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t’s great to have your big brothers home from yeshivah, isn’t it?” Rivka asked her oldest daughter when the boys cleared the dirty dishes off the table before dessert.

“The best part is that there won’t be any cholent left after Shabbos,” Shoshy laughed. “I can’t eat cholent anymore on Sunday. It doesn’t taste good after Shabbos!”

“Give me cholent every day,” Moishe proclaimed as he collected the empty soda bottles in a trash bag.

“I’ll never understand how yeshivah bochurim love cholent so much,” his sister declared with dismay.

“How do you like learning in Slabodka instead of your own yeshivah in Yerushalayim?” Mendel asked the older boys.

“It’s a lot different than I’m used to, but I like it,” Shaul replied. “I missJerusalem, though.”

“Lots of my friends from yeshivah ketanah learn in yeshivah gedolah outside of Bnei Brak like we do. They’re also back home because of the war, so now we’re learning together again just like old times,” Yossi answered his father.

“The shteiging is especially shtark!” Shaul added. “The mashgiach says that bnei Torah are the elite soldiers because our learning protects Am Yisrael during times of danger.”

Shoshy and her mother passed out serving dishes with tempting slices of a seven-layer cake. “L’kavod Shabbos!” Rivka announced. “We’re lucky that the culinary school where Gedalya teaches has recessed until the end of the war. Now that he’s at home more than before, he has time to experiment with new recipes and we Neimans get to test the results!”

“Mmm, luscious!” Shoshy licked a bit of chocolate cream off her finger.

“Give me your dessert,” little Benny demanded from his younger sister. “I’m bigger that you, so the biggest slice should be for me.”

“No! This one is mine!”

Tammy held on to her dish with both hands, but Benny was able to pry it loose. He pushed his own serving in front of her, “Here, this one is for you.”

“Noooo!” the little girl screamed. “Mooooommy, Benny took my dessert! Waaaaah!

“Hush, Tammy!” Shoshy yelled to be heard. “You’re screaming so loud we won’t hear if there’s a missile attack!”

The moment that Tammy paused to catch her breath they all heard the eerie up-and-down wailing of the siren.

“Hurry, everybody! Upstairs!”

Chairs were pushed back and within seconds the whole family had run out the front door on their way to cousin Gedalya’s sealed room. Shoshy dragged her baby sister who never stopped protesting, “Dessert! It’s my cake!”

Unruffled, little Benny stuffed his mouth full of pastry and wrapped the rest of his portion in a napkin he held on to as Chaim and Moishe pulled him after them up the stairs.

Rivka and Mendy were the last ones out, counting and recounting to reassure themselves no one was left behind this time.

Boom! The explosion was louder than it had ever been. Boom! Another one! Boom! Boom!