Mutty is shocked when he finds that Papa has picked up Captain Eckner’s letter on his own and appears to be reading it. He nods at Mama.
Esther watched from the sofa as Manny prepared the licht for Chanukah. She hadn’t brought along the beautiful silver-forged menorah they’d received as a wedding gift from one of Papa’s friends, and so they’d had to fend for themselves here in this, as in so many other things.
If Esther ever wished for the company of her dear mother, it was now.
Despite his positive outlook, Esther knew Manny was deeply torn between his obligation to her and his concern for Papa and Mama. She was still glad she hadn’t told him beforehand of Papa’s condition. Otherwise, he’d have returned and this journey would never have happened. Despite her protests back in New York City, upon arrival in Israel, Esther knew that this was where she wanted to be.
Manny had, meanwhile, gathered some large jars, and was lining them up to make sure to have all the lights, once the final day had arrived, shining in a straight row. He’d debated whether to use oil or candles, and had decided to use olive oil, despite the fact that he had lit with candles in New York. “What is the point of being in a different place if I don’t use the opportunity to go higher in my service of Hashem?” he’d asked.
It had been a rhetorical question, but Esther took it very much to heart. She didn’t understand the difference between using candles or olive oil in a menorah, but she felt the connection between the oil in the menorah and the oil in the ancient menorah of the Beis Hamikdash. If Manny felt that he was going up in his spirituality, then it was good enough for her.
The real, non-rhetorical question was how she, too, could improve.
Here in Eretz Yisrael, what had been hidden in New York City was crystal clear: It was time for her to take davening seriously. She’d asked Manny if it was proper to daven in bed, and to her dismay, he’d started to laugh.
“Why do you need to know that?” he’d asked, clearly amused. “Since when do you daven?” The moment he looked over at her and didn’t see a smile he realized he’d made a blunder.
“I’m serious,” she’d said, not a hint of mirth on her face.
“I’ll ask the Rav tomorrow,” he’d replied, clearly chastened. “Is that all right with you? Can it wait until then?”
Mollified, she’d agreed, and Manny had returned with the response that if she was lying in bed for health purposes she could nevertheless daven to Hashem, also with the suggestion that the room be neat and orderly if possible.
She’d gotten started quickly after that, but was shocked to find herself stumbling over words she thought she knew. She labored over her davening, taking the time to try to understand the meaning of the prayers, to understand what she was saying.
If her condition hadn’t been so serious and fraught with worry and concern, she might have thought that it was actually a blessing. Never in her life had the words of tefillah been so meaningful to her. Even the Birkas Hamazon, which she, to her shame, had often rattled off without much thought, had become laden with import.
Now she looked forward to bentching, slowly and carefully, enunciating each word as she had been taught by Mima Faiga, instead of speeding along, and what a difference it made. She wondered now, hindsight being what it is, what she was so busy with at home that she could only rarely find the time to bentch properly. She wondered if, as a mother, she would be able to maintain her newly discovered reverence for the words of prayer that were her only companions now.
“Are you ready, Esther?” Manny asked, holding the beeswax shamash in his hand. “I’m about to make the brachos.”
“I’m ready,” she replied.
“Baruch Atah,” Manny began, the sound of his voice filling the room with warmth.
“Amen,” she said out loud when he had finished the brachah, but softly, her thoughts envisioning their home next year at Chanukah time.
To be continued . . .