Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where authors and readers come together!

Dear Friends,

Below please find an original short story that I hope soon will appear in the pages of Horizon Magazine. Please read it in conjunction with an earlier story Tefilin and Teacher that you will find by clicking here. Tefilin and Teacher will be published by The Jewish Press sometime after Passover of this year.

Shabbos Mincha with Reb Isser

Reb Isser knew intuitively something was wrong.

Truth be told. I didn’t know what to do. My marriage was in jeopardy. My children felt

conflicted. I wanted to become more Jewishly observant. My wife and children did not. Our

family had suffered a near meltdown on Erev Pesach over kashrus in our home. Whatever

shalom bayis still remained was crumbling fast.

I hurried to shul Shabbos afternoon to greet Reb Isser at the front door. “He’ll know what

to do,” I reassured myself. In the two years since I had first wandered into his minyan, he

became my mentor, confidant and proxy zayde.

I began helping Reb Isser prepare shalosh seudos every Shabbos afternoon.

We draped the folding tables with white plastic table cloths, set out twenty-five

place settings and served as much tuna fish, chopped fish balls, herring, cake and

soda pop as we could find left over from the morning Kiddush. The minyan would file

down the narrow stairwell after mincha, line up around the kitchen island to wash and make

“ha motsi” over the challah buns we had placed in a wicker basket to the left of the sink.

“Nu, Mr. Busch. What’s on your mind?” Reb Isser finally inquired as I had hoped he

would. I guess he noticed how preoccupied I must have appeared.

“Well … uh, trouble at home, Reb Isser. My wife … you know,” I responded, searching for

the right words but hopeful I would not have to explain too much.“No, I don’t know. You want to
tell me?”“My wife is very unhappy with me.” I hesitated to continue.

“Go on,” Reb Isser encouraged me, as if he had some familiarity with this problem.

“I spend too much time in shul, she thinks. By the time I get home Saturday night, now with

spring and summer, it's too late"

"Too late for what?” he asked.

“She wants to go out in the early evening, you know, a movie, maybe something to

eat.” Reb Isser reflected for several “interminable” moments. Waiting nervously, I hoped his

would be a sympathetic decision.

“Mr. Busch,” Reb Isser spoke softly. He removed a single photograph from his shirt pocket.

For someone as forthright as Reb Isser usually was, he seemed reluctant to speak.

“I’ve shown this picture to no one in fifty years since I came to America,” he confessed,

handing it to me.

“Reb Isser, you don’t have …”

“Mr. Busch,” he gently interrupted, “Yes, I do.” I was afraid I knew where he was going with

this. I fell silent.

“This was Rivkale, aleah hashalom,” he said, pointing to a pretty, slight woman with

delicate features. Her hair was put up in a bun, her long flowery dress seemed very

appropriate attire for what appeared to be a family picnic. “And these,” he continued, his

forefinger trembling, “are mein kinderlach …” He blinked repeatedly, trying to hold

back the tears.

“Reb Isser, please don’t,” I pled. He handed me a tissue.

“Forgive me, Mr. Busch, but you need to hear this. This is Yossele,” he pointed to the older of

his two children, a boy who looked to be about six years old. “I used to curl his peyos around

this finger,” he recalled, holding up the same forefinger with which he had pointed to Yossele

in the picture. “And this, this …” he began to sob. “This is … is Chavaleh ...” whose shoulder

length red hair her mother specially fashioned into ringlets for this picnic, Reb Isser tearily

recalled. “Do you see this spot?” he asked me, pointing to the hem of Chavaleh’s white dress. I

nodded. “It’s a grass stain. She fell running in the park that day.”

I couldn’t look any more. I turned aside and began nervously dividing up the herring

among several paper plates.

“Mr. Busch,” he patted my hand. I released the fork. “My wife felt I was working too much.

She told me many times that our sholem bayis was much more valuble than the few extra

zlotys I was bringing home. I was a druggist, you know. In those days, you had to

make up the prescriptions by hand, took a lot of time so I stayed after hours. Did I tell

you that story?” I nodded again.

“But did I listen to her? No, I was young, a pisher, like you,” he smiled ever so

faintly, handing me another tissue.“Thank you.”

“The Germans came to our village. The men they rounded up. The women and

children ... they took away, gone. We never saw them again. Mr.Busch, I never saw them

again! Understand?” I handed him back the picture which he returned to his pocket.“Go home

to your wife and children.” He could not have said it more plainly.

From the stairway, a voice beckoned. “Reb Isser? … Ashrei!” We hurried back upstairs.

I had some hard choices to make. I began thinking about how I could become more

observant, even if only incrementally, but without putting my family at risk. Fairly certain I

knew what the right path was and where it led, I did as Reb Isser had advised. Though I was

worried that I might be coming home too late, I realized The One Above sends molochim

into our lives when we need guidance to make the right decision. This was one of those

instances. Reb Isser taught me there is a makom for every man. For the now, mine would be

at home where I needed to repair the foundation of my family’s sholem bayis. By so doing,

my children would have the opportunity to learn the invaluable lesson of which the Germans

had denied Yossele and Chavaleh.

Alan D. Busch
Revised 3/15/09



mincha-the afternoon prayer

reb-yiddish expression of respect shown an older man

zayde-yiddish, grandfather

erev Pesach-the eve of Passover

Kashrus-kosher dietary laws

kiddush-meal served with grape juice or wine after the morning prayer

shalom bayis-peace at home

shalosh seudos-the third Sabbath meal eaten after the afternoon prayer

minyan-prayer quorem of ten adult men

ha motsi-blessing over bread

aleah ha shalom-may she rest in peace

nu-yiddish, so

pisher-yiddish slang, young boy

shul-yiddish, synagogue

peyos-side curls

Ashrei-the first word of the afternoon prayer

makom-Hebrew, place

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