Istare at the court summons. “What does this mean?” I ask.

“It’s not the first one,” Ima says. “Our lawyers have been fighting it in the lower courts.”

“You understand that we didn’t tell you because we wanted to protect you?” Abba’s voice cracks a little. “We hoped that everything would all work out and you would never need to know about it.”

I thought back to how many times over the last few weeks my father had been distracted. Actually, I hadn’t noticed anything unusual. It’s common in our community for individuals to come to my father and discuss problems they are dealing with. That’s how Pinchas Gutman got me involved with his son, Shimon. When Abba seems lost in thought I assume he’s planning his shiur, and if he seems especially worried, I take it for granted that he’s thinking about how to help one of the people who solicited his advice.

I glance at my watch. “It’s almost time for your shiur,” I remark, amazed at how little time has passed since my parents came home. It feels like hours, but it’s much less.

Abba gives me his “nachas smile.” I smile back. “Of course. We’d better leave now for shul.”

As I walk along the familiar street at my father’s side, I can’t help checking behind trees and in parked cars for the two Arabs. Recalling that I am somehow related to them gives me the shivers.

I catch a glimpse of my face in a shop window, surprised that it looks exactly the same as always. There’s nothing in my expression hinting to the bottomless pit that has just opened beneath my feet. I study other people passing by and wonder if any of them have stories hidden behind their faces like I do.

Chaim is already waiting at shul. I can’t meet his eyes. “What’s the matter?” he asks, but I just shake my head. How do you tell your best friend that you’ve discovered your birth father is an Arab? I sit down at the table where my father will give his shiur. The congregants are in the middle of a discussion about some minhag. Half of them insist it has always been done a certain way and the other half hotly disagree.

Abba doesn’t call on me to read, which is a good thing because my hands are trembling. The words on the daf blur together. The room is revolving around me slowly, and I feel nauseous. 

My father is at my side before I fall over. He and Chaim slide me onto the floor and raise my legs. Someone pushes a glass of water against my lips. I take a sip or two before it spills down my chin and the sudden clammy sensation on my throat is enough to make me sit up.

“You are pale as a ghost,” Chaim comments, giving me a helping hand so I can stand. “You look sick.”

This is so awkward. “I’m fine,” I protest. Everyone looks so concerned, even Shimmy Gutman who is standing in the back as usual. “I’m sorry. Everything is fine. Please, let’s go on with the shiur.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 716)