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Make Him Proud

Blimi Rabinowitz

“You’re funny, Yechiel, you know? Daddy isn’t setting you up with his gedolim out of the goodness of his heart. Just like he isn’t calling your rosh kollel every week out of the goodness of his heart. You’re his nachas machine, you realize that, right?”

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

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BEST-LAID PLANS The anger was back, so sweeping that Bernie no longer felt cold or wet or disoriented. His Heshy, Heshy that he’d done everything for, Heshy who had every opportunity served to him on a silver platter, was throwing it all in his face and probably laughing about it afterward with his friends who skipped seder and went to the beach instead

"S o you’ll call us when you land, okay, Heshy?” Bernie gripped the wheel tightly. Ruchy was checking her lipstick one final time before they turned off the highway into JFK.

“Before or after the seatbelt sign goes off? Both, maybe. And then you want me to call again when I find my luggage? And again when I get to Yerushalayim?”

“Heshy.” It was a warning. Bernie scanned the signs. There it was; Terminal 4.

“Okay, Daddy, don’t worry. I’ll call you. Ma, cheer up! I’m not going to the gulag.” Heshy flashed his winning smile.

Bernie sighed. That kid had his mother in the palm of his hand.

“I’m letting you two off here.” Bernie nodded toward the curb. “You start checking in, I’ll park the car and find you.”

Ruchy was looking for her sunglasses. Sunglasses on an October night. Ridiculous. Especially because they would be seeing Heshy in about a month, if Nechama’s baby arrived on time. Bernie watched Ruchy and Heshy wrest the suitcases to the curb, then drove off to the parking lot.

Inside the terminal he found the two of them schmoozing with that easy banter he had never managed to master. Ruchy and her sunshine boy, the surprise redhead who danced through life with a spontaneity that delighted his mother and confounded his father. This whole idea of waltzing into Yerushalayim without even having a dirah set up, he’d never heard of such a thing.

The security and baggage checks went faster than he remembered and soon it was time to say goodbye. Ruchy was sniffing.

“Listen, Heshy,” Bernie leaned over. “I have two options for you for Friday night. You want to start off right. So there’s Reb Nachum — Nechama and Yechiel are actually going there this week, you can just go with them. I’ll check with him tomorrow during our chavrusashaft. Or if you want a real Yerushalmi experience, I can set something up with Reb Shayale Eisenbach — you know, the one with the kollel in Batei Ungarin, he juggled the glasses at Nechama’s wedding…”

Heshy shrugged. “It’s only Wednesday, Daddy,” he said. “I’ll figure it out when I’m there, okay?”

“By the time you land it will be late Thursday. And you have to get yourself a dirah.” Bernie’s eyebrows drew together. “At least your Shabbos meal you can plan before.”

Heshy hitched his backpack up onto his shoulders and sighed. “Okay, Daddy, so I’ll go with Nechama and Yechiel.”


“Bye, Ma.” He ducked into Ruchy’s arms, for just a second. “I’ll call you, don’t worry.”

Ruchy swallowed hard, hugged him harder. The sunglasses quivered.

“Bye, Daddy, see you soon.”

“Bye, Heshy, learn well.” 

“So now you go back to the Ramban and you see how it all comes together. Niflah! Isn’t it, Reb Berish?”

Bernie turned off the speaker phone and took the phone off the receiver. “Beautiful, Reb Nachum. And I wanted to thank the rosh yeshivah for inviting my children for the Shabbos meal again. Every time they go, I hear such beautiful things from Yechiel, he says the Shabbos meals are so derhoiben.”

“He’s a very special young man, your son-in-law. We enjoy having him.”

“So this week, actually, my Heshy just landed, he’s going to be learning in Orchos in Geulah… I was hoping that…”

“Oh, of course, he’s invited too. I’ll let the Rebbetzin know. We’ll be very happy to meet him. I’m sure he’s an exceptional boy, with such parents.”

Why are you so sure? Bernie wanted to ask. Instead he thanked Reb Nachum again. It was almost midnight here, 7 a.m. in Yerushalayim. Too early to check on Heshy, tell him the meal was set up. Where was the kid anyway? Probably camping out at Nechama and Yechiel until he found himself a dirah.

Go with Yechiel and Nechama tonight, I set it up for you, he texted. That “you” should probably be “u,” he knew, and if he were really cute he would write “2nite,” but let’s face it, he wasn’t cute and hadn’t been cute in many years, if ever.

His eyes wandered to the pictures dotting his study. Bernie with Reb Nachum, Bernie with Reb Avraham Zev, the Rostover Rebbe taking brachah achrita at Nechama’s wedding, Bernie flanked by Reb Nachum and his two sons, Bernie at the mike at the dinner for the Rostover mosdos, Bernie bending his head beneath Rav Maalami’s hand, a shy Heshy right behind him.

Maybe Heshy took it for granted, but soon enough he’d see how fortunate he was that his father had developed such strong connections to all these gedolim. He had a whole zeman ahead of him to soak it all up, to drink in the gadlus and the grandeur of those tiny living rooms swelling with seforim, to hear Reb Nachum live, not just on the speaker phone.


“Hey, Heshy, good morning! Did you sleep okay? Want me to show you where minyan is? I have a few minutes still before my Friday chavrusa.” Yechiel was striding around the apartment, opening the trissim purposefully. He didn’t have to say “get moving already” for Heshy to feel his impatience.

“That’s fine, you can go, I’ll figure it out.” Heshy tried to disentangle his pillow from the earbuds and wires that had spent the night there.

“Here, looking for these?” Yechiel opened up a top cabinet and pulled out Heshy’s hat and tefillin. “You were so tired last night, I put them away for you.”


“So… we’re on for tonight? You’re coming with us to Reb Nachum for the meal?”

Heshy squinted. The sun was too bright here. “I guess. Doesn’t sound like we have a choice, huh?”

Yechiel turned to face Heshy. “What do you mean? It’s an amazing meal, every time we go my whole chaburah waits for the report. Most people don’t get these kinds of chances, you know?”

“Mmm.” Heshy slipped his glasses onto his nose.

“Leave the door unlocked, okay? Nechama’s sleeping late, no school today.”

“Okay.” Heshy’s unruly red hair was now bent over his suitcase. Yechiel got the message.

“See you later.” He shrugged into the sleeves of his jacket and headed to the door, then turned around. “Listen, Heshy, maybe text your mother or father, they called late last night when you were sleeping. Sounds like Daddy wanted an update on your dirah situation. He’s worried.”

“You mean he’s a control freak.”

Yechiel’s eyebrows shot up. “He’s your father, he wants to make sure everything’s okay. Text him when you get back from Shacharis.” (Excerpted from Calligraphy, Pesach 5777-2017)

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