Synopsis: "You'll be a man, someday, my son, a real
mensch," Dovid's mother used to say to her orphan son.
Already married, holding down a part-time job but otherwise
maintaining a full learning schedule, Dovid feels mature and
adult. But with his mother not around any more, he is not
sure if, according to her criteria, he has already made the
On his way to work, one morning, he is accosted by a blind
man who asks for help in getting to his destination.
I was in a rush. A big one. I prided myself on my
punctuality, as did my boss and co-workers. I was a real man:
diligent, dependable, hard-working and always prompt. That
was the name I had worked hard to achieve all my life and one
that I deemed crucial to preserve. Now, however, it was a
matter of seconds before that cherished name would be
demolished. I couldn't allow myself the slightest tardiness.
Too much was at stake.
But a handicapped man had asked me for a favor. Could I
Sure I could. I had given him directions, so why not? Be
logical now, Davie. Do you owe the man anything? Are you the
only one in town? Let him ask someone else. Now get moving,
be a man. Go Davie, go!
I was about to do just that when the blind man's blue T-shirt
caught my eye. The words "Cape Cod" were sprawled across the
shirt in large letters framed with sea shells. The sight of
that, combined with the humidity that was soon to develop
into a scorching summer's morning, transferred me back to the
picturesque town where I had vacationed with my family and in-
laws the previous summer.
While driving along the coast, my wife and I had come upon an
isolated beach where we stopped to enjoy the panoramic
scenery. I could once again feel the cool ocean breeze
playfully stroking my face. I could hear the crashing of the
waves against the shore and the screeching of the seagulls
high above. A salty scent rose from the brine and permeated
Ahuva had been walking alongside me, giggling softly in
response to our crawling toddler's toe tickly treatment when
suddenly, a loud snap broke the spell. We looked all around
and were surprised to sight two rustic rowboats moored to an
embankment of rocks. Apparently they weren't tied strongly
enough because one of the knots had just snapped, releasing a
boat into the vastness of the sea.
Before I knew what had hit me, Ahuva thrust the baby into my
arms and scampered over to the embankment. In mounting
horror, I watched her scale the rocks.
"Ahuva! What on earth are you doing?" I shouted.
"Hold on one sec," she called out in her typical, cheerful
voice. "I'll tell you in a minute."
I watched her as she reached out and grabbed hold of the
runaway vessel. She carefully tied the rope back onto the
rocks, tightened the knot firmly, and clambered back up,
faster than the tide.
I was waiting for her. "Ahuva, would you be so good as to
explain your actions?"
"Certainly. That rowboat would have drifted away. Someone
would have lost his boat forever..."
I rolled my eyes. "And what, may I ask, business is that of
"None at all. But I had the opportunity to save someone
hardship and distress. It was hashovas aveida before
I was unwilling to accept her excuses. "Ahuva! Do you really
believe that typing up a stranger's boat was your
responsibility? Be logical. For all you know..."
Ahuva cut me off. "No, I refuse to be logical." She sat down
determindedly on a rock.
I cast her a puzzled look. She was not one to retort and I
had never known her to be stubborn. But I sat down beside
her, nonetheless. The obstinate look on Ahuva's face was
quickly replaced by a softer, apologetic smile. "Sorry about
the outburst. I just think it's about time for you to stop
insisting on logic."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what your problem is, Davie?" she paused to coo at
the baby. "It's that you view life as a math exam. You think
that if you line up the figures and add them up without doing
anything wrong, then the answers are bound to be right. You
think that if you proceed strictly according to logic, the
results will be a success. But the theory is wrong."
I looked at Ahuva as though she had fallen from a different
planet. "Wrong? What could possibly be wrong with that?"
Ahuva shook her head, trying to straighten out her thoughts.
"When I was in ninth grade, we used to get multiple choice
literature quizes. I remember that the first time we took
them, the majority of my class failed. It was tricky because
all the options were very similar, with subtle differences
between them. The object was to choose the answer that was
most correct. And that's what life is all about,
The startling sound of someone clearing his throat jerked me
back into the present. A blind man was waiting for an answer.
I was thankful that he had not seen my changing expressions
as I had deliberated. I looked at my watch: seven fifty-nine.
I took a deep breath. Then I held my elbow out to the
stranger and latched his hand onto it as I took the lead. I
reversed my direction and headed for 23rd Street.
As I walked along, something clicked in my mind. When Mama
had talked about being a man, was she perhaps alluding to
Ironically, as I walked into my office twenty minutes late
and felt curious stares bombarding me from all angles, I felt
more like a man than ever. No longer was I an automatic
machine, a computer or digital calculator. I had introduced a
new element into my life's calculations and decisions.
I was a human being, capable of discerning between the fine
nuances between partially correct and wholly right.
Or, as Mama would have put it, I had made the grade. I was a