S

eeing my biological father blocking the doorway, I hesitate. That door is the only way out of the courtroom and he is obviously waiting for me. Unrealistic, childish thoughts of flight flash through my mind — but I’m not that foolish. Musa Elkaradi is tall and broad and strong. Even if I try to squeeze through, he’ll catch me easily. No choice, I have to face him whether I like it or not.

I walk over to the door and look up at his face. My biological father smiles. He seems sure of himself. It’s a struggle for me to overcome my shyness; the best I can manage is a nod, but it seems to please him.

I feel his hand heavy on my shoulder. “I am waiting for you,” he says in accented Hebrew. “We have many years to make up.”

My eyes cast down, I instinctively pull away from his unwelcome touch. Behind me Abba says “selichah  — excuse me.” He guides me through the door with his hand on my back.

“He is mine,” Musa Elkaradi gloats as Abba passes by.

“Not yet,” Abba answers calmly, and I feel a rush of warmth flow through me. We walk over to the elevators. “You’re doing great, son,” my adoptive father says. “You’re very brave and you make me proud.”

I bite my lower lip so he won’t see it quiver. I don’t feel very courageous. Abba hails a taxi and we’re soon on our way back to Ashdod. He keeps his hand over mine and I rest my head against his shoulder.

Ima and Yael greet us as if we’ve been gone for years instead of hours. Abba tells her that we won’t know the ruling for another two weeks. “Great! More time to daven!” my mother responds. It’s late and we have to hurry or Abba will be late for his shiur.

Shimon Gutman runs over to me as soon as we reach the shul. He hands me an envelope. I see immediately that it’s from his mother. So she did answer, and right away! “Quick, read this! Tell me what she wrote,” he whispers, his voice hoarse and anxious. “Where have you been all day? I’ve been waiting for you since it came. I can’t stand not knowing!”

We move to a corner behind a pillar. The envelope is open already. I don’t know if that means he tried to read it or if his father or stepmother read it first. The handwriting is closely spaced, and I read just loudly enough for Gutman to hear. “My dear Shimmy!” she wrote. “I can hardly believe that I am hearing from you after so many years. The last time I saw you, you were only seven years old and now you’re already bar mitzvah. Of course I want you to come as soon as possible. I am sorry that I do not have money to buy your ticket. Sari is in first grade now. We live with my younger brother, your uncle Simcha. He agrees that you can stay here with us as long as you want. I do not know how you convinced your father to let you come, but just tell us when to meet you at the airport. Love, Mommy.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 723)