Lilli, the Hohmann’s maid, enlists the boys’ help in household chores. Kalonymous slips up and answers her in Yiddish, but she corrects him with the correct German word.
* * *
Breindl startled awake one morning, unable to put her finger on what was wrong. As she rose to consciousness, she smelled the sweet, heavy aroma of a cake baking. It was this that had woken her up. Although Motti was competent in the kitchen, he usually stayed away or, if not, he consulted her first. In any case he had surely left for davening by this hour. So who was baking? Even her oldest son Shmuel was too young for such a task, and she never let him near the primus stove. She’d gotten burned numerous times wrestling with it, and the children were forbidden to touch it.
Motti had taken the children to school on his wagon, so the house was quiet. Dovid’l was outside, tossing a ball against the wall of the house. Hershel was practicing his reading, and Kalonymous was nowhere to be found.
“Where is Kalonymous?” she asked Hershel.
“I don’t know. I think he is in the kitchen.”
“What is he doing?” she asked.
Hershel shrugged and went back to his alef-beis book, leaving Breindl to solve the mystery on her own.
She found him in the kitchen shed, keeping watch over the primus and the wonderpot, balanced precariously on the metal ring.
“Good morning. You’re up very early.”
“Yes,” said Kalonymous. “I woke up maybe from a noise. One minute I am sleeping and the next I’m wide awake.”
“What are you making?”
“Butter cake. It is delicious. My whole family likes it.” He looked suddenly worried. “I hope you don’t mind! I used some butter and sugar and flour, but not too much! Just what the cake needs.”
“Kalonymous, it is wonderful that you are baking a cake. I didn’t know you knew how to do that, and I’m glad you feel comfortable enough here! But in our house you must ask permission first. That is the way we do things here. Do you understand me?”
Kalonymous recoiled as if he’d been struck. “Please,” he whispered. “Don’t send us away. I will never do it again.”
Before she could reply, he ran off into the hills. When he was a good distance away, he threw himself down and, finally, began to cry. A full year of pain and confusion demanded its due, and the hills were witness to the boy’s suffering.
As he wept he heard footsteps approaching. Then he felt a strong hand lift him up, and his heart skipped when he saw who it was.
“Zayit,” he said firmly.
“Yes, I am Zayit. Let’s take a walk.”
“No, I don’t want to.”
“I didn’t ask you what you wanted.”
Kalonymous had no answer to that, and resigned himself to walking next to Zayit.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“I want to show you my land. The land of Eretz Yisrael is very holy. Every four steps we take is a mitzvah.”
“I don’t want to hear about it. I am tired of hearing about mitzvos. It is too late for me.”
Zayit smiled. “You are very philosophical for a young man, but there is something I must tell you. It is never too late to learn about mitzvos. They dwell in the heart of every Jew.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. When they cut off my payos that was the end. It was no great loss for me.”
“I see,” said Zayit. He knew Kalonymous did not speak to the Rothsteins with such candor, and he wondered why the boy felt more comfortable speaking to him.
“The fetter wants me to learn, but I have no heart for it. I do it because I am grateful to him. But now Tante Breindl wants to throw me out!”
“What!” Zayit exclaimed. “It couldn’t be.”
“She told me I needed to ask permission to bake. I didn’t know I was supposed to!”
“I don’t want to hear any more about anyone throwing you out,” said Zayit. “You are here to stay.” They were approaching the orchard. “Do you remember I gave you a fruit with orange skin?” he asked. “This is where they grow.”
“Why so many trees?” said Kalonymous. “Isn’t one enough?”
“Not if you sell them. I pick the oranges and put them in wooden crates, and then I sell them at the shuk. They are delicious. Would you like another one?”
Kalonymous nodded shyly. Zayit peeled it and handed the juicy orb to Kalonymous, who stuck his mouth into the heart of the orange and started to suck out the juice. It ran down his chin and covered his nose, but his body was so hungry for the nutrients that he could not stop himself. He was determined to save half for his brothers, but before he knew it the orange was gone.
“Maybe you’ll work here,” Zayit mused. “Picking the oranges from the trees.”
“Maybe,” said Kalonymous, nearly trembling with anticipation.
“You can eat as many as you want,” Zayit offered casually.
“I will do it!” said Kalonymous. “I am good at it!”
“How could that be? You’ve never done it before.”
Kalonymous looked grave. “I have. Many times I have.”
To be continued …