Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Kislev 5763 - November 27, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Until the End of Time

by C. Ofek

9:00 AM on the dot. Twenty avreichim jump off the van which brought them from Tel Aviv to Bnei Brak, and rush into the kollel in order to begin their studies. Once in the kollel, mundane conversations cease, including exchanges of information about the latest gemachim. From then on every moment is devoted solely to Torah study.

Quite rapidly the kollel's seats filled, and a pleasant gemora niggun pervaded the beis medrash. Nonetheless, one seat remained empty: Yitzchok Weissfish's.

Naftoli Bloom, Yitzchok's chavrusa, looked at the empty seat in bewilderment, while a large question mark formed in his heart. Where is Yitzchok? Perhaps something happened to him? Maybe he needs my help?

R' Naftoli strained his mind: "Did Yitzchok tell me that he would be absent today? I don't think so."

Then with a creased forehead, he called home and asked his wife Yehudis if Yitzchok had left a message on the answering machine saying that he would be late.

"No, he didn't leave any messages. The only ones are from my friends and my sister," Yehudis replied.

"Strange," Naftoli mused. "Yitzchok is never absent from kollel without a reason. When was the last time I sat alone and studied without my chavrusa? Ah yes, the day Yitzchok's second son was born, I think."

This time though, Naftoli had a premonition that Yitzchok was in trouble and that he needed his help. "Oy, I hope I am wrong," he told himself.

Naftoli opened his large gemora, trying to study and to continue where they had left off the previous day. But he couldn't concentrate. For some reason, strange childhood scenes floated past his eyes and he pictured his friend Yitzchok, who at that time was a small, sensitive and vulnerable orphan, walking with him to cheder. In his mind's eye, he saw Yitzchok's frightened eyes when husky Gershon had hustled him and he recalled how flustered Yitzchok would become whenever the rebbe asked his pupils to study for a test with their fathers.

"Hmm . . .," Naftoli continued to muse, "at his bar mitzvah good people, who tried to fill-in for this father, showered him with love and warmth. Nevertheless, his face still reflected the sadness of an orphan."

When they were growing up, Naftoli was like a big brother to Yitzchok who soon began to feel at home in Naftoli's home. The two did everything together, even studying for tests with Naftoli's father.

When they grew older they went to the same yeshiva where they studied bechavrusa and grew in Torah together. Later on, Naftoli was instrumental in clinching Yitzchok's shidduch.

Yitzchok had been hesitant about finalizing the match because the proposed kallah had no parents at all. Naftoli, though, calmed his fears and said: "First of all your intended kallah has a grandmother, may she live to a ripe old age, who treats her like a daughter and who will surely teach her how to run a Yiddishe shtub. Besides, one's zivug is min haShomayim. Hashem is the Master Planner."

A bit before the plate was broken at the tenoyim, Naftoli encouraged him saying: "We'll remain one strong family forever. Our strong friendship will never cease."

Friendship is like a reviving balm, like a soothing dressing on a bleeding wound. Fortunate is one blessed with a good friend.

As Naftoli Bloom had predicted, he and Yitzchok Weissfish remained good friends even after their marriages. This friendship blossomed and thrived the older they grew, and Yitzchok never took a step without consulting Naftoli.

One time, Yitzchok arrived in kollel distraught. During a break he confided: "Oy, it's so hard to make ends meet. My wife works very hard, but nearly all of the money goes toward paying the rent. We barely make it to the end of the month. Maybe I should study safrus. If I wrote mezuzos, tefillin and even sifrei Torah, we'd have enough to feed the children."

Naftoli wrinkled his forehead in thought. Yitzchok's a diamond. His mind is lucid, and he has a keen and penetrating grasp of the gemora. It's a pity for him to leave Torah's tents.

Gently, Naftoli told him: "Hashem provides for all His creations `from lice larvae to rams.' I suggest that you strengthen yourself in Torah, Yitzchok, and resolve to study even more. Avreichim who dedicate themselves to Torah and remain in its tents receive special siyata deShmaya."

Yitzchok listened attentively and took Naftoli's words to heart. He knew that Naftoli had his welfare at heart and never regretted heeding his advice.

From that point on, Yitzchok studied with even greater hasmodoh, adding on lunch hour and night sedorim and praying that, in the merit of his study, Hashem would send him parnossa bechovod without his having to rely on charity.

* * *

That day, Yitzchok didn't show up at the kollel on time. Stunned by this rare occurrence, alarming thoughts beset Naftoli. Perhaps Yitzchok's landlord threw him out of his apartment. Yitzchok says that his landlord won't wait even a day for the rent. Oy, the children, the furniture. What will be?

