I tzik Rubin, Faigy’s older, single brother, expresses leftist views about Israel at a family gathering, causing a small uproar, and he goes away offended and bitter. Faigy thinks he’s ignoring reality, just as he accuses them of doing.

“Stop talking with her,” said Rabbanit Chana. “It does no good for either of you. Just stop talking with her.”

“But she handles all of Avrumi’s money here in Israel,” I protested.

“So let someone else take care of anything that affects you,” she said. “He has other sisters, doesn’t he?

“Yes, he has one who lives near him in Vienna. The boys stay at her house sometimes — Ruchi.”

Rabbanit Chana inquired about my relationship with Ruchi, and I said we got along all right. She kept things technical, and we were on civil terms.

“Leah brings out the parts of you that aren’t so good,” Rabbanit Chana explained. “Every time you talk to her, you’re in a terrible mood afterwards. It’s making you crazy. Just tell them that from now on, you want all communication to go through the other sister.”

That was very wise advice. But… sometimes when Ruchi called to deliver some message about a payment or a visit, I almost wished it were Leah calling. I knew it was my bad side, but I felt like lashing out at someone, and with Ruchi, there was no chance to do that. She would simply state her business calmly and end the call as soon as the message was delivered.

“You’re right,” I said to Rabbanit Chana. It was another one of those endless talks on her wine-red couch. She was over in the kitchen, sifting five kilos of flour in her electric sifter, while I sat and rested. And then someone came knocking on the door. Knocking wildly, as if they would burst if somebody didn’t open it right now.

“Please see who’s at the door, Sara’le,” said the Rabbanit.

I went and opened the door. Miriam was standing there, looking pale and strange, like a blurry copy of herself. Her redid was turned sideways, her shoelaces were untied, and in her hand was a darbuka. Her husband Tzadok’s darbuka.

I knew he played the instrument. When my sons were here and we passed by Jaffa Gate on our way to the Kotel, they were fascinated by Tzadok and wouldn’t budge from the spot where he stood singing in a warm, husky voice. The song was a piyut by Rav Shalom Shabazi. The song was familiar, but Tzadok gave it a new interpretation. It twisted in the air, came writhing toward us, and suddenly plunged into our hearts, stirring up a storm of feeling:

Yom ezkerah Mikdash yehi levavi

Doeg b’kirbi…

He beat a precise rhythm on the darbuka, a rapid, burning rhythm. My sons and I weren’t the only ones who were riveted to the spot. Dozens of people stood there mesmerized.

HaKeil yeracheim

Amo yenacheim

Al yad Menachem…

My boys were tapping on each other’s backs all the way to the Kotel, doing the best they could to imitate Tzadok’s singing and drumming.

Miriam came inside. “He wants me to decorate it for him,” she said, broken.

We both looked at her. What?

“He wants me to write a pasuk from Yeshayahu on the darbuka.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 677)