L ike that, the policemen were gone. I look at my father in shock. “You believe me, don’t you, Abba?”

“You know I do, Meir.” He puts his arm around my shoulders. “You would never make up something like that. Still, can you understand why he reached that conclusion?”

I have to admit that I can see the policeman’s point of view. Some kid tells a scary story about being abducted by two Arabs in the middle of Rova Zayin and there are no witnesses or signs of abuse to back it up.

But it did happen!

“Abba, I’m afraid.” My voice betrays my fear. “It could happen again!”

My father looks thoughtful. “I can understand that,” he responds. “We have to think this through, but you can’t stay imprisoned here at home either.”

I recall the crushing sensation of that muscular Arab’s arms around my body, his hand across my mouth, suffocating me. “Why did they do it?” I whisper. “Why me?”

Abba startles at my words. For some reason my intuition tells me that my father knows the answer to that question. He turns away from me and looks through the window at the scene below.

“Do you know why they did it?” I ask in wonder.

My father doesn’t respond. I suddenly notice that his shoulders are bowed. My Abba looks much older than I remember.

“Abba?”

He doesn’t hear me. He just gazes out the window, but I can tell he’s not watching the street. He’s not seeing anything outside of his mind. I suppose that’s where I get my tendency to lose myself in my thoughts. We’re alike in that way.

Abruptly Abba turns back to me. His smile is distracted. “It’s time to go to Minchah, Meir.” From the kitchen I hear my mother singing a song to Yael as she starts to prepare supper.

“Abba, can I please daven at home tonight?”

“No, come with me to shul now. I know you already davened Minchah at cheder, but you can review your mishnayos while the others daven and later I’ll work on tomorrow’s shiur while you learn with Chaim and Shimon after Maariv. We’ll come home together.”

I sigh. The last thing on earth I want to do now is walk outside. But I trust my father. He would never take a chance with my safety. I put on my jacket and follow him to the elevator. It’s funny, but walking outside with Abba makes me feel better. There’s something about fresh air that blows the emotional cobwebs out of my head. On the way, my father talks to me about bitachon and reminds me that the only One we should ever fear is Hashem.

Shimmy is already waiting at shul when we come in. “Are you coming?” he murmurs softly, drawing a chair from another shtender to sit close beside me.

I stare at him blankly until I remember. Zalman. Zalman is in trouble.

I run my palm nervously over my forehead and down my cheek to my chin. How can I go out alone to meet Shimmy tonight? But how can I abandon poor Zalman?

“Tell me what you’re talking about,” I whisper. “What kind of trouble could Zalman be in?” 

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 703)