Then, another letter arrived. This time, it was not Chaim nor his wife, Tamar, who found it first
Chaim bent down, picked up the black envelope, and read the letter.
I write to you once more, kind soul, so that you know my gratitude is genuine. I would not be able to live with myself if I knew Shoshanah was in anyone’s hands other than your own. I know you are a good man, Chaim. Only you are capable of cherishing this child the way she truly deserves.
It is not easy, this task I have thrown upon you. I know this well. But I beg of you: do not cast Shoshanah upon anyone else. The responsibility to raise her as your own cannot be transferred to another. I have entrusted you alone with her safety.
Do not let me down. Do not betray my trust.
Chaim finished reading the letter aloud to his wife and then sighed.
“Again, there is no signature! Who is this person?”
“What now, Chaim? Gimpel already said he will look throughout the city for another set of parents to care for the baby.”
“I will go to Gimpel right now.”
“And tell him what?”
“He doesn’t need to find parents to raise the baby. We will.”
Chaim and Tamar never again questioned their decision to raise Shoshanah as their own child. They only prayed that they would do a sufficient job and care for her properly. As it turned out, they did not need to worry. They were exemplary parents and Shoshanah was always well fed and groomed.
Poor though they were, Chaim and Tamar made up for materialistic absences by instilling within Shoshanah a genuine love and appreciation for spiritual matters. They taught her to cherish a good davening more than a hot cocoa on a cold day and to care more about whether Chaim was able to learn properly than if there were holes in her coat.
Shoshanah never questioned her parents about her origin and she never had any reason to assume she was not their biological child. The gold key that had accompanied her when she had been left at Chaim’s door years earlier was hidden away inside Chaim’s closet.
Then, another letter arrived. This time, it was not Chaim nor his wife, Tamar, who found it first.
“It’s your ninth birthday, my wonderful child!” Chaim exclaimed one day as Shoshanah excitedly jumped up and down. “Mother and I decided it was time to give you a gift for something you’ve been wanting for a long time.”
“Oh, let me guess, a new scarf?” Tamar asked teasingly, entering the room holding a small, simple cake. “A new pair of fancy shoes? Ice skates?”
“A cake for me? Thank you!” Shoshanah’s face shone with joy. “And no, Mother, of course I don’t care for those things!”
“No? Then how about a beautiful, pink ribbon for your hair? A new ball to play with together with your friends?” Tamar smiled knowingly. “None of those things? Surely any Jewish girl would appreciate such fine gifts! Think of how much pleasure you would receive from any of those items.”
“No, no, no. I’m no ordinary Jewish girl and that’s because my parents are no ordinary people; they are incredibly special. What I want, really, really badly is —
“A Sefer Tehillim, leather-bound, with your name embossed on the front cover.” Chaim withdrew the Tehillim from his pocket and handed it to Shoshana. “Happy birthday, my daughter.”
Shoshanah took the Tehillim and held it close, tears welling up inside her eyes.
“You’re welcome, Shoshanah.” Tamar set the cake down on the tiny, rickety table in the small dining room and faced her daughter. “That is no ordinary sefer Tehillim. That is the Tehillim that was passed down to me from my mother, who received it from her mother and so on…. We paid someone to emboss your name on the front. The pages are a bit yellow from age and tears, but I thought you would appreciate it….”
She could not finish her sentence because at that moment Shoshanah leaped forward and hugged her tightly.
“Daven well,” Chaim said. “Hashem is always listening. Do you remember the story I told you about the governor and the simple Jew?”
“Of course I remember! You always told me that story before bed when I was little.”
“Nu?” Chaim prompted.
“It was about a simple Jew who used to talk to Hashem constantly as he cleaned the shul each day. He always laughed as he cleaned, and some people thought he was a bit crazy. One day, someone mustered up the courage to ask him what exactly was so funny.
“The simple Jew replied that he always overheard a group of Yidden talking every day about how much money the governor has and that even if he spent a small fortune every day of his life, he would never use up all of his wealth. They vented their frustration over the governor’s incredible wealth and they would sometimes wistfully dream of how much better their own lives could be if the governor would only open up his heart and share even just a tiny fraction of the money he possessed.
“The simple Jew could not help but laugh. Here, there were people sitting and discussing a governor who knew nothing about them, cared nothing about them, and would never share a penny of his wealth with them. And at the same time, the simple Jew spent his entire day in conversation with Someone infinitely richer than the governor, who did intimately know about him, who did immeasurably care about him and whose only desire was to share His goodness and wealth with him! Of course, the simple Yid was referring to HaKadosh Baruch Hu!
“The man who was speaking to the simple Yid began to laugh as well. After all, is there anything more absurd and comical than that?!”
“You remembered the entire story, word for word, as I said it.” Chaim stared at Shoshanah in disbelief.
“I remember everything you taught me, Father.” Shoshanah smiled.
That night, Shoshanah stayed up late davening from her sefer Tehillim. She felt so special; she could have a private, important conversation with the Master of the Universe, without even having to leave her bed!
Suddenly she heard boots crunching in the snow outside her window. She peeked outside and saw a cloaked figure walking up to the house. She watched him bend down and place an envelope outside the front door and turn away.
At that moment, the figure looked upward and spotted her watching.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 813)
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