Naftoli's first impulse was to rush over to Yitzchok's flat to see if everything was all right, and if necessary to organize the money Yitzchok needed to rent another apartment until he pulled through. But as he was weighing the problem, Yitzchok came into the kollel.

"Sholom aleichem," Naftoli called out with a sigh of relief. But then he noticed that his premonition hadn't been wrong. Something was bothering Yitzchok. Otherwise why had he flinched? Why did he seem glum and flustered?

Naftoli was anxious to find out what had happened, but he waited for the lunch break. In the meantime, both of them plunged into the sugya they were studying and, for a moment at least, Naftoli felt that his worries were unfounded.

However during lunch break, Yitzchok shyly asked Naftoli if he could speak with him urgently.

"I guess you noticed that I was late," the bewildered Yitzchok began. "Well that's because I had an appointment with Tuvia Marcus this morning."

Tuvia Marcus? Naftoli was surprised. What could the two have in common? Yitzchok was a ben Torah while Tuvia was an askan who was very involved in a bitter fight against the Reform, who were trying to gain a foothold in Jewish communities throughout the world and to ensnare innocent Jews in their nets.

Tuvia Marcus is a remarkable person who devotes his entire life to strengthening Yiddishkeit in chutz la'aretz. But he and Yitzchok are so different. Tuvia's hardly ever in Eretz Yisroel. He comes here for brief visits to his elderly parents, and then goes abroad again. He's got a lot to do there, Naftoli mused. So what could he and Yitzchok have to talk about, especially during kollel hours?

"Reb Tuvia Marcus made me a tempting offer," Yitzchok told Naftoli.

"Nu, Nu," Naftoli mumbled. "Does he want you to fight the Mormons who have settled in East Jerusalem?"

Yitzchok didn't answer. His sad and grave expression gave away his feelings. At last he sighed: "It's getting very hard for me, financially."

Then he said: "Tuvia explained that the firm battle against the Reform isn't only external or surface- level. It isn't only a face to face confrontation. The most important aspect of this battle, Tuvia said, is to strengthen Diaspora Jews spiritually so that they won't be easy prey for the Reform. This involves teaching them Torah, founding Torah schools for their children, opening shuls and organizing minyanim for them.

"Actually, Tuvia's main job is to guide Jews who know absolutely nothing about Yiddishkeit. He fills their neshomos with Torah, making the ideas of the Reform irrelevant to them."

"Really? I didn't know that he did such wonderful work. But what does all that have to do with you?" Naftoli probed.

"Reb Tuvia asked me to go to Chile to strengthen Yiddishkeit there," Yitzchok replied. "I would be the rov of Santiago's Jewish community, and give daily shiurim and head a kollel. I'll receive a good salary, a free apartment and help for my wife."

"That sounds like a great offer," Naftoli reflected. "Yitzchok has very few relatives in Eretz Yisroel. Even his wife's grandmother is no longer alive. Here, even though they are very thrifty, at the end of the month they are still overdrawn in the bank, and every few months their landlord threatens to throw them out of their apartment. Besides, Yitzchok has a remarkable gift of speech and the ability to share his vast spiritual treasures with others. I heard him speak to people in Tel Aviv -- stall-owners in the shuk -- and was amazed. His audience was spellbound! What's wrong if he accepts the offer especially since, as a rosh kollel, he'll be able to learn in Chile too?"

"Yitzchok," Naftoli then proclaimed out loud. "The offer is tailor-made for you. It's min haShomayim."

"But the children," Yitzchok hesitated. "What about their chinuch?"

"They're still small and don't yet go to school," Naftoli replied. "Besides, your wife will keep an eye out on them."

Yitzchok was sold. If his friend Naftoli was so pleased with the idea, he would accept it.

"Well, that's that," Yitzchok rejoined. "Hazman habo beChile!. Now I'd better ask my rov for a brocho and begin preparing for the trip."

Naftoli knew that he would miss his good friend and chavrusa. But he put all personal considerations aside, knowing that in Chile Yitzchok would maximize his potential and lessen his economic stress.

Two days before leaving for Chile, Yitzchok handed Naftoli a black bag.

"It contains some of my possessions," he told his friend. "Please watch it until I return home."

The two shook hands and parted tearfully.

