Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nissan 5760 - April 12, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Let Him Not Be Shamed

by Yair Weinstock

The circles of dancers opened and closed, one niggun following fast upon the heels of another. The faces of the dancers were red-hot with exertion and large<%- 3> beads of sweat dripped constantly from their foreheads. Then came the old favorite tune, the standard standby, "Boruch Hu Elokeinu sheb'ro'onu lichvodo . . . "

The heated tempo toned down and the same pairs of feet that had stomped with exuberant youthful abandon slowed down to a fluid, tempered rising and falling, as if to punctuate every single sung word.

"Venossan lonu Toras emes, ay-yay-yay-yay- yaay!"

Afterwards, when the time came for the reading of the Torah, the aliyos were sold, according to a time-worn yeshivisheh custom: to the highest bidder, for pages of gemora to be studied.

"Finef hundret blatt gemora far shlishi, tzum ershten mohl . . . for the second time . . . " announced the gabbai hoarsely.

"Seven hundred," a high voice cut him off. The gabbai looked up. In a remote corner of the hall stood Meir Simcha Kugler, one of the older bochurim in the kibbutz, looking at him hopefully. The gabbai had not yet nodded to him before another voice announced:

"One thousand."

Near the oron kodesh stood Chaim Leibowitz, one of those distinguished persons who occupied a place at the mizrach wall of the yeshiva, adamant as a marble cliff. He shot a piercing, riveting look at the gabbai as if to say, "Don't dare accept any more bids."

Heads nodded in agreement. Chaim Leibowitz deserved, by general consensus, to get this prestigious honor on Simchas Torah. With his twenty-five years, he had seniority rights.

But people had a surprise awaiting them.

"One thousand five hundred."

The bid fell like a bombshell. Everyone searched for the one behind this presumptuous call. Was this a flippant bid? A casual thing in someone's eyes? To handle one thousand five hundred pages of gemora, with Rashi and Tosafos, with no discounts? From this Simchas Torah to the next Simchas Torah, G-d willing?

The voice behind the announcement was none other than Shmulik Tauber, one of the most outstanding students, and no one cast any doubts whether he could execute such a commitment; if he undertook it, he would see it through. In addition to the regular regimen of studies, he would make sure that he studied those one thousand, five hundred extra blat, Rashi and Tosafos notwithstanding. And thoroughly!

No one understood what had gotten into twenty-two-year-old Shmulik Tauber, to vie with the veteran Chaim Leibowitz, his senior by three years, and to shoehorn him out of the coveted shlishi. Chaim Leibowitz was not one to be left out and, after a difficult battle, was awarded shishi of the selfsame Simchas Torah reading for the steep price of one thousand two hundred pages.

The final upshot was that six of the yeshiva's top students were called up to the Torah for prestigious aliyos that were `sold' for more than one thousand gemora pages.

What was this all about? The aliya on Simchas Torah had a hidden sweetener. The famous Noda BiYehuda yeshiva had an established tradition that those who were privileged to be called up to the Torah on the festival were also privileged to join the seder table of the Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon Hatzaddik R' Elisha Frankel.

And it was known that whoever joined the Rosh Yeshiva at his seder table would not do so again the following year.

This was because he was assured that within the year he would get married and establish his own home. The following seder would be attended at the home of his (future) father-in-law, as was the time-worn Jewish custom.

The past twenty years had proved, to one and all, that anyone who sat at R' Elisha's Pesach table married within the year. This explained the great to-do, the pitched battle over the Simchas Torah aliyos, among the so-called old-timers, the yeshiva bachelors.

R' Elisha had established a bottom limit: a minimum of three hundred pages was the cost of the ticket, the diner's card, and thus did the beginning of the year establish the outcome of the rest of the year, and the end of the year was determined by its beginning. By Simchas Torah afternoon, everyone already knew the lucky fellows who would not be able to pick up their heads from the shtender for the next half year, but who would, simultaneously, have a reserved place for the Pesach seder -- at the Rosh Yeshiva's table, no less, and who would, subsequently, get engaged and married within the course of the following half year.

This was the unbroken tradition, year in and year out.

* * *

"Gut Yom tov!" The Rosh Yeshiva and his rebbetzin stood in the doorway, graciously receiving their distinguished guests. Aside from R' Elisha's own sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law and assorted grandchildren, were some last minute guests who had been added to the long list, homeless, penniless, lonely, like the old man who had been "released" from the old age home for the duration of the festival . . .

