Chaim held back, unwilling to do anything to make it look like he wanted to be their rav
There was a little commotion in the back of shul after Shabbos Minchah. Chaim Brucker paused to listen to the heated argument about whether or not to say Yaaleh V’Yavo in bentshing after Shalosh Seudos, since that night would be Rosh Chodesh.
The correct course of action was a very explicit Taz and he was about to share this with them, but then he held back, unwilling to do anything to make it look like he wanted to be their rav. He had a brief internal dilemma, because he knew that he was obligated to share the halachah, but he couldn’t bring himself to speak up: though it was impossible, it still felt like Shaindy had engineered this little dispute just so that he could weigh in.
He was torn, but then Shapiro, who Chaim remembered from the old days in the Mir, passed by and told them the correct halachah and Chaim was off the hook.
His son-in-law Moshe Dovid was looking at him quizzically, and Chaim felt badly. He would have loved to explain his hesitation, his determination to quash whatever candidacy other people may have had in mind for him, but he couldn’t. Because in his heart, he knew that having Moshe Dovid and Brachi — their most visibly yeshivishe children — for Shabbos, was also part of Shaindy’s plan.
Or maybe not? Was he the one who was imagining things?
It wasn’t even five minutes after Havdalah when the phone rang.
Mrs. Dina Walburger was the social coordinator of Alameda Gardens, and Akiva Putterman knew to expect the call. The thing with using a marketer was that you never knew what was real and what was fake, so as many bookings as you got, it didn’t do anything for your ego.
Ben assured him that this wasn’t true, and if someone wasn’t a winner, you couldn’t make them a winner regardless of budget, but Akiva also knew that there was no such thing as “regardless of budget.”
His son-in-law had taught him well.
The Tuesday night shiur, Mrs. Walburger informed him, was the event for the women of Alameda Gardens. “Literally can’t-miss. Women skip simchahs for it. It’s the high point of the week.”
She wanted him to give the shiur this week, but seemed not to understand that chinuch was not only his career, but also his passion.
“Rabbi Putterman,” she said patiently, “the families in Alameda Gardens, as you’re no doubt aware, don’t generally have little children. We need to talk about something else. How about ‘New Stages, New Vistas to Marriage’ — would that work?”
“Mrs. Walburg,” he said evenly (he wasn’t mispronouncing her name on purpose, but it also wasn’t a complete mistake. A mild psychological advantage isn’t a terrible thing), “even parents of older children have chinuch questions and decisions to make, of course. Why not address that?”
She was quiet, and then took a deep breath, as if she’d decided to answer his question.
“Okay, I’ll tell you, it’s like this,” she said. “The women in this community have given blood, sweat, and tears to the chinuch of their children, whatever the results are, some successfully and some less so, but they’ve tried. They went to all those shiurim for so long, and we’d like Alameda and its culture to be different — new beginnings, time to sit back and relax, etcetera etcetera, you know what I mean. I don’t want to use the word ‘chinuch.’ Let’s find another term, and then you can address that topic, does that work?”
It felt inauthentic to Akiva, and he would have liked to hold fast to his principles (No Principals without Principles had been one of his most effective presentations, actually), but he saw Rina’s face and he didn’t want to disappoint her. She wanted him to give the shiur and he owed it to her. (Kesubah over Contract was another strong presentation, on putting your family first even if you worked for the public.)
He didn’t think a shiur in Alameda Gardens would get him consultancy gigs, but making his wife happy was most important. Feeling virtuous, he said, “That sounds amazing, okay. How about ‘Parenting from a Distance’?”
She was quiet again, and then said, “Let’s avoid the word ‘parenting’ please.”
“Sure, sure, how about ‘Learning your Lines,’ or something, you know, like this is a new role we’re all learning together?”
“That’s perfect, Rabbi Putterman, thank you. We’re looking forward to Tuesday.”
“So am I,” he said, back to being crisp and professional. “I appreciate the zechus. Gut voch.”
“Gut voch. And Rabbi Putterman? It’s Walburger, not Walburg.”
All Reuven Stagler wanted was to play tennis, just like he used to on Sunday mornings in Queens. There were two hard courts here at Alameda that always seemed to be empty and locked, and he wanted to know how it worked. Did residents get a key? Did people find their own partners?
On Monday morning, he parked outside the Second Stage Developments office in what he thought of as downtown Lakewood and walked in.
The front desk was empty, but a few men sat at a desk in the back and they waved him in.
A huge sign dominated the wall: “Second Stage Living: Alameda Gardens, Magnolia Court, and Aspen Creek. By the Lauer Group.”
Shloimy, who looked like he could be 18, removed his legs from the large round table and came out to greet Reuven, his hand extended when he was six feet away.
“Hey, shalom aleichem, how can we help you?”
“Hi, we just moved in to Alameda,” Reuven said. “Name is Stagler. And I’m just wondering about the tennis courts, how it works. Is it always open? Nights too? Do people generally come when they want to play without partners and find people there? Forgive the questions, I’m new.”
It was clear from Shloimy’s expression that Reuven was asking questions completely out of his zone.
“Look.” Shloimy kept smiling as he spoke — maybe that was something the Lauer Group insisted on in all their new hires: no matter what happens, keep that smile going! — “as you know, the whole Alameda is relatively new, less than a year old, so lots of stuff are getting worked out in real-time.”
He sat back down and opened up a spreadsheet on his computer, scanning it as he spoke.
“Okay, Alameda, Alameda here we go, you need the neighborhood council, we’re more about the bigger issues, financing, structural stuff, you know… tennis isn’t exactly in our wheelhouse.”
So sorry, Reuven thought, but he said nothing.
“So I’m just checking who’s your neighborhood council, because typically, like in our other developments, this is the sort of thing that the residents decide themselves. It’s a group of volunteers, no special requirements, and they work these things out based on what most people want.”
Shloimy was still talking, but he was motioning to the other men, and Reuven caught a look of confusion on his face.
“Give me one second, sorry,” Shloimy finally said, and he stood up to consult with the others.
He came back after a minute.
“So the one who ran the neighborhood council in Alameda, Adler, isn’t feeling well and he can’t do it anymore,” he reported. “He stepped down last week and we need a new council president. Listen, you can get the tennis court first thing in the morning if you take the job, think of the perks,” Shloimy laughed again, and that’s when Reuven realized he was being offered the job.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 884)
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