I

was sure that being back in cheder would calm me down and I’d get back on track, but it’s not turning out exactly like that. Rebbi is out today and there’s a substitute. Certain boys in my class see that as an opportunity for wild behavior that they would never dare try with our regular teacher.

I have enough problems to occupy my mind without their shenanigans. When the menahel comes in to restore order, the whole class waits tensely to hear what our punishment will be.

I duck my head, pretending to concentrate on my notes. “Weiss!” I hear my name called. “I want to see you in my office during recess.”

Huh? I didn’t do anything! Why me?

I feel my friends’ eyes on me. Chaim’s expression is sympathetic but some of the others just look relieved that their names weren’t called. The menahel leaves and the sub tries to continue the shiur even though the class is sullen and not responsive.

 “Meir didn’t do anything!” I hear Dovid whisper loudly to his twin brother, Shmuel. “Why should he get into trouble?”

“No talking! Both of you get out of the room this instant!” the substitute yells at them.

The twins look at each other and grin. The rebbi couldn’t have given them a better treat. There are a lot of snickers around the room as Dovid and Shmuel slowly, slowly go out into the hall.

The rest of the shiur passes in a blur. I wonder why I’m always able to feel both sides of things that happen. Like, I’m angry that the rebbi told the menahel that I’m one of the troublemakers when I really didn’t do anything, and at the same time I feel sorry for the poor sub. Part of me thinks, He’s young and inexperienced and made a mistake, and another part hopes he’ll never teach a class again!

Again I recall the Arab promising that he didn’t want to hurt me. I should hate him for what he did, and part of me does. But another part is curious about what he said. If I see him again, will I run away or will I wait to find out what he really wants?

And Shimmy. He’s the class bully. I hate him and I’m afraid of him, right? But some part of me isn’t. I can’t say I like him — look what he did to poor Zalman. But…

The recess bell rings, startling me. Everyone is heading for the schoolyard but I have to go to the menahel. “Want me to walk with you?” Chaim asks.

I give him a high five. “Nah, I’m good,” I say, while thanking Hashem that I have such a good friend.

The secretary tells me to wait a few minutes because the menahel is busy with someone. The door to the inner office is not quite closed. Through the open crack I am surprised to see Shimon Gutman’s father inside. Was Shimmy in class today? I didn’t notice. Maybe something happened? I can practically hear a thump as my heart drops. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 713)