And the pride and joy: the six elite disciples. Those senior students, the veteran scholars who had undertaken the additional study of thousands of blat gemora.

The house was bathed in brilliant light. All the chandeliers were sparkling clean and reflected the electric light they conveyed. Reddish orange flames danced festively at the tops of dozens of long colored tapers embedded in gleaming silver candlesticks.

All those present shared the sensation that the great light filling the house did not emanate from physical sources but reflected a spiritual aura and incandescence. "In Your light - - do we see the light," the exalted illumination that descended to the world each year on the Seder night when the A-mighty, Blessed be He, and His holy entourage, came down to this world to hear how the Jewish people were fulfilling the commandment of "Vehigadeto levincho" with joy and contentment.

After Kiddush, the dozens of participants sat down and drank the first of the Four Cups of wine, washed their hands before eating karpas, and the recital of the Haggadah proceeded. R' Elisha raised a question regarding the variances in the Ma Nishtana texts of present day Haggadahs and the original version in mishna Pesochim, and the text quoted in the Rif and the Rosh. Within a moment or two, the entire table (set exquisitely with gleaming silver and crystal), was aroar with action, mainly because of Chaim Leibowitz, who began explaining the topic with his characteristic enthusiasm, depth and cogency, spanning the comments of rishonim and acharonim. But Chaim did not hold center stage for long; he had his competitors, no less zealous in their ardor to express their views and expertise on the topic. Within moments, the sedate, elegant atmosphere had turned into the heated exchange reminiscent of the beis midrash in the grips of a shiur klolli.

None of the family members were upset by the commotion and tumult; it was to be expected. It repeated itself each year. The yeshiva students who came each year, in succession, were no passive wallflowers. On the contrary, they were known as the lions of the group, and only those who were equally versed with encyclopedic scope and profundity of depth could hold their own at the table on the subject. The rest of the guests and the womenfolk had to wait patiently on the sidelines, looking into the simple commentaries and the colorful illustrations in their Haggadahs, until the Rosh Yeshiva had compassion on the rumbling stomachs of his guests and, with a raised finger, like a magic wand, restored the stormy scene to silence.

Notwithstanding, soon those selfsame discussions in Torah, with all their acuity and depth, with the fine-honed logic, would be resumed with intensity in the course of the meal and afterwards. The heads of the other guests would droop sideways while the Rosh Yeshiva and his disciples carried on with their heated discussions and resounding singing until close to dawn. That was the time-worn tradition, year in, year out.

* * *

"I'd like to say a short vort, if possible."

Shmulik Tauber, the youngest of the six, took advantage of a momentary lull between one discussion and the next.

"Surely!" A good humored smile flickered a moment over the Rosh Yeshiva's face. If Shmulik wished to say a short vort rather than ask a difficult question concerning a contradiction in the Rambam, with an appropriate explanation on some well known R' Chaim concerning the laws of chometz umatzo, it was a sign that he must have some astute if not brilliant insight to present: short but sharp.

Shmulik Tauber, his face beet-red, took out a small, old- fashioned bound school notebook, and read from it a question fit for a five-year-old, and answered it with a retort a seven-year-old brother might have given.

A silence of bewilderment reigned for a brief moment. All those seated around the table looked at Shmulik in surprise. A fellow of mental stature who suddenly talked as if a dozen years had been peeled off. The Rosh Yeshiva hastened to imbue a deeper meaning into both the question and the answer, and explained them both according to a commentary by the Maharal. Soon the conversation was back on even keel.

But five minutes later, with another lull, the family continued on with the Haggadah. They reached the part of the fourth son, "Who does not know how to ask -- you open him up."

"Another short vort?"

It was Shmulik Tauber, again. Very nonchalantly, he opened up his worn notebook and began reading from it, "Why does it say `at' in the feminine form, when it should have stated `atto'? The reason is that one must speak gently to this child, talk to him at his level and open him up, just like a compassionate mother."

The five other yeshiva students blushed at first this time but their faces turned a fresh white a moment later, vying with the color of their new shirts. They simply could not believe their ears. It was clear to them that Shmulik was too young for this occasion; he didn't grasp the momentous significance of Seder night in the Rosh Yeshiva's house, the high point of their lives or else he wouldn't sit there and fool around with juvenile vertlach only fit for a five- year-old at one's own family table. How could he stoop to such a low level? It embarrassed them to witness it.

The Rosh Yeshiva's son-in-law saved the situation with a well known related insight of R' Tzodok of Lublin. At any rate, Meir Simcha Kugler could not help but lean over and whisper into Shmulik's ear, "Something happened to you?"

