Victory Gardens – Chapter 60

Novel

Manny goes to speak with the Roshei Yeshivah about Mutty’s plans. He is stunned when the Rav suggests that he, too, remain.

*   *   *

He knows, thought Manny. How does he know we don’t have any children?

“No, we have not yet been zocheh to children,” he said, a little too loudly.

“Perhaps your wife would not mind joining you here,” continued the Rav.

“I don’t think so,” said Manny. “She’s quite happy where she is.”

“Are you sure about that? Perhaps a change would be good for both of you.” The rabbi placed his large, warm hand over Manny’s clammy one. “And it won’t be forever. Just for a few months, a year at most.”

“A year? Impossible!”

“Think about it,” continued the Rosh Yeshivah. “Send a telegram to your wife. She may end up surprising you.”

Manny saw that his brother had gotten up and walked away. He stood up and faced the Rav. “Please excuse us.”

The Rav stood up as well. “I’ll explain to your father. And please check with your wife about joining you here.”

“Okay,” said Manny without any enthusiasm.

The Rav nodded and smiled, and the two men shook hands.

“What was that all about?” Mutty asked as they walked out of the beis medrash.

Manny exhaled in frustration. “I can’t believe this.”

“What?” said Mutty.

“The Rav thinks it’s a good idea for me to stay here with you, said I should bring Esther over to join me!”

Mutty paused. “Well, look at it another way. If you’re here with me, then Papa can only communicate with you by telegram or letter.” Thinking about it again, Manny decided that Mutty had a point. And he could tell Papa what the Rav had said, that Mutty’s state of mind was precarious after the pogrom, and that his staying was the best way for him to heal.

He also suspected that Esther would be delighted about the prospect of coming to Eretz Yisrael. It was mainly the thought of his business that caused him to hesitate. He had worked so hard to build it up, and now it was a success. How could he let go of the years of hard work he had invested in it? How would they support themselves? He could, he realized, actually receive a sizeable amount of money if he sold now. They could live on the profits of the sale, and still have more than enough to start over upon their return.

Manny wished there was a window into his soul that he could look through and that would show him what he really should do. He was nearly 30 years old. Did he really want to sit in a noisy, smelly print shop for the next 50 years? Were there other options available to him? Was life all about caution and prudence, or was there room for challenge and change? What if he tried another business and didn’t succeed? Would he ever be able to overcome the regret?

He and Mutty were still walking back to the hotel as his mind filled with all these questions. He stopped walking and pulled out a small pencil stub and scrap of paper from his jacket pocket and began to jot down his thoughts so he would remember what they were. When they returned to the hotel, he’d pen a letter to Esther immediately, asking her opinion on all of these matters. Since he was of mixed opinion, he told himself he would do whatever she preferred this time, as opposed to following his own mind as he usually did. This way, if anything went wrong, he would not have to worry about incurring her disappointment.

He was surprised at how comfortable he was becoming with this potentially life-changing turn of events. He had his father to thank for this. Papa’s emunas chachamim was unwavering, and when a talmid chacham advised him, Papa bowed to daas Torah, even if it entailed very different actions or thoughts than he had had before. Manny had absorbed this ability, and it was a surprising grace-note in the symphony of personality that drove these two very successful businessmen.

It was this reason, and this reason only, that allowed Manny to even consider the idea. A month ago, if anyone had suggested he sell his business and relocate to the Holy Land, even temporarily, he’d have laughed — loudly — and declared the idea preposterous. And now here he was, giving it serious thought.

To be continued . . .