Months passed: Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Teves. Although the rains refused to fall, a hail of threats barraged Eretz Yisroel's residents -- menacing threats. The Gulf War loomed overhead and Sadam Hussein, the Iraqi tyrant, threatened to reduce Tel Aviv to a mound of rocks. R' Naftoli was scared. Tel Aviv, where he lived, was a sitting duck.

* * *

War preparations are underway. The Home Front Command advises all citizens to buy sealing tape, canned goods and bottled water. Tel Aviv's residents are worried. Their city is the enemy's target -- and the enemy means business!

Conversations focus on one subject: the war. Did you seal your room yet? Did you buy water?

R' Naftoli and his family wait in the long line to be shown how to put on gas masks. Naftoli doesn't think that putting on masks is a big deal. But his wife wants to be certain that she knows what to do in the event that Sadam really dispatches chemical warheads.

The line proceeds at a snail's pace, as each citizen is personally shown how to put on the masks and inject atropine.

It's late at night. Naftoli is exhausted, and his children are cranky. Every now and then, they break out of the line and peek into the command room.

Five-year-old Yossi reclines on his father and, between yawns, whines that he's scared of the war and of the missiles.

Dasi, Naftoli's three-year-old daughter, stands at his right, looking for a reason to pick on her twin, Tzviki.

Efrat the baby is davka the most wakeful member of the family. But that's not surprising, since she has spent most of her time in line in her carriage -- a mobile five star hotel for babies. But now she's tired of her carriage and wants to climb out and see the world!

Naftoli's wife Yehudis picks up the baby and stands with her in line. Efrat's eyes dart back and forth. Her mother is sorry that she didn't bring a few toys along. Who knew that they would have to wait in line so long -- nearly two hours! But Efrat has plenty to do.

In a split second she knocks off the hat of the elderly man in front of her, and bursts out laughing. The man, who had seemed grumpy, grins. After all, Efrat's only a baby. Later on, as Yehudis separates her squabbling twins, Efrat takes advantage of the opportunity to tug at the long earrings of the fancy lady who is standing beside the old man.

"Enough, Efrati. Stop it," Yehudis pleads as she removes Efrati's chubby hands from the personal effects of nearby people. But Efrati is having such fun!

Yehudis tries to seat Efrati in the carriage. But Efrati sticks up for her rights, tiring her mother even more.

"Ima, when will it be our turn?" the children impatiently wonder.

If war hadn't been imminent and if ballistic missiles hadn't been directed toward the State of Israel, and especially toward Tel Aviv, she would have gone home a long time ago, and given her turn to the sweet old lady behind her. But the countdown had begun, and it was urgent for her to learn how to use the masks -- pikuach nefesh. She had to wait!

Zero hour loomed overhead January 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 . . . Everyone was taut and on the alert. Every motorcycle roar in the desolate street sounded like a siren.

Naftoli and Yehudis had agreed on a procedure for putting on the children's masks when and if the coded signal, Nachash Tsefa, was heard. They had prepared large bottles of bottled water. The children's room had been sealed. All they had to do was to tape the door. Halevai they would not have go through all that.

The night of January 16 arrived, darker and more grim than other nights. Even the moon seemed paler than usual, as if it was sad that peace was being violated.

At precisely 2 AM that night, the jackal-like wailing of a siren broke the silence. Help! The predicted scenarios are materializing. Naftoli and his wife wake up in a fright, do netilas yodayim and, in a daze, transfer the children to the sealed room and try to put on their masks.

It had taken the missile only four minutes to reach Tel Aviv after leaving Baghdad. To prod sleepy children to wake up, seal a door and put on masks takes more than four minutes. Try it!

What occurred in the Bloom's home during those moments, defies description.

A terrifying blast was heard. 250 kilograms of explosives fell only a few feet away from their home. In seconds, Sadam's missile accomplished what would have taken dozens of bulldozers many hours to complete.

A total wreck -- that's the only way to describe the situation: shattered windows and broad carpets of broken glass, dislodged doors, burned curtains, broken tiles, cracked walls. In a split second, there was nothing left of the lovely house which had until then sheltered the Blooms. Now everything was open to the four winds. Not only was the seal broken, so was the room.

The Blooms -- all of them -- were in a near stupor. They had no electricity, since all of the wires of the neighborhood had been blown up. The telephone was cut off too. What would they do?

The dust seeped through gaps in the walls and nearly choked them. Yehudis was panicky and was certain that the warhead had been chemical. She pulled out an atropine injection.

"Wait a minute," her husband stopped her. "First let's see Efrati's reaction. Little children are more sensitive to such things than adults."