"No, why?"

"You paid one thousand five hundred pages of gemora just to pawn off these second grade gems tonight? Listen here, this is not the place for such vertlach. A fellow like you has to come equipped with a gantze chabura, a profound thesis, a well-thought-out and prepared presentation in Torah. If you don't have anything of the sort, you'd be better off just keeping quiet. Or else, try to contribute to what others have prepared. You can surely add many insights from your own store of knowledge. But please, for heaven's sake, don't embarrass yourself or the rest of us, either."

Shmulik looked at him as if he didn't understand, and if Meir Simcha had had any doubts, he soon learned that his words had fallen upon deaf, or dumb, ears. For it took all of two minutes before Shmulik again took out his notebook and read from it some elementary explanation on the initial acrostic of detzach, adash, be'achav.

The older students winked at one another. They apparently did not know Shmulik that well. Smiles formed in the corners of their lips.

Chaim Leibowitz could not contain himself. He whispered to his best friend, Yonah Samuel, "Shmulik must have heard this from his rebbe in cheder."

"But when?" Yonah replied with a question.


Yonah tried to restrain a grimace but the seriousness of the atmosphere caused him to almost implode. Chaim Leibowitz whispered, "Do me a favor and don't laugh. Es past nisht -- it just doesn't suit. Don't forget, he's an orphan. He hasn't had a father since he was ten. Perhaps he's lacking something in his personality, in his emotional development."

Shmulik ignored the wondering looks all about him. The questions hovering in the air did not affect him in the least. He utilized every lull, every pause in the table discussion to read the vertlach from his notebook, one after the other. Ten of these `insights' were behind him and he was still going strong.

"`Had He split the sea for us and not crossed us over to the other side through dry land -- dayenu.' Why?" he read. "Wasn't the sea split just so that we could get to the other side?"

"Really? Why?" Meir Simcha asked with genuine interest, the humor in his tone just barely perceptible.

"The answer is that the Master of the Haggadah wants to tell us that true, we would have gotten to the other side, somehow, because that was our destination. But it wouldn't have been so easy. We would have had to plod through mud and the way would have been very arduous. That, alone, is also reason for us to thank Hashem."

"Brilliance in pshat," the Rosh Yeshiva was quick to say, but it was already too late.


That selfsame laughter that had been contained by the five bochurim all that time, which had found no release or relief due to the solemnity of the occasion and setting, was finally too much to bear. And as is the nature of laughter, it grows and rolls and crescendos into peals upon peals, waves upon waves. The harder one tries to suppress it, the fiercer it bursts forth, loud and mighty, and the more dignified, austere and somber the atmosphere, the stronger the laughter, as if to spite.

The roars of laughter filled the large room. The students laughed; tears sprang to their eyes. At first they tried to hide it with coughing, but the ploy was as transparent as a glass of clear water.

Shmulik sat, his notebook held in his hand. He bit his lips with all his might but it didn't need a sharp eye to note the sudden glisten in his eye.

R' Elisha nodded to his daughters and they brought brimming washing cups and bowls to the table.

"But we haven't even gotten to the meal, yet," protested the elderly man from the old age home.

"We're almost there," the Rosh Yeshiva reassured him. All the assembled took their cue, buried their heads in their Haggadahs, and with a snatched murmuring that took a bare two minutes, had reached the part of handwashing.

Before long, everyone was busy crunching away at their kezeisim matzo rations with serious mien. The impression of the unfortunate incident waned and dissipated. Still, it was questionable how long it would take Shmulik to clear his good name and regain his former stature amongst the yeshiva students after the foolish behavior he had exhibited, conduct that hardly suited a student of his standing.

* * *

R' Elisha was sorely distressed over one of his star disciples, Shmulik Tauber. What, indeed, was the meaning of his strange manner? Why should a student of such excellent caliber, one of the elite of all the bochurim in his yeshiva, one who would now be eligible to consider the best shidduchim, make a laughing stock of himself at such a serious, solemn occasion?

At the end of the meal, the Rosh Yeshiva left the large room to take a breather on the porch. "I have to clear my head a bit," he apologized to his guests. He touched Shmulik's shoulder lightly in passing.

Shmulik understood the hint and a moment later, rose and joined the Rosh Yeshiva outside.

"I don't understand," R' Elisha summoned up his patience but his rancor punctuated every word. "You decided to renew the days of Novardok tonight -- and in my home?"

Shmulik paled. "I don't understand."

