Zayit suggests that Hershel and Dovid’l would be doing a chessed for Kalonymous if they plant things their brother likes in the Field of Dreams. Hershel states that Kalonymous likes apples, and they decide to plant three trees. Dovid’l wants to add two more, one for Berl and one for Fisch.
* * *
Zayit stopped walking so he could listen carefully to Hershel. As far as he had understood, Berl and Fisch were shot dead at the border. He tried very delicately to explore the subject with Hershel.
“Of course,” said Zayit. “Did Berl and Fisch say they would come back?” he asked.
Hershel nodded vigorously, then looked uncertain. “They said that we should go on ahead of them and they would come when they could.” It was, of course, a small boy’s interpretation of a terrifying event. Hershel had lain his head across the fallen Berl’s chest, and he could remember Berl weakly patting his head, trying to comfort him. We’ll be fine, he’d said, and Hershel had assumed that they would follow them to Motti and Breindl’s as soon as they were able. “We didn’t want to leave them there but they told us to go.” He looked up at Zayit as though for his approval that they had done the right thing. “They looked very sick,” he added.
“It was good that you listened to them,” said Zayit. “You and your brothers are very good boys.”
“Not always. Kalonymous fought with Yehuda and now he’s gone. Will that happen to me and Dovid’l too, if we aren’t good?”
Hershel was knocking the wind out of Zayit. His butterfly-like fragility was an integral part of him. Zayit realized he would do anything to protect this child. He thought of the many trees he’d raised from saplings, and how much care and tending they’d required until they were able to stand up on their own. It was so similar with children. Small, carefully placed supports to hold the tree upright, netting to protect it from birds and insects, soil and rain and sunlight and trust in Hashem that if an apple tree was planted, then that was what would grow.
Zayit squatted down again, so he could look Hershel directly in the eye. “Listen to me, my friend. What I have to say is very important. Kalonymous didn’t do anything wrong. Boys do fight sometimes!”
“Not us!” said Dovid’l. “We don’t fight.”
“Not yet!” said Zayit. “You will! But now your uncle Motti and your aunt Breindl see how sad it makes everyone, so they won’t send anyone away again. Do you understand? You don’t need to be afraid.”
Hershel listened solemnly, and for the first time, Zayit could see that his words were sinking in. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“So we need five trees,” said Hershel. “Five apple trees.”
Zayit wondered if it was wise to encourage Hershel in his belief that Berl and Fisch were still alive, and he made a note to speak to Motti about it. He remembered Motti had done a fair amount of research trying to figure out where they boys had come from, and he wondered if he had uncovered any information about the two men. In the meantime, before they made any decisions, he’d go along with Hershel.
“Very well. Five apple trees. Kalonymous will be so surprised,” said Zayit. He looked down at Hershel and saw him smiling slightly and nodding to himself, and he smiled himself in response. The tiny sapling had opened its first leaf.
Later on that evening, Motti dropped by the Zayits to hear how the outing with the boys had gone. Zayit related the conversation he’d had with Hershel about Berl and Fisch.
“Did you ever get any information about them?” Zayit asked Motti. “Hershel was certain they were still alive.”
Motti shook his head. “As far as I understood, they were shot at the border.”
“I know it seems impossible,” said Zayit, “But is there any way you could try to find out what happened to them? I wouldn’t say anything to Hershel, but I’m curious for myself. It sounds like they were wonderful men. I’d like to find out more about them, wouldn’t you?”
The idea had certainly occurred to Motti, but he had no real idea where to start.
“I’ll see what I can do,” he told Zayit. “But otherwise? How did you find the boys?”
Zayit thought a moment before replying. “Hopeful.”
“I can’t thank you enough for all your help, and your guidance. I know you must think I’m foolish…”
“G-d forbid!” said Zayit. “I will tell you truthfully that were I in your place I don’t know if I could have done what you did, taking in three orphans who were in such a dreadful state. You should receive a medal for that alone. It was heroic, and I envy your merit.”
“Thank you. I just can’t believe that we lost Kalonymous. How big is Yerushalayim after all? How far could he have gone?” Motti’s face was a picture of woe.
Zayit, a big admirer of the plucky Kalonymous, couldn’t hide a small smile of grudging admiration. “Kids like Kalonymous know how to survive. Mark my words,” said Zayit. “I believe he’ll be back.”
To be continued . . .