Victory Gardens – Chapter 106

Novel

Manny is rescued by Rabbi Levin. He tells Esther what has been happening, and she is understanding and supportive.

*   *   *

Zayit was surprised to find a young man standing at his door with a folded note in his hand.

“I’m supposed to wait for a reply,” he said.

“Who is it from?”

The messenger shrugged, so Zayit opened up the note and read the unfamiliar handwriting.

“My wife and I would like to invite you and Mrs. Zayit for Shabbat at our home. Yours, Manny Rothstein.”

Zayit smiled at the note, pleased that Rothstein had found a way to contact him. He invited the messenger in and gave him a glass of water while he composed a reply.

“Thank you so much, but I am afraid I cannot take you up on your offer at the present time. I will be in touch when it will be possible. With blessings, Shlomo ben Meir Zayit.”

He refolded the paper, handed it back to the messenger and gave him a coin for his trouble.

After the messenger left, Orna Zayit came out with a cup of tea for the two of them. “Who was that?” she asked.

“It was a messenger from Manny Rothstein.”

“Mutty’s brother?”

“Yes.”

“How did he find you?”

“I don’t know. It must have taken some doing.”

“What did he want?”

“He and his wife extended an invitation to come to them for Shabbat.”

“Oh! What did you say?”

“I couldn’t very well accept. They have not yet merited to have a child.”

“So they shouldn’t have guests either?” said Orna.

“Under other circumstances I’d agree with you. But I was uncomfortable to share our happy news.”

Orna sighed. “Of course you are right. In any case, it would be tiring to spend Shabbat away from home.”

Orna returned to her tasks. Zayit took out a sefer and began to learn. During a break, his mind drifted to the Rothstein brothers and how they were faring. Mutty had sent a letter describing Papa’s condition, and describing how upset he was that his mother and sister-in-law had kept the truth hidden from him and his brother. Zayit had written back with what he hoped were words of comfort, and with advice on how Mutty could care for his father. He decided it would be good to stop in on Manny and his wife in any case, and resolved to visit the next time he was in Yerushalayim.

*   *   *

That opportunity came a week later, when Zayit went to Yerushalayim to pick up some herbs for Orna at the Oplatka pharmacy near the Machane Yehuda shuk. He answered Mr. Oplatka’s questions about his wife’s health. As the pharmacist listened, his eyebrows rose.

Seeing that, Zayit took a sharp breath. He couldn’t bear the thought of his wife having any kind of difficulty.

“It’s possible that her blood pressure is rising. If that happens, it could be very dangerous and you must bring her to the hospital immediately.”

“Can you give me what I need to control her blood pressure, just in case?” asked Zayit.

The pharmacist hesitated. “I don’t want to worry your wife unnecessarily. There are symptoms you should watch out for.”

“I’ll only take the medicine out if I notice a problem.”

“Very well, then. I trust you, Zayit.”

“With good reason,” answered Zayit. “I am a trustworthy man.”

*   *   *

It took awhile to locate Rothstein’s home, but there weren’t many well-to-do Anglos trotting around Yerushalayim,  so it was easy to describe him and therefore locate him. He knocked on the door and pulled on the handle, surprised to find it locked.

“Who’s there?” came a voice from inside the house.

Zayit could barely reply, he was so surprised. Was this some American habit he was unaware of? In Eretz Yisrael the custom was to knock, as prescribed by halachah, and then enter. Nobody ever asked who it was; it was assumed that the visitor was a friend.

“It’s Zayit. Shlomo Zayit.”

Manny opened the locks he had installed and flung open the door, smiling when he saw Zayit on the doorstep.

“It’s so good to see you,” he said. “Come in, come in.”

He ushered Zayit inside and then resealed the locks behind him. Noticing Zayit’s questioning expression he grinned sheepishly. “It’s a long story,” said Manny.

“I see,” said Zayit, settling himself down. “I’ve got plenty of time.”

To be continued . . .