"Novardok yeshiva boys had an exercise in which they intentionally made fools of themselves. They used to go into a pharmacy and ask for nails -- in order to get rid of any feelings of pride. But I feel duty bound to uphold your esteem, to defend your good name. Tell me, what kind of behavior is it for a brilliant student like you, who is capable of coming up with original ideas and to discourse for hours on end, to turn yourself into the village fool, intentionally, knowingly, and expound infantile vertlach from a child's notebook, like a small cheder yingel?"

Shmulik was thoughtful, as if deliberating with himself whether to speak up or maintain silence.

"Nu, nu?" the Rosh Yeshiva urged him.

"Th-this n-notebook isn't even m-mine," he finally blurted with a stammer.

"Whose is it, then?" This fact made things even more incredible.

"My late father, R' Yosef Tauber, used to read from it every year. He declaimed these selfsame vertlach with loving reverence. It was an established custom in our home every Seder night. My father passed away when I was only ten. Before he died, he begged me to keep up this tradition every year. `Wherever you are,' he said to me, `whatever your circumstances, guard this notebook with all your might, and when Seder night comes 'round, recite the Torah insights written in it.' This is what he commanded me. And I am true to my promise. Ever since then, I have dutifully read the chiddushim from this notebook -- even though by now I know them all by heart."

One riddle was solved and part of Shmulik's strange behavior was illuminated with a new light. But a different enigma took its place.

"R' Yosef Tauber? But from what I heard from you, your deceased father was an outstanding Torah scholar! Why was he so set upon your keeping this strange custom?" R' Elisha's forehead furrowed in puzzlement. "Let me see this notebook for a minute," he begged.

Shmulik drew it out from an inner pocket and handed it over.

Many pairs of curious eyes were turned towards the porch where the two stood, but only Shmulik noticed them. R' Elisha was engrossed in examination. He opened the notebook. "It is truly very old, I see," he noted immediately. He leafed through it casually and then turned to the flyleaf at the beginning.

Shmulik couldn't understand why the blood suddenly drained from the face of his Rosh Yeshiva. R' Elisha's body trembled from head to foot; he suddenly leaned against the wall for support.

"Tell me, how did this notebook get into your father's hands?" he asked with deep emotion.

"I have no idea. All I know is that my father had a younger brother who was killed in the Holocaust. My father said something about a train . . . "

"And your father? Where did he come from?"

"From some suburb of Cracow; I can't remember the name."

"And your name was always Tauber?"

Shmulik was surprised at this detailed interrogation and strange behavior, but displayed no sign. He answered quietly, "No. The original family name was Weisman. During the war, my grandfather changed his name because of a false passport he used to rescue the family from the Nazis at the last moment."

"And your grandfather, R' Shimon -- is he still alive?"

Shmulik was further amazed at the urgent poignancy in the Rosh Yeshiva's voice. "He died just after the family reached Eretz Yisroel."

"That's what I thought." R' Elisha looked bemused. Tears had gathered in his eyes and they now rolled unto his white beard.

"It's already late. Soon the time for eating the afikoman will pass. We must hurry." He shook himself from his reverie and prodded Shmulik.

They entered the large salon together. For some reason, it appeared to the guests that the Rosh Yeshiva's shoulders sagged somewhat.

Shmulik looked as if he were drunk. He wracked his memory to remember if he had ever mentioned his grandfather's name to the Rosh Yeshiva.

The Seder resumed its pace and the impression of the embarrassing incident dimmed.

* * *

"Shmulik, perhaps you'd like to read us another vort from your notebook?"

The participants were very tired, but this request brought them back to life. All weariness suddenly vanished as ears perked up. Who had made that statement? Why mock the poor Shmulik and bring up the matter again, after it had been all but forgotten?

They were in for a mighty surprise. It was none other than the Rosh Yeshiva who had uttered those words!

He repeated his request in a gentle singsong. His eyes glittered with a strange light. All heads turned towards Shmulik who was busy leafing through the worn pages to find the proper place.

He read: "My older brother, Elisha, asked me why the author of the Haggadah established the two songs of Echod Mi Yodei'a and Chad Gadya and put them side by side."

"Ahn eisene kashe," Chaim Leibowitz couldn't help blurting out. But he quickly regretted the almost involuntary remark when a stabbing look from the Rosh Yeshiva put him in his place.

"And what is the answer noted there?" he turned to Shmulik gently, who continued reading:

"I answered that both songs are one and the same. Our One G-d in Heaven and on earth will take His revenge in the future. He will slaughter the Angel of Death, who schemed to murder the one small kid, which represents the Jewish people, a single sheep amongst seventy wolves."