Despite her shouts and screams, Efrati was breathing regularly. The other children also displayed no symptoms of chemical poisoning.

A siren wailed in the background. Civilian guards were asking the residents to go down to the public shelter quickly.

Naftoli and Yehudis accepted their lot. They had no choice. They couldn't remain in the rubble.

* * *

"Where's my shoe?" Srulik cried.

"And my sweater," Naomi asked with a cough.

Moishe can't find his coat. But it's cold outside, very cold. Nothing can be done about that. The kids venture outside, shivering and weeping, while Yehudis wipes away her tears. In her worst dreams, she hadn't imagined that the first night of the war would be so horrible.

It's crowded in the shelter and the Blooms stay together, waiting for instructions.

"In the morning we'll take the kids to my brother in Bnei Brak," Naftoli tells his wife. He was totally wiped out. Being responsible for one's children but not knowing how to help them during a crisis, is quite frustrating.

Early next morning, when the sun's first rays pierced the sky, Naftoli hitched a ride to his brother's home in Bnei Brak.

Naftoli's brother greeted then warmly, but with concern. News of the missile that had landed in Tel Aviv and had caused much damage, had reached Bnei Brak too.

Naftoli's sister-in-law was startled by the pallor and the sickly look of her guests. Although it was erev Shabbos, she quickly made them coffee and a hot breakfast. Then she prepared a room for them in her small apartment and helped them organize themselves. Nonetheless, Naftoli knew that renovating their apartment would take quite a long time, and that they had better find other accommodations.

Two days later, Naftoli returned to Tel Aviv to apply for lodgings for his family. As soon as he got there, the members of the Neighborhood Committee barraged him with questions. Then they handed him a form and told him to return to his apartment to record the damage.

Although on the night of the attack he had seen the wreckage the explosion caused, he had been too dazed to properly assess it. This time he was shocked by what he saw. It seemed as if Hashem had poured out His wrath on stone and wood. Nearly all of his possessions had been destroyed and his lovely furniture had been totally destroyed. The kitchen tiles which he had recently changed were cracked, as were the walls and the leaking ceiling -- which seemed to be weeping over his fate.

However, this was not a time to wallow in self-pity and he quickly began to record the damages. The list was so long that he had to write on the back of the form too, trying not to forget anything.

The committee's secretaries saw the drawn faces of the people whose homes had been damaged by the missile. They tried to cheer them and gave each one a huge kit donated by American Jews. Naftoli felt that it was nice of the Diaspora to demonstrate solidarity with their brothers in Eretz Yisroel. But what he really needed was something for his bleak mood. Why did he feel that way? Perhaps because of the loss of money. Maybe because of the suffering of his kids, who had lost their warm nest.

The committee's director tapped Naftoli's shoulder and whispered: "Chin up, young man. We've been through many wars in the country and with Hashem's help we'll pull through this time too. Just a bit of patience and optimism, my friend."

In a broken voice, Naftoli asked to be transferred to a hotel in Bnei Brak because of the hechsher and the atmosphere.

The director probably would have rejected the request if Naftoli hadn't seemed so downcast. There are plenty of hotels in Tel Aviv! But he really wanted to help and he found Naftoli a Bnei Brak hotel, in exchange for a token fee.

Naftoli heaved a sigh of relief. The hotel's staff greeted them warmly and tried to make their stay at the hotel pleasant.

The first two weeks at the hotel were great. However after that, the situation became a bit more difficult. The hotel's suites had no stoves or refrigerators, and a guest who came late for lunch, simply had to eat a cold meal. The Blooms also received only one meal a day from the hotel and had to buy the rest of their food themselves. Without a refrigerator, they had to finish all their perishables the day they bought them.

The children also grew bored, and would scamper about the hotel -- even into the manager's office.

One time, they grabbed the manager's pen while he was in the middle of an important conversation. When he ran after them to retrieve it, they said:

"Please sir, our house was destroyed during the war. We don't have our own crayons. So we're using your pen for a second, just to fill in a line or two on a picture."

So what could he do? Yell at a little war refugee? Rachmonus. But he surely wished that the war would end and that the hotel rooms would be occupied not by frisky children but by wealthy tourists.

* * *

At last the war ended. Naftoli, who wanted to go home, urged the contractor, Achmad Saidi, to speed up the renovations.

The sound of hammers rang through the neighborhood. Large bulldozers, tractors and trucks unload equipment, and Arab workers were seen everywhere.

Naftoli's house, like all the others damaged by the missile, was completely open, with no doors or windows.

