Emanuel is led to Reb Leib, the tzaddik of the yishuv. Reb Leib has a private audience with Emanuel about Kalonymous.
* * *
“A very astute observation,” said Reb Leib.
“I didn’t mean to imply that Kalonymous was a troublemaker. He’s not. He’s a good boy, except that he’s not really a boy. He’s a man in a boy’s body, and while my brother and sister-in-law were able to restore them physically and even emotionally, the one thing they could not return to him was his childhood. It was only a matter of time before he ran away. He didn’t even know he was waiting for the opportunity; he only knew it was time when the opportunity presented itself and he took it. Also, he had to make sure his brothers were safe.”
Reb Leib nodded, impressed with Emanuel’s clear analysis of the situation. “Let’s say, theoretically, that the boy could be found.”
“Does the Rav know where he is?” Emanuel cried, getting to his feet.
Reb Leib remained perfectly calm. “I do.”
“Is he all right?”
“He’s in very good hands. But getting back to what we know about Kalonymous, would you consider the possibility that it might be better to wait a bit before we go yank him by his peyos and bring him back?” Reb Leib’s gaze was clear and steady, his eyes focused on Emanuel.
“I — I don’t know. My wife — she wants him back.”
“And how long do you think it will take until he runs again, and this time not into our hands? Wouldn’t it be better to keep an eye on him from where we are and see if he settles down?”
It should have been boiling hot in the room, with the windows closed and the sun beating down overhead, but instead it was surprisingly comfortable. The Rav wore a brown caftan and a tall kippah, and he looked perfectly composed. Emanuel, however, was sweating and disheveled.
“What would I tell my wife and my brother? I should tell them I know where he is but I can’t say?”
“Well, you don’t know where he is. You can tell them the truth, that he is fine and the Rav wouldn’t tell you how to find him. I am perfectly happy to take the blame.”
“And the Rav is certain he’s fine?” asked Emanuel.
“I believe he’s getting what he needs for right now. When they first arrived, according to your description, Kalonymous needed physical help. Now he needs spiritual help, and he is getting it. Let’s agree to give it, say, three months’ time. I will give him my personal attention during that time, and then you’ll come and see me. Mark it on your calendar. I am sure that we will see excellent results, and that it will have been time well spent. Do I have your agreement?”
The dilemma weighed heavily on Emanuel’s shoulders. The Rav made sense. If the Eibershter had guided Kalonymous towards people who were good to him and who could help him, who was he, Emanuel, to take that away? But, shouldn’t he leave the final decision to Motti, or at least involve him in the discussion?
The Rav seemed to be following Emanuel’s thoughts. “Blame me,” he said. “The moment the boy is ready you have my word that I will send him back to you.”
Emanuel was powerless against the Rav’s tender gaze.
“Yes,” he said, in an absent way. “I’ll be back in three months. If there’s any problem will the Rav please contact me?…”
“Certainly. But b’ezrat Hashem, all will be well.”
Emanuel reached into his coat pocket for his billfold. “He’ll need money…”
Reb Leib hesitated. Once money entered the picture anything could happen. Events could spin out of control. But why should Birenzweig have to bear the burden of housing Kalonymous on his own? On the other side, it was Hashem’s will that the ended up there, and the Eibershter will send the means to care for him.
“I’ll tell you what,” Reb Leib concluded. “I’ll put the money in a sealed envelope right here in my desk. If I see that money is needed I will give it.” He paused a moment. “I realize all of this is going to require a lot of trust from you. That trust is not misplaced.”
Emanuel was taken aback by the Rav’s deep perception. “All right then.” He stood, and placed his straw hat on his head. “I thank the Rav for all of his help.”
Reb Leib held Emanuel’s hand in both of his for a moment. “You will see blessing from this.”
Emanuel answered ‘amen’ but his face was a map of uncertainty. All he could do was hope that he was doing the right thing. As he exited the Rav’s room, Yankel returned to his side and silently led him out of the labyrinth of streets back into the Old City, where he took his leave. Emanuel felt like he was slowly waking, but whether from a dream or a nightmare he could not be sure.
To be continued . . .