No one laughed.

"I'd like to tell you a short story," the Rosh Yeshiva turned to all those gathered around his table. This was enough to rivet everyone's attention. R' Elisha the great scholar, telling a story?

* * *

"We were three brothers in my father's home in Podgordz, a suburb of Cracow." He threw Shmulik a knowing look. "We were little children but big little devils, full of life. We studied in the local cheder, my two brothers and I. Yudele was three years younger and Yosele, already twelve, was the eldest. Yudele was a beautiful, captivating child who exuded Jewish charm. How he radiated on Shabbos when he wore his little velvet cap, the traditional rashik'l of Polish Jewry. His dark eyes were always lit up with a wise and knowing gleam. How much purity and wholesomeness was expressed on that lovely face, from his curly payos to the dimples that were ever-present upon his smooth cheeks. I remember how all the goyim in our town used to stare at him and jealously comment upon the purity and comeliness of us Jewish children."

R' Elisha's voice broke. Two tears suddenly rolled down his silvery beard. He paused momentarily, then went on.

"Most important was the contents of this beautiful vessel. Yudele was a gifted, precocious child with an iron will, determination and diligence that one rarely found in children his age. Everyone predicted a brilliant future for him. No one doubted for a moment that if he kept up his pace, he would eventually become a godol. Already at the age of seven, he was writing down chiddushim that struck him at any given moment. In those times, paper was hard to come by, not like today, and notebooks were all the more a rare commodity. How overjoyed Yudele was when he succeeded in saving up, during an entire winter, one kopeck after another . . .

"`Elisha,' he said to me one day, his eyes gleaming with joy, `I have enough money saved up to buy myself a notebook. Now I'll be able to write down all of my vertlach in an organized manner. I'm going to use it for my chiddushim on the Pesach Haggadah.'

"From that day on, he began writing diligently. It was the break before Pesach and he had plenty of time to write. He would sit down, in all seriousness, open up seforim, ask questions from adults, and then write -- just like a mature adult. I distinctly remember R' Fish, an erudite scholar, expert in all of Shas, sitting next to him in shul and peeking into his notebook, then rushing off to my father joyfully. `R' Shimon,' he would declare, `your Yudele is going to be a great scholar! He has a tremendous gift of innovation. A boy of seven who can produce such original thoughts!'

"This was before Pesach of 5699 (1939). Towards the end of Elul of that same year, the Nazis invaded Poland. Everything was destroyed and razed to the ground. I cannot begin to understand why Providence chose to keep me alive, and send my pure and precious little brother to the incinerators."

R' Elisha paused again, his voice choked with tears. The rebbetzin hastened to serve him a glass of tea, but he waved it aside. "We don't drink after the afikoman, you know," he reminded her apologetically. "The taste of the afikoman, which symbolizes the Pesach offering, must remain in our mouths."

He continued, "I will never forget the moment of parting. Nazi soldiers in their immaculate uniforms, bayonets held stiffly at their side, marched through the town, only to go berserk and rage like wild beasts. They rounded up all the Jews in the central town square, where they carried out their selektzia. My father, my brother Yosele and myself, ten-year-old Elisha, were sent to a labor camp. I was a hefty lad, and looked like Yosele's twin in size. My weak mother and scrawny little Yudele were put on a train headed for Auschwitz. We ran after them all the way to the train station to say good-bye. My heart told me that I would never see them again.

"Yudele clutched a small bundle and held it out to me. His young, kind eyes were filled with sadness as he said, `Elisha, this is my notebook, my chiddushim on the Haggadah. I've continued to add many new chiddushim since last Pesach and I so wanted to say them the coming year, but I won't be privileged. I think they are going to kill me. Just look at the faces of those Germans. Evil is stamped all over them. What hatred! They aren't human beings; they are beasts of prey. Please, Elisha! I know that nothing is going to remain of me. Please, for the sake of my soul, remember me each year on Seder night, and say over these chiddushim by the table. This way, you won't forget me, and my soul will benefit, too.'

"The train began chugging forward. One soldier pulled Yudele away and brutally threw him inside the car, as if he were a sack of beans. The notebook fell from his hands, unto the pebbled ground, between the rails.

"`Yudele! Your notebook!' I shouted, and fainted away."

