuven made some small talk — he’d heard nice things about the yeshivah, such a need, blah blah — and then handed over the envelope to Rabbi Glatter.

“What’s this for?” Rabbi Glatter asked.

“Oh, I don’t know, I imagine you have dreams, like every rosh yeshivah, and maybe this can help you realize them?”

Rabbi Glatter’s eyes opened wide. “Actually there is,” he said. “We feel like if we had a real place, we could do so much, and work with more bochurim. Someone told me about this yeshivah in the area – it’s moving into its own building and we can lease the house they were in if we take it for five years, it’s perfect. There’s a yungerman I have in mind to be a rebbi, and he could live in the upstairs part of the house, it’s mamash a dream. But I need to pay for the first year upfront.”

Reuven nodded coolly. “I think there should be enough in there to help you get started,” he said.

Rabbi Glatter took this as an invitation to look inside, and he did a double take.

“Why? How? Why would you give a check for $36,000 to a mosad you don’t even know? This makes no sense.”

He was clearly baffled, and Reuven felt bad for him.

“I guess Hashem wanted you to have it,” he said. “You’ll do good things.”

to be continued...   


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 922)

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