After much preparation, Esther departs by ship for Eretz Yisrael. The scene is emotional, especially between her and Mima Faigy. She tells Mutty to take care of everyone.
As soon as Manny heard that Esther was on her way, he swung quickly into action. He scoured every available residence in the city to find the best home for himself and Esther. He found it, eventually, tucked behind Rehovot Bucharim, on a small pathway called Chaim Parchi Street. He thought long and hard about renting a home near the Kosel Hamaaravi, but after his experience there, he was afraid. He thought it would be best if they were out of harm’s way. His walks took him to some very out-of-the way places, but when he saw the structure on Chaim Parchi, a large stone building with a courtyard and a large garden, he was smitten. He loved it and he hoped Esther would too. It wasn’t as large as their apartment in New York, but it was a well-kept cottage with its own entrance. There was a shuk nearby where she could shop for essentials, and he hoped it would be all right.
He was uncertain whether to procure furnishings or to wait until she came and furnished it herself. He decided that the shock of walking into a completely empty home would be too much for her so he went to a carpenter he knew of in the Old City, and ordered some basic furniture: two beds, an armoire, a table and four chairs. With these basics taken care of, he knew she could do any decorating she wanted. He also ordered linens, blankets and pillows, which he hoped would be ready in time for her arrival.
Underneath all of the frenetic activity, he questioned himself a thousand times over. Was he doing the right thing? Would Esther ever really adjust? He didn’t know. His only thought was that this seemed to be the right thing to do. They had to make a change. With Papa expecting him to divorce, he felt it was a good idea to be out of the way until Papa realized that he intended to spend the rest of his life with Esther, no matter what. His midnight talk with Zayit had made him realize that he had to treat Esther much better than he had in the past. He felt like he was now starting all over, in a new place, under new circumstances. How often, he wondered, do people get a real second chance to start over? He promised himself that this time, he would treat Esther like the queen she was.
He dropped by the carpenter’s workshop every day until finally the furniture was ready. He hired a wagon, and between himself and the wagon driver and the carpenter they managed to get everything loaded. Hoping to only make one trip, he stopped by the dried goods store and yes, his linens had arrived. He piled them carefully in between the cracks and crevices of the packed-in furniture and they drove off to the Rothsteins’ new home.
He and the wagon driver unloaded everything into the new home, and Manny made sure to give the right baksheesh. He had chosen the lightest and airiest room to place the beds in. He lined the armoire along the far wall. It was a tight fit, but he’d measured well and the room looked livable. As he went to get the linens, he realized he’d forgotten to order mattresses. He’d have to make another trip after all, but he didn’t really mind.
He set up the table and chairs, and covered the table with a lovely cloth the dry goods storekeeper had thrown in. Yes, everything looked nice. Looking around the bare room, he wondered what he could do to make it look homier and as he eyed the walls, he knew that a painting or a tapestry would be just the thing. He had spotted a weaver working out of a tiny stall in the Shuk Bucharim and wondered if he would have something Manny could hang up on the wall that would look familiar to Esther and help her to feel welcomed and at home.
He hurried down the street, locking the door behind him this time, towards the shuk. The stall was open, and Manny sat down on the chair next to the large loom to speak with the weaver. He was starting to get the hang of dealing with people from an entirely different culture and he knew that if he just barged in there and asked for what he wanted, the chances weren’t too good that he would get it. He accepted a tiny cup of hot, thick, sweet coffee and sat quietly watching the weaver move his nimble fingers amid the threads. A half hour went by before he even bothered to say anything, and that was only when the weaver looked up from his work.
After explaining, in as few awkward words in Hebrew as he could manage, what he was looking for, the weaver nodded and stepped back into some mysterious storage space he had back there. He came out after a while with a long rolled piece of tapestry and held it tightly in his hands. Manny waited.
The weaver slowly unrolled the tapestry, and when it was finally open, the sight of it took Manny’s breath away. For woven in careful threads of gold and silver was a stunning crown, topped with jewels of red and green and sapphire. And beneath it were the words with which every Jewish husband honors his wife on Friday night: Eishes Chayil Mi Yimtza.
To be continued . . .