* * *

"When I awoke, I found myself in a dark cellar filled with potatoes, under the house of Maritchke, an elderly gentile woman. She had gotten a large sum of money from my parents to hide me. Right after the Nazis had captured Podgordz and begun their mass slaughter, my father had decided to prepare a hiding place for us in the home of our elderly neighbor, whom he knew to have a good heart. He trusted her, and his faith proved justified. She was a decent sort and didn't give us away to the Germans but hid me in her basement until the end of the war.

"From the day that I had been dragged away from the railway station and hidden in Maritchke's cellar, I lost all contact with my father and brother Yosele, to say nothing of Yudele's notebook that had disappeared. When the war ended I joined a band of survivors and, together with them, found my way to Eretz Yisroel. Here I rehabilitated myself and started my life anew. I studied in yeshiva and established my own family, with the grace of Hashem.

"For many years, the pain gnawed away at me. Why had I been chosen to survive, alone? Why hadn't I been able to fulfill my poor brother, Yudele's, last request? I prayed that the day would come when I would be joined with my family, or at least learn what had happened to them. I also prayed that Yudele's notebook would somehow fall into my hands again. Deep in my heart, I feared that this prayer was futile. The notebook had fallen onto the railroad tracks. How could it ever find its way to me? Not unless some angel came down from Heaven and brought it to me!

"But my prayer was answered. This very night, I met my nephew, my brother's son . . . after a long interim. I finally learned what had happened to the rest of my family and also that the notebook had not been lost or destroyed. Now I know that when I fainted there, by the railway tracks, my brother Yosele had stood by me. He thought I had passed on to a better world. He was the angel sent from Heaven. He bent down and took the notebook, careful not to let the Nazis see it, for he was determined to carry out Yudele's dying wish. Now I know that my brother Yosele also survived the Holocaust and came to Eretz Yisroel, as well. He guarded the notebook religiously and every year, he faithfully read Yudele's original vertlach to his family. One of his sons is sitting here in this very room, tonight.

"The selfsame boy who bent down to retrieve the notebook was called Yosef Tauber or, to be more accurate, at that time he was still called Yosef Weisman. He later changed his name to Tauber due to circumstances."

R' Elisha held the old notebook and with quivering fingers, tried to open it to the flyleaf, which he then held up for all to see:

"Chiddushim and divrei Torah on the Pesach Haggadah, from the insights with which Hashem blessed me, and also some which my older brother, Elisha, innovated and told me. Nisan, 5699. Yehuda Weisman."

"What?" a cry escaped Shmulik's throat. "But the Rosh Yeshiva's last name is Frankel!"

"And your father wasn't called by the name of Tauber?" he replied in a quaking voice. "We all bore the surname Weisman before I boarded the ship in France which was to take me to Eretz Yisroel. I latched on the family of a certain Zalman Frankel, whose name I also borrowed. Later on, I weighed the possibility of going back to my original family name of Weisman to make it easier for any surviving relatives to locate me if they tried. But by then I was already established, had my place among serious people, and I felt ashamed to get up one morning and change my family name. It would have looked strange."

The Shabbos clock had long since extinguished the lights. Only tiny dancing flames, the tail ends of the long tapers, still flickered, piercing the darkness of the room with an orange mystique.

"So you see how blinded I was, how abstruse," R' Elisha's voice singsang nostalgically from the depths of his heart. "I didn't even remember the notebook and I became angry tonight at Shmulik. But the One Who sits in Heaven has the last laugh . . . The time had finally come to tie up loose ends, to bring balm to pain, and comfort to aching, disappointed hearts. And I failed to see, to understand. Had I, myself, not been ashamed of my own environment, in the proper time, perhaps a precious Jew by the name of Yosef Tauber might have heard the name Elisha Weisman. Who knows? Perhaps we might yet have been reunited . . .

"But it didn't happen. My dear brother Yosef died in his prime, without our seeing one another again. But his son, our outstanding student, Shmulik, my nephew, my long-lost relative, whom I am able to claim tonight as my family, was more stubborn than I. Without shame, without the fear of `What will they say?' he preferred to play the role of fool, so long as he could fulfill his father's will. Oblivious, he sat and read to us the chiddushei Torah of one promising soul who is no longer here, a tender child, a pure little boy who was plucked in purity without having ever tasted of sin."

R' Elisha dissolved into tears and wept for a long time. The rebbetzin was most concerned for him. Her husband may have found a lost relative this evening, but who knows what price he would have to pay . . . She tried to press a glass of tea upon him again and again, but he refused it repeatedly.

"The flavor of the korbon must linger in one's mouth. Oy, yoy, yoy! The taste of the korbon must remain forever more."


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