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A Different Kind of Change

Rhona Lewis

The floor of the Neve Menuchas HaZahav old age home shone brightly, as usual. A group of elderly ladies sat crocheting in their designated spot near the drooping palmettos. Brochah watched as pale, gnarled fingers pulled thread over the needles and downwards meticulously but painfully slowly. Sarah nudged her hard and thrust her chin out in the direction of Rav Meyer, a survivor of the horrors ofAuschwitz. His broad shoulders hunched forward over a large tome of Gemara, defying anyone to remove it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

leafSarah’s quick rap on the white door of the private room was answered by a firm voice, “Come in.”

Rebbetzin Weiss, every strand of her chestnut sheitel glued obediently into place, was sitting at a small table covered with covered with books of all sizes. Here and there, the flowered tablecloth peeped tremulously through.

“Take a drink and we will begin,” the Rebbetzin ordered and waited to answer amen to the loud brachos she expected to hear.

“Let’s begin with the first pasuk in the Torah,” she said, pushing a Chumash towards Brochah. “Will you read?”

Brochah read attentively, even though this was the sixth or seventh time that they were studying the pasuk. ‘It’s not her fault that Alzheimer’s has eaten away her memory,’ Brochah’s mother had told her when Brochah had complained.

“Read the Rashi,” Rebbetzin Weiss told Sarah. She corrected a small mistake in a surprisingly gentle voice, then said, “Can you tell me who Rashi was?”

Of course Sarah would answer, Brochah thought with a grimace. She’s been answering that question every week for the past month since we’ve been visiting the ladies in the old age home.

Pasuk followed pasuk. Rebbetzin Weiss expanded on the words that the girls now knew by heart with an avalanche of different commentators and different angles. Some Brochah had heard already three or four times. Others were new.

Suddenly an opaque veil fell over Rebbetzin Weiss’s eyes — she was drifting off. The girls sat awkwardly, unsure of what to do.

After a few minutes of silence, the veil lifted, like the morning mist that dissipates in the rising heat. “It’s time for the laws of tzniyus, girls,” the Rebbetzin said. Now she allowed the girls to open the book randomly so at least they could cover a different topic each week.

Exactly 45 minutes after the girls had walked in, Rebbetzin Weiss looked at her watch. “Oh, my! Time flies by when we learn together, doesn’t it? Don’t forget to review our lesson so that we can move on next week.”


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