S

ince Yeruchum’s uncharacteristic outburst on the day of the Great Yahrtzeit Battle, Reb Leibush had kept a discreet but sharp eye on his gabbai. In his learning, Reb Leibush had an unusual capacity for seeing nuances, for focusing intensely on the miniscule differences in words, in pshat, in svara. When he’d become the rav of his shul and community, Reb Leibush had taken that talent and expanded it to include the movements and expressions of the men and women who turned to him for advice and guidance. The slightest raising of an eyebrow or tightening of a lip, a tense shoulder or tapping finger — all these told Reb Leibush detailed stories of frustration or suffering or fear.

Even Yeruchum’s iron control was no match for his rebbi’s discerning eye. Reb Leibush knew something was troubling him, and he knew how to uncover it. Soon, the two frock-coated figures once again were walking on a quiet stretch of beach, staring at the faraway horizon.

“So what’s new with Chanaleh?” Reb Leibush asked, keeping his voice casual, after they’d discussed various shul affairs.

A stiffening of shoulders, a deepening of voice. “She seems all right, baruch Hashem.”

“Seems?”

“She goes to her aunt now. Regularly. And she started a shidduch.”

S’il zein mit mazel. Who is the boy?”

“Rachel Levine’s grandson.”

A raised eyebrow; a penetrating look. “A nice family, but not exactly what I would have expected.”

“I had no choice. Rebbi knows that.”

It was true; given who Yeruchum Freed was, given a history that someone like Yeruchum could never forget, there was no choice.

S’il zein mit mazel,” Reb Leibush repeated. “And how is it progressing?”

“I don’t know. They went out once, and both of them seemed very happy. The second time — they came home almost immediately. And they haven’t met since.”

“And what does Chanaleh say?”

“She hasn’t spoken to me.”

Reb Leibush stifled a sigh. “Yeruchum, if she doesn’t speak to you, you should be speaking to her.” His voice took on a tone that was half-command, half-laughter. “Yeruchum, I want you to start talking more.”

Yeruchum looked seriously at his rebbi. “In Peirek it says, ‘All my days I have been raised among the chachamim, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence.’”

The laughter in Reb Leibush’s voice became more pronounced. “It also says, ‘What is the proper path a person should choose for himself — one that is a credit to himself and earns him the esteem of others.’” The laughter vanished; he became stern and serious. “Yeruchum, I’m not going to trade ma’amarim with you. I am your rebbi, and I am telling you — talk to your daughter. You can talk about the shidduch or the weather or baseball scores. I don’t care. Just talk to her.”

Yeruchum bowed his head. “I will do as Rebbi says. I will speak to Chanaleh.”