"I

know this is hard on you, Leah.”

“Believe me, it is.”

“Believe me I’d much rather be home now.”

“That’s what… say, and any…”

Leah’s reply is coming across garbled. Leibel heads for the other end of the sparse concrete yard, hoping the reception will be stronger.

“Are you moichel me, Leah?”

There’s a pause at the other end of the line. Leibel scans the outline of the crumbling roof on the shack next door. Leah finds her voice.

“Nu, b’emes… what’s there to moichel? You can only do what you’re told. The Tzaddik knows what he’s doing.”

Leibel twirls his peyos, imagining Leah’s martyr-like resignation as she squeezes her mop. There’s the familiar slipslop sound on their plain Yerushalmi tiling, and he imagines the sparkly clean speckled expanse; the fresh lemony smell of the drying floor. He’s singed with frustration. “I suppose.”

Leah’s tone grows sharp. “You suppose? It’s the Tzaddik, Leibel! He knows what he’s doing.”

Leibel can’t suppress his sigh.

“So, the Tzaddik tells you to stay a few more days. So what?! Are you sitting at the window counting clouds?”

“We haven’t stopped traveling! Ponevezh, Kovne, Vilna. Right now we’re in Vilna. We were at the Gaon’s tziyun this morning! We’re covering all the kvurim in Litte.”

“Nu. You think he’s just wasting time?”

“Chas v’shulem, Leah! Did I say that?!”

“You sound… tired.”

“Yeah, well. Ich bin a toyte mensch. Finished. All this traveling. And the Tzaddik hardly sleeps. When he’s not davening, he’s learning; when he’s not learning, he’s saying Tehillim. I try to stay awake for him, but it’s hard. Seriously, though, Leah, I don’t understand what we’re doing here.”

Leibel hears the faint clang of a doorbell.

“A moment, Leibel. That must be the neighbor. She said she’d come for a fitting. But don’t lose heart! The Tzaddik is an ish Elokim. Who said you have to understand?”

She clicks off, and Leibel stares at the phone, now quiet. The yard around him is equally still, and with the Tzaddik deep in his seforim back in their rented room, he feels disoriented. He’s about to head back to the room, when the phone rings again.

“Leibel? It wasn’t the neighbor. It was Yankele. He wanted to know when you’ll be back. Anyway — she’ll be here any moment, so I just wanted to ask, quick. Did you get a brucheh from the Tzaddik?”

Leibel smiles. “Sure! The Tzaddik gave such beautiful bruches. Prepare for a chassineh, b’ezras Hashem!”

“That’s what I wanted to hear. Thanks so much! I’d better go and—”

“Leah!”

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 612)