Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Kislev 5763 - December 4, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

The Grant
A story by A. Bat-Melech

Part I

Rabbi Menachem Yosefovich, the yeshiva manager, nervously paced the small office allocated for the yeshiva's administrative needs. What are we going to do? How can we ever cover our huge debts?

On the rickety table that served as his desk, a piece of furniture that had known far better days, lay a threatening document that totally unnerved him, a notice of legal confiscation of property. The red letters seemed to shoot sparks of anger and doom.

What will be? he asked himself again with a desperate sigh. How can the yeshiva possibly raise such a huge amount within two weeks? He dreaded to imagine the government agents descending upon the yeshiva and seizing anything of value. An ironic smile sprang to his lips.

I'd like to see what they consider worth taking. Our ancient computer that has served me for the past ten years? No one uses that outdated piece of junk. You can find them in garbage dumps by the hundreds. The hoary refrigerator, donated by the Avner family eons ago when they redid their kitchen? This limping table which I salvaged from the garbage heap? I hope they don't choose to take my chair. Why, it might come apart in their very hands if they don't take care. So many were the times I had to hammer and glue it together myself...

Yeshivas Avnei Chochma which he was proud to serve, was humble in earthly possessions, but wealthy indeed in the treasures of the Torah it harbored within its dingy walls. That was something they could not repossess or divest or confiscate.

The phone rang to interrupt his sad reveries. Come to think of it, he smiled wryly again, that was something they might decide to remove...

"Yeshivas Avnei Chochma?" asked an accented voice from far away. "Yes... yes," he replied with an uncharacteristic confusion. How could he think straight with those bright red letters glaring at him so brazenly?

The ensuing conversation was so unexpected that he almost forgot about the letter. On the other side of the line spoke the personal secretary of a certain Mr. Clyde from England. "My employer will be visiting Israel shortly and he is particularly interested in visiting ultra-orthodox learning institutions such as yours. His interest, you may be sure, promises to be most economically profitable. As you may be aware, he is a millionaire financier."

* * * * *

The day of Mr. Clyde's visit finally arrived.

The administrator rushed around the premises, checking the cleanliness and order of the rooms. He gave some last minute directions here and there and then went to the kitchen. "We don't have very much going for us to impress a millionaire," he noted to the cook. "What can a wealthy man find here in the way of modern conveniences? We are hardly presentable, physically. The place is so shabby and run down! How will he know to appreciate our true value, the treasure of Torah which we represent here? He, himself, is not Orthodox, I believe. He is probably looking for a modern institution that will do credit to his name and fame. On outward appearances, we have no chances to impress him."

"Nu, nu..." murmured the cook, stirring a steaming pot of soup. "My father, zichrono livrocha, used to say: If it's coming to you, it'll come to you."

"You're absolutely right!" R' Menachem agreed, somewhat encouraged. "In Heaven they are surely aware of how badly we need an urgent boost of funds. It's there that we must make a good impression."

The sound of brakes made him jump towards the entrance. It was no shining limousine but the specially equipped van that brought Refoel Chaim to the yeshiva. Refoel Chaim was a treasure of a young man; the love of Torah burned fiercely in his heart and poured exalted strength and stamina into his handicapped body.

Refoel Chaim had been injured in a severe car accident. From one moment to the next he was transformed from a healthy, active youth to a cripple. His devoted parents were tireless in their efforts to rehabilitate him. After a long period of hospitalization which included three complicated operations, they took him abroad to expert world-famous doctors. But it was all in vain. Refoel Chaim remained incapacitated. His legs were paralyzed and the left side of his face deformed. But his indomitable spirit was not crushed and Refoel Chaim illuminated the yeshiva with his kinetic spirit and determination, with his nonpareil love for Torah.

Here, no one shook their head pathetically as his wheelchair rolled cumbersomely towards the bookcase. Here, no one turned a back on him out of distaste to avoid his distorted features, or in unbridled pity, as he was wont to encounter in the outside world. Here, people appreciated his inner worth, his heart of gold, his fierce desire to learn, his accomplishments. Here they valued the knowledge he had accrued, in spite of the broken vessel which contained it.

"Good morning, Rabbi Yosefovich!" he smiled his lopsided smile.

