Kalonymous tells his brothers that they must all pull their weight in the Rothstein home so that no one will want to send them away. Hershel wonders how long Kalonymous will be able to exert such authority over his younger brothers. Zayit asks Kalonymous to take a walk with him, without his brothers.
* * *
Kalonymous broke away from his brothers and walked in step beside Zayit, who kept up a steady patter as they headed towards his property. He pointed out the different plants growing along the perimeters, which were edible and which were not. Kalonymous followed along as best he could — his Hebrew was still not the best, even though he strained to listen carefully and file words away in a mental dictionary for further use.
He had kept his eyes mostly on the ground as they walked, except when Zayit pointed something out to him and he lifted his head to be polite. When Zayit suddenly stopped, Kalonymous thought it was to show him yet another thing, so he didn’t look up until he heard Zayit’s voice. Instead of pointing out brilliant red poppies or bushes of ubiquitous nana, Zayit stood quietly and waited.
Kalonymous raised his eyes, wondering why Zayit had gone silent, and found they were standing in the middle of a cleared field, the periphery marked off by a freshly constructed low stone wall, each brick with a story of its own. The Chevron hills were clearly visible from where they stood.
“What is this place?” said Kalonymous.
“This,” said Zayit, “Is a gift for you.”
Kalonymous looked around, searching for anything that might resemble a gift, but all he could see was rich warm soil and Zayit’s orchards a short way away.
“What is?” he said finally.
Zayit stretched out his arm expansively. “All of this. This field. It’s yours.”
Kalonymous blanched in horror. “I have no money! I can’t buy such a big field! No! No thank you! We are doing fine.”
“Calm down, son,” said Zayit, his voice easy and his smile warm. “I said it was a gift. You don’t have to pay for it. I want you to have it.”
Zayit had discussed his plan a few days earlier with Motti, whose reaction was similar to Kalonymous. “I can’t pay you for it!” he’d cried. “I won’t take it otherwise.”
“It’s not really up to you. It’s my field and I can do what I want with it,” replied Zayit. “And I want to give it to Kalonymous. He needs a place where he can fully express himself. What can be better for a boy than a field, brimming with so much potential for life and growth?”
“I can’t say no, if it’s for Kalonymous,” Motti had replied.
Zayit nodded wisely, proud of his young friend’s wisdom. Now he turned to Kalonymous.
“What will I do with it?” Kalonymous asked.
“Ahh, a good question, but one for which I don’t yet have an answer. Let’s call this your field of dreams. My soil is excellent — it can grow anything. There is plenty of space for animals to roam, trees, you can build a hut or a palace — there is no limit to what can happen here. All it requires is imagination and hard work.”
Kalonymous turned his head back and forth, unable to believe what he was seeing.
“I — I don’t know how to do any of those things,” he stammered.
“I will teach you,” Zayit replied. “Whatever you need to know.”
Kalonymous was stunned, and did not know what else to say. Even in Germany, on the best day, no one had ever given him anything larger than a pair of boots. What would he do with an entire field?
“I will share it with my brothers,” he said. “I’ll give them each a portion.”
Zayit folded his arms. “You could,” he said. “Or not. Don’t do anything right away. Spend some time. Get to know the land. See if it speaks to you.”
“Speaks to me?” Kalonymous scoffed. “The earth cannot talk at all, let alone to me!”
“You’d be surprised,” said Zayit.
In unspoken agreement, they made their way towards the northern section of the wall and followed it around as they paced off the perimeter. Zayit ran his fingers along the top of the wall, the fresh white dust coating his fingernails.
“I was going to have you build the wall, as well,” said Zayit. “But everything needs borders. Even gifts.”
“Especially gifts,” said Kalonymous, nodding sagely.
The boy was so earnest that Zayit wanted to laugh with pleasure at its purity, and weep at the same time over the brutal price the child had paid to acquire it.
“But don’t you need it for yourself and your family?” said Kalonymous.
“I appreciate your concern,” said Zayit. “My father felt the same, and he left me more land than I know what to do with. I have my home, my orchards, my flocks. I don’t need much more than that, and there will still be plenty for my children and their children as well.”
Kalonymous’s eyes grew round. “Are you a wealthy man?” He thought of Mrs. Hohmann and her large and elegant home. Zayit’s home looked nothing like it. His was warm and simple and cozy. Kalonymous almost always volunteered when Breindl asked someone to go to Zayit to either bring or borrow a needed item. Mrs. Zayit never failed to offer him a warm pastry, drizzled with honey and nuts and tasting so different from Breindl’s simple fare. Sometimes she offered him tea as well. Breindl would scold him lightly for taking so long, when she was secretly grateful to her neighbors. The more warmth and care the boys received, the better off they would be.
Kalonymous nodded, then lay face-down, his ear pressed to the ground.
“What are you doing?” asked Zayit.
“Listening. I’m waiting for the ground to speak to me.”
To be continued . . .