J ust three days after I was accepted to high school, I was bitten by a dog. Abba had asked me to bring Bora some checks for his latest project. Bora was the gabbai of the Shabazi Beit Knesset, though ever since his stroke, he’d been confined to a chair and unable to speak. Abba knew he was still dreaming about his next project — this time, it was a plan to build a new mikveh for the Marmorek neighborhood — so to keep his spirits up, he’d asked me to bring over some checks.

“Tell him that in the end the menahel accepted you,” Abba told me, “and you’ll see, Bora will give you a brachah that you should do well in your new school.”

Bora knew that I’d been waiting months to get into high school. He knew what was happening in every home in the Marmorek neighborhood. But on my way to bring the checks and get the brachah, Bora’s dog bit me. Someone called a neighbor, and the neighbor called my father from the garage where he worked. My father hurried over. Someone mentioned a tetanus shot. Someone else started talking about the hospital. Bora couldn’t talk, but he shook his head hard. He motioned to the well in his yard, signaling that we should dab the wound with some fresh water. Then he closed his eyes to concentrate, spat three times on the ground, and motioned to us to go home. We knew exactly what he meant to say: “The girl needs to get to sleep, tomorrow she starts school.”

Bora knew I’d had problems getting into a high school, and he wanted me to start on the right foot. The menahel had added me to his list only three days ago. “I’m adding you to my list,” he had told me, “because I know that you want to do the right thing. One day your children will learn in yeshivot, you hear me?”

Now I was finally about to start high school, and I had to start on the right foot, with a dog bite on my left leg.

Our classroom was under the dormitory, and it had big windows that overlooked the garden surrounding the building. That first day of school, I noticed the menahel walking around among the bushes, then stopping under the window and listening to our lessons. His eyes seemed to catch everything.

The next day, he came into the classroom and swept an eagle gaze around the classroom. We knew we had to hide our hands deep in our pockets, so he wouldn’t see the big, bold rings we liked to wear — but he saw them anyway.

The menahel turned his hat over like a big black cup and passed between our desks. We knew we had no choice but to drop our rings in the hat. Some of the girls had five, eight, even ten rings on one hand, and the menahel would collect them all in his hat. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 700)