Emanuel questions Yehudah about Kalonymous; Yehudah returns home in Zayit’s cart, and at that point Breindl discovers he has been missing for the day. Zayit gives Breindl the telegram from Copenhagen.
* * *
When Motti returned home later that evening, Breindl walked Orna Zayit back home before returning to face him with the astonishing news. Orna had spent most of the evening, between cups of tea and the shared devouring of her special cheesecake, comforting Breindl and discussing the various storms that were thundering simultaneously in her formerly cloudless life.
“Motek,” she said, “be strong. This too will pass, and then, guess what? More storms will come! The only thing that will remain steady is your faith in Hakadosh Baruch Hu.”
“I know,” Breindl groaned, “I’m trying. It just feels so hard.”
Orna nodded, having known her share of troubles. “Look back on the other times in your life that also seemed hopeless. From the distance, can’t you see all of the hundreds of ways He was helping you when you believed you were alone? You have to do the same thing now. Act as though those miracles have already happened, that you have already seen them. Once the storm passes, you will look back at the emunah you had and be grateful you didn’t give up. Try it. Badok u’menusah.”
“I thought I knew all the Hebrew expressions from the children. What does it mean?”
Orna smiled. “Tried and true.”
They wished each other good night and, as Breindl was returning home, she was greeted by a contrite Yehudah sitting outside the house.
Breindl sat down beside him in the cool night air.
“Ima,” Yehuda began. “I’m sorry.”
“I know,” said Breindl. She was afraid if she said any more than she had to her emotions would burst out in an uncontrollable rush.
“I couldn’t stand it,” he continued, “that you and Abba didn’t want me anymore, since Kalonymous ran away.”
“Yudaleh,” she took his chin in her hand and pulled his face right up to hers. “Don’t you ever say that again.”
“I just thought if he would come back then everything could go back to the way it was before.”
Breindl sighed. “It doesn’t usually work that way,” she said softly. “Once things change, they almost always change for good. Life doesn’t go backwards.”
“I know that now,” said Yehudah. “It was scary to see Kalonymous. He looks different in two ways.”
“What do you mean?” asked Breindl.
“The first way is how he looks on the outside. His pants and his shirt and his vest — he’s not wearing his own clothes anymore. I think someone gave them to him. And his hair is cut very short so his peiyos look very long. The second way is how he looked in his eyes. All the time when he was here he was always doing like this.”
He squinted his eyes and glared, in perfect imitation of Kalonymous. “Right, Ima? But now he looks like this.” Yehudah opened his eyes wide into a calm expression, and a little grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. “He looked so different! Why does he like that kind of Yiddishkeit and not our kind? Aren’t we also frum?”
Breindl wanted to lean over and kiss her bachur on his sweet head. “We are very frum, and you are very smart. The Torah is so big, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu is so Infinite, that there is a special place for every single Yid. It could be that the place set aside for Kalonymous is not the same as our place. Every person is different. Even in a family where everyone has the same ima and abba, the children might find different places in the Torah where they belong. It doesn’t make a person better or different; it just lets them be their best self, the most of who they are.”
“So Kalonymous likes to be Yerushalmi?” asked Yehudah.
“I guess he does,” said Breindl. “Are you sorry they came to us?”
Yehudah nodded. “You haven’t talked to me since they got here.” He looked over at his mother and the look on her face made him laugh. “Maybe you’ve talked to me a little, but not as much as you used to.”
Breindl nodded. “I know, tzaddik. You were too young for me to ask your opinion. They were originally supposed to live with Aunt Esther and Uncle Emanuel, but as soon as we met them at the port we knew it wouldn’t be the right place for them. They needed to be here, with us.”
“But why? They would have been perfectly happy there! Aunt Esther and Uncle Emanuel have everything they could possibly want.”
“It seems that way, but sometimes things aren’t the way they seem.” She stopped a moment, considering whether Yehudah was too young to be told some family history, then reasoned that if he was old enough to stow away on Zayit’s wagon, he was old enough to hear some hard truths. She tried not to dwell on the past but it was everywhere: in the faces of the children, a gesture, a worn photograph. It always returns, passed down from generation to generation, and none of it is ever lost.
To be continued . . .