Naftoli wondered if he should transfer his valuables to a special well-guarded bin made available by the neighborhood committee. But his wife is wearing her jewelry, and he already brought his silver items to his brother's house. Besides, Achmad seemed so reliable.

For good measure, he handed Achmad a one hundred shekel bill, and said: "Watch the house, Achmad. Okay?"

But Naftoli forgot that one doesn't let a cat watch a mouse, and that Yishmoel has quick hands. He trusted Achmad but later paid dearly for the mistake.

The days flew by, and the renovations progress. Walls are plastered, tiling is replaced, new doors and windows are installed. It's nearly summer and the kids are pining for home.

Every tzoroh has an end. With tears of excitement, Yehudis loaded their belongings on the van parked near the hotel.

"Are we really going home?" she asked in disbelief.

"From the amount of items you've packed, it looks like we're moving to a new apartment," Naftoli laughed.

* * *

Home sweet home! Everything is so neat and clean. The window panes gleam; the freshly-painted walls give off a welcome odor.

"I guess the explosion had its good side too," Naftoli thinks to himself.

Suddenly Naftoli recalled the black bag Yitzchok had given him when he left for Chile. In a panic, he ran over to the boidem where he had left it -- at least the boidem had remained intact -- and looked for the bag. But no bag could be found.

His wife came into the kitchen as he blurted out: "The bag! It's gone."

Now it was her turn to swoon.

"The Arab workers must have stolen it," she stuttered.

Naftoli turned white as a sheet. He had asked Achmad to keep an eye out on the house. Very funny!

In an instant, their world caved in again. The items in the bag weren't theirs, but Yitzchok's. But what was in the bag?

Naftoli recalled that it had a pair of beautiful candlesticks. But he wasn't too upset about that. For one or two thousand shekels he could replace them. "What else was in that bag?" he wondered. "A silver pointer. Nu -- another hundred or two hundred shekels. I won't go broke because of that."

But the large golden platter! How would he find another one like it? Its inscriptions, such as "temei'im beyad tehorim" and the beautifully-engraved image of an ancient menorah, clearly indicated that the platter was to be used on Chanukah, perhaps for serving latkes. Did they sell platters like that here? Was it an heirloom, with priceless sentimental value? Besides, it was very heavy and even if he cut down on all his household expenditures -- including basics -- he wouldn't be able to save up enough money to buy a new one for a very, very long time.

Then and there, the Blooms life changed and Naftoli and Yehudis began to focus on one thing: saving up enough money to compensate Yitzchok for the loss of the golden platter. "If we can't find a similar one, here, at least we'll be able to reimburse him for the loss," Naftoli said sadly.

It was hard for Naftoli to find time during the day to earn the extra money. In the evenings he took students. He would place the money he earned in a brown envelope, and pray that he would be able to collect the large sum by the time Yitzchok returned.

With time, the sum slowly increased. But so did Naftoli's difficulties.

One day, Dasi showed him her torn shoes and complained that the rain seeped in through their holes. Naftoli felt terrible, but he couldn't afford to buy her a new pair yet. She would have to wait until he received his kollel stipend.

Yehudis who until then had bought whatever she wanted in the supermarket, also began to scrimp.

The Bloom children forgot how sweets tasted. The money Yehudis saved by not buying ices and potato chips went straight into that brown envelope.

During the wee hours of the night, she could be seen bent over her sewing machine, mending clothes for other people. The money she earned was also put into the brown envelope.

Three years passed. One day, the Blooms received a long- distance call from Santiago, Chile.

"Shalom! It's me Yitzchok. I'll be returning home at the end of Tammuz. I can't wait to see you. I have so much to tell you."

Naftoli's joy over the good news was mingled with sadness. He had tried so hard to save up the value of the golden platter, but hadn't even managed to save up a tenth of the necessary sum.

The meeting between the two friends at the airport was charged with emotion, since they hadn't seen each other for so long. Yitzchok, who was very excited, showered Naftoli with greetings.

During their ride home, Naftoli noticed that Yitzchok had changed a lot. His posture was more erect, his speech more confident. Naftoli, on the other hand was diffident and anxious. What if Yitzchok suddenly asks about his belongings? What will I say? That the bag was stolen? If I at least had the money, I wouldn't be so embarrassed.

Yitzchok told his friend about his experiences in Chile and how he had managed to cover his debts. Then he asked about the war and if Naftoli had suffered any damage.

That question cut Naftoli to the core. Unwittingly, Yitzchok had stepped on an aching and sensitive wart.

