Elchanan Goldstein lifted his head from his gemara and looked around the room. Were people clearing out? It couldn’t be time to go already – Huh. Taka. First seder was over. Sharing an amused grin with his chavrusa, Shraga, whose ability to get engrossed matched his own, Elchanan finished his thought as he slowly closed his sefer.
“You hear what I’m saying, though? L’maaseh, it’s nisht pashut to hold like that. If you’re gonna say that way, it would totally change pshat in Tosfos!” Shraga nodded thoughtfully. “I hear, I hear.” He looked sidelong at his chavrusa as he packed up his belongings. Elchanan always had the most compelling way of working through a sugya. He would never admit it himself or let anyone else say it – Shraga knew, he had tried multiple times – but Elchanan was truly a first-class talmid chacham.
The friends walked across the big dirt lot to their cars, seguing into Yom Tov thoughts as they went. “Are you being home this year or you’re joining the gantze mishpacha ?” Elchanan inquired as they reached his car.
“Going to the shvigger , as usual,” Shraga replied with a good-natured sigh. “And you? Any family coming?”
Elchanan walked around the rusted hood of his 2002 Buick Century to open the right side door – the left had been jammed for months – and gingerly laid his seforim on the back seat. “Yes, im yirtzeh Hashem, my wife’s parents will be joining; you know, it’s hard for them to make Yom Tov at this point.”
With a wave, he pulled away, leaving Shraga coughing in a clouded mixture of dust, exhaust fumes and a puff of curious smoke that the Goldstein mobile had been emitting for weeks.
Shraga watched Elchanan go with a sense of awe and astonishment combined: how could his friend so peacefully and calmly go about his daily learning with Yom Tov approaching – and company to boot – and no money to pay for it?
“Tatty’s home!” Little Bentzy Goldstein ran to the door, greeting his father with a huge smile and a leap into his arms.
Shirale followed suit, galloping down the hallway, arms outstretched with an exuberant, “Yayyy!”
After receiving their due hugs and kisses, the two children scampered off to the playroom where Shira resumed her lecture to Bentzy, instructing him on the finer points of life. After all, as an experienced 4-year old, it was her duty to pass on her knowledge to her younger brother.
“And then Tatty comes down the steps in his be-au-tiful new suit, with a fancy new hat, and shiny shoes, and picks up his lulav and esrog and takes them off to shul. And you’re wearing your handsome new clothes and I’ll have my stunning Shabbos robe, and then Mommy will bentch licht. And later, we’ll all go out to the be-a-u-tiful sukkah and eat a heaven, scrumptious meal! It’s really just the best, Bentzy, I’m telling you,” Shira sighed in contentment.
Bentzy listened, enraptured, but he wasn’t the only captive audience to Shirale’s tales. Mrs. Shuli Goldstein, standing just outside the door frame, bent her head and squeezed her eyes shut in prayer. If only, if only a Yom Tov like that would be possible…
Shraga closed the door gently and looked surreptitiously around the hall. The coast was clear. With a smile of relief, he walked briskly back to the beis medrash and slid into his spot across from Elchanan.
“Ah, you’re back, gevaldig!” Elchanan beamed, and, composed as always, picked up right where they had left off.
Shuli’s eyes filled with tears as she gazed gratefully around her cozy sukkah , suffused with warmth despite the chill in the air.
The delicious chicken on the center platter, the beautiful new robes that adorned her daughters with grace, the handsome pants that fully covered her mesivta bochur’s growing legs…it was so much more than she imagined, it was almost too much to take in.
“Shuli, zeeskeit,” her mother whispered, leaning in to speak directly in Shuli’s ear. “I must tell you all the nachas that Tatty and I are getting from you. Look at this sheyne family, and your gem of a husband. Shuli, we see big things coming from him, you should know.”
Shuli knew. Their life – it might have its stresses, sometimes, but whose didn’t? And the reward…the sweetness of knowing that her husband was fully immersed in Torah, the values that their lifestyle imparted to their children, the chashivus of having yeshiva as the backdrop to their everyday life…she knew that she was simply blessed. And then to be gifted such a wonderful Yom Tov on top of everything? Shuli’s heart was filled with gratitude and joy.
Up in Shamayim, the malachim watched the scene with tickled expressions.
“It’s so funny, the World Down There,” said one to the other. “The Goldsteins are sitting