"You're late this morning."

"Yes, I went in for a session of physiotherapy," he apologized bashfully.

"That's all right," said R' Menachem, patting the youth affectionately on his weak shoulder. "I am sure that you'll make up for the lost time!"

The wheelchair rumbled slowly towards the study hall. R' Menachem followed him with a troubled gaze until he disappeared around a bend.

A doubt crept into his heart. What would happen if the English philanthropist saw Refoel Chaim among the students? Perhaps the youth's outward appearance would make a distasteful impression. You had to look past the ugliness to see the beautiful soul that rested in the handicapped body. How would the boy's presence reflect on the yeshiva?

Perhaps it might be better to send Refoel Chaim off to a classroom and keep him out of sight? He would surely find a good excuse; he could tell him that the yeshiva needed him to tutor one of the weaker students... He knew Refoel Chaim would be more than happy to do so.

Chas v'sholom! the administrator scolded himself severely. How could he possibly take the precious youth away from his own personal development? He had already missed out this morning due to the taxing exercises at the clinic. He would lag behind even more if he couldn't catch up with the rest of his peer group. If the yeshiva was forced to close down for lack of money, where would these boys learn? Better let them fill their innards with Torah so long as they could... an inner voice continued to chide him.

No! By no means would he disturb Refoel Chaim's study and development, even briefly! The sound of Torah shall ring out for all of our students, whether Mr. Clyde approves of us or not!

A white Chevrolet pulled up smoothly at the entrance and Mr. Clyde could be seen peering out from behind the light blue curtain. R' Menachem had imagined him a hard- faced man filled with self importance, shooting orders at everyone in his vicinity and waiting, if not for them to jump at his command, at least to stand by servilely and deferentially.

How surprised he was to see a slight, somewhat hunched figure emerging from the luxurious automobile and walking towards him.

"Welcome! Welcome, sir, to our humble establishment," R' Yosefevitch said after he had recovered from his momentary surprise. "The Rosh Yeshiva is waiting for you in his office."

"Let's begin with a tour of the yeshiva study hall," said the wealthy visitor gently but authoritatively. "Is that all right with you?"

"Our greatest pleasure!" smiled the administrator, trying to make up for his initial lack of cordiality. He even tried to make a small jest but the gvir remained cold, serious and withdrawn.

Nu, nu, this is a change from the usual, thought R' Menachem in surprise. Who would have imagined that such a slight, insignificant looking person could rule a vast network of industrial plants in England?

The sweet sounds of study could be heard already from the distance. They slackened their pace and headed quietly towards the doors of the beis midrash.

"Come, let's give a look," whispered the rich man emotionally, and having entered, sequestered himself in a small hidden corner where he could see and remain undetected. "I don't want to disturb anyone," he added gravely.

The administrator nodded in agreement. All of his faculties were focused upon his distinguished guest, as he wondered: Would this man realize the true worth of a Zevulun- partnership, of this tremendous opportunity coming his way? Would he be able to appreciate its great value and potential?

The visitor's gaze swept across the benches when it suddenly came to a halt at one corner of the hall. He began trembling perceptibly and then his entire body shook. His face turned ashen and he had to hold on to a pillar for support.

"What happened?" asked R' Menachem in great alarm. "What's the matter?"

"Who is that?" whispered the visitor in a broken voice. "Does he study here?" R' Menachem nodded affirmatively and his heart fell. It was just what he had feared. Who knows if the financier will agree to donate even one measly pound. He was expecting a place of study, not an institution for the disabled...

"What is his name?"

"Refoel Chaim. He was injured in a car accident. Yes, he is one of our students..."

"Aha. Aha. I see," murmured the visitor, throatily. He continued to fix a pained gaze on Refoel Chaim, focusing only on him.

He does not seem to recoil from him, concluded the administrator, logically. Let us hope that in spite of this episode, his visit will bear blessed fruit.

"The Rosh Yeshiva is waiting for us in his office," he urged the guest.

"Ah, yes, you are right," said Mr. Clyde, tearing his gaze away with difficulty from the handicapped youth. With faltering steps he followed R' Menachem to the Rosh Yeshiva's modest room.

To be continued...


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