Naftoli was flustered and answered each of Yitzchok's questions with monosyllables or with garbled, half- sentences. Struggling to describe the war, Naftoli couldn't wait until the conversation had ended.

He just didn't have the courage to face Yitzchok and to tell him how irresponsible he had been. Oy, if I had only been more cautious. If I had only transferred the bag to the bin.

The ensuing days were no easier for Naftoli. Each time he encountered Yitzchok, guilt assailed him. Actually, he preferred not to bump into him, and sincerely hoped that Yitzchok wouldn't ask for the bag before he had managed to save up the entire sum he owed.

In the meantime, the Blooms continued to work hard and to scrimp and save. There were still a number of months until Chanukah, when Yitzchok would probably want the platter.

Succos passed, and so did Cheshvan. Chanukah was just around the corner

* * *

A week before Chanukah, Naftoli opened the brown envelope and began to count the money. Believe it or not, he discovered that it contained NIS 20,000.

In a better frame of mind than he had enjoyed for months, he asked a reliable gold dealer how much a large golden platter costs.

"We don't sell golden platters anymore. Nowadays there is a recession, and husbands barely manage to buy their wives gold chains."

Naftoli's smile faded. But the dealer added, "Buy yourself a silver platter instead. I'm sure you'll find something nice."

"You don't understand . . . " Naftoli mumbled.

"I guess I don't," the shopkeeper replied, as he looked Naftoli over from head to toe. The guy looks poor. He's so stooped too. What could he want with a golden platter?

"They might have made such platters years ago, in Europe," he said. "But I doubt if you want to make the rounds of Europe's Judaica auctions just to find such a platter."

Naftoli gave it one more try: "Do you think a medium- sized gold platter is worth more than NIS 20,000?"

"My, you are a case! If a decent gold bracelet can cost NIS 5000, how much do you think a golden platter costs? Figure it out!"

Naftoli left the store with a heavy heart. He headed for some gemachim.

The gemach directors were startled to see him looking so worried "Did anything happen at home? Is someone sick?" they asked.

"No," Naftoli replied. "But I need the money."

The gemach directors trusted the fine avreich, and gave him the large amount he requested.

Naftoli went from gemach to gemach, friend to friend. Everyone helped him, because they wanted him to return to being the Naftoli they knew, the smiling, cheerful Naftoli they had once known. But no one knew why he needed the money.

Two days before Chanukah, Naftoli diffidently knocked on Yitzchok's door. Yes, the world is like a wheel. Sometimes ploni is on top, at other times at the bottom. This time, it's Yitzchok's turn to be free and easy.

"Come in, come in," he warmly invited his friend. "I'm so happy to see you."

Naftoli came in and nearly collapsed on the sofa. Yitzchok urged him to speak.

At last, Naftoli blurted out: "The platter . . . the platter!"

"Ah, would you like another cookie?"

"No I mean the golden platter you left with me -- the Chanukah platter."

Then with tear-filled eyes, he told Yitzchok about his war experiences, the wreckage, the renovations and the theft.

"Big deal," Yitzchok says, about the theft.

"But the bag had your golden platter," Naftoli stammered.

Then he put a wad of bills on Yitzchok's desk.

"What's that?" the startled Yitzchok asked.

"I hope it's enough. It's instead of the golden platter, which surely had much sentimental value. I hope the money will compensate for it in part. It took me a long time to save this up. I took on a job at night. Yehudis scrimped and saved, and the children lived without crembos."

It was Yitzchok's turn to cry. "You must have suffered terribly, Naftoli. I feel so bad. But the platter was only gold-plated. My wife bought it for a few shekels at a bazaar. Poor thing, you thought it was gold."

Naftoli was speechless. For a moment, he wanted to break into a dance. All along, it hadn't been the financial loss which had weighed most heavily on his heart, but the fear that he might lose his dearest friend.

Suddenly, his tears turn to laughter -- free, unrestrained laughter.

"But why didn't you tell me about the theft? Had you done so, you would have spared yourself and your family all of that agony," Yitzchok asked in a pitying tone.

After a moment's thought he added: "Besides, Naftoli, even if it had been pure gold, I wouldn't have been angry at you. I owe you much more for all you invested in me. In Chile I learned the true meaning of investing in one's fellow and how much emotional strength it involves. While there, my esteem for you increased many times over."

Both then agree that all that glitters is not gold, and that a true friend is loyal forever. One can err in estimating the value of gold, but not in assessing the value of a true friend, whose devotion weathers all crises.


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