Shabsi threw his body on top of the scrolls, but it was too late. Shimshon’s razor-sharp mind had already scanned the entire thing
oung Shabsi pushed the scrolls sticking out of his pocket further in and turned his back on Shimshon.
“Don’t worry about what I’m working on, Shimshon. It’s nothing special.”
“Yes, of course….” Shimshon said slowly. “Nothing special. Just special enough that you closet yourself away for weeks inside a small room, late at night, and won’t let anyone observe you while you write. No, nothing special at all.”
“If I told you what I was working on, you would burn the scrolls.”
“Oh?” Shimshon’s face lit up. “Now you’ve really got me curious. Come on, Shabsi, just tell me what it is already.”
“No.” Shabsi stood up, and without noticing the dirt on his pants, headed off through the field, away from the river and back to the small hut the yeshivah bochurim would sleep in when in yeshivah.
But later that night, as Shabsi crept out of the hut and went into a small study and locked the door, he failed to see someone curled up in the shadows, watching closely.
Shabsi unfurled the scrolls and began to work, beads of sweat forming on his forehead as he concentrated and meditated deeply, ancient seforim opened all over the table.
Suddenly, the shadow in the corner of the room moved forward.
“Shimshon!” Shabsi shrieked, whirling around. “What are you doing here?!”
“What are you doing here?” Shimshon moved past his friend and peered at the scrolls.
“You can’t look at it!” Shabsi threw his body on top of the scrolls, but it was too late. Shimshon’s razor-sharp mind had already scanned the entire thing.
“So many combinations of different permutations of the alef-beis. Two different versions of the Sefer Yetzirah opened up here, along with Shoshan….” Shimshon trailed off and he looked up at Shabsi in astonishment.
“You’re trying to create a golem.”
“What? Ha! No, no, no! That’s ridiculous!”
“You are a terrible liar, my friend. Now, tell me why you are trying to create a golem.”
Shabsi sighed, his shoulders slumping.
“T-to help others. Imagine how much good a golem could do. It could keep someone company. It could protect them from bullies. It could ensure its master gets the proper respect he deserves, or else.”
“Help others… or help yourself?” Shimshon’s eyes bored into Shabsi’s.
“W-what do you mean?”
“Do you want to create this golem because you feel lonely, because you want protection from bullies because you are too small to fight back?”
“No, that’s absurd. I have others in mind. A golem could improve the lives of so many people, if properly constructed, trained and—”
“Let me see the scrolls.”
Shabsi hesitated, then lifted himself off the scrolls.
Shimshon looked at the scrolls intently.
“You’ve made some mistakes. Meditate on this line, my friend, and instead of creating a golem, you would likely cause the ground to begin swallowing you up instead. And this here… that’s a mistake as well. You’d want to switch this.”
Shimshon found himself pulling a quill from his pocket and scribbling across the scroll, correcting, and changing its contents.
Suddenly, Shimshon stopped himself and took a deep breath.
“What am I doing? I shouldn’t be helping you. Shabsi, you must bury these scrolls.”
“I’ve worked so hard on them. This means everything to me. My chance to— I mean, my way of contributing to the worl—”
“You contribute just as I do, by learning Torah lishmah, Shabsi. You don’t need to create a golem to make the world a better place.”
“I need it to make my world a better place.”
Silence hung in the air. Shabsi looked shocked that those words had inadvertently slipped from his mouth.
“I need to at least prove to myself that I could do it. Even if I never take the actual step of making it happen.”
Shabsi began to sob, tears falling from his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Shabsi.” Shimshon looked down at the floor. “I know what it feels like to—”
“You have no idea what it feels like to be me,” Shabsi growled. “You’re the best bochur in the yeshivah, the smartest, most charming, beloved by all of the staff and by the students. You know full well you are nothing-nothing-like me. I’m short, unlovable, different, melancholy—”
“Stop, stop!” Shimshon rubbed his eyes wearily. “Listen. How about you finish this project and then we’ll present it to the rosh yeshivah. We won’t create an actual golem, but you’ll have a chance to utilize your brilliant mind and, in the process, create something special to show others.”
“Yes, that sounds good.” Shabsi’s face brightened, and he wiped his tears away with his sleeve. “And you’ll help me?”
“Of course.” Shimshon placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Always.”
The two friends worked on their project after everyone else had gone to sleep, and a few months later, it was complete. Beaming with pride, Shabsi went to the rosh yeshivah’s house together with Shimshon.
When they were seated around the table, the boys presented their scrolls. The rosh yeshivah’s eyes widened in surprise. Yes, the boys did delve into Kabbalah, but this was an entirely different level. It showed how brilliant these boys were, how deeply they grasped the loftiest of concepts.
And then, without meaning to, the rosh yeshivah made a terrible mistake. Instead of showering Shabsi with praise, he turned instead to Shimshon, without even realizing it, and began to discuss the contents of the scrolls.
Shimshon tried to steer the conversation back to Shabsi, but nothing helped. Even when the rosh yeshivah would turn his attention to Shabsi, the young bochur would just turn red in the face and stammer, too shy to respond.
When their conversation was over, many hours later, Shabsi was devastated.
“I think he was really pleased with what you created!” Shimshon slapped his friend on the back, trying to encourage him. “Brilliant, Shabsi!”
“No, you did most of the work. And the rosh yeshivah knew that.”
“Chas v’shalom! I just lightly touched up a project you had already set the groundwork for long before I even joined in to help. You get the credit, Shabsi. Not me.”
“I’ll never be good enough.”
“Why would you say that? We can go back to the rosh yeshivah again tomorrow! You just need to talk more and assert yourself a bit more. He tried involving you in the discussion, but—”
“Forget it, Shimshon. I’ll get over it.”
“Okay, I’m sorry, Shabsi. Now, about the scrolls. We need to bury them.”
“Yes, of course.” A strange look crossed Shabsi’s face. “I’ll do it. I’ll do it first thing tonight.”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 977)
Oops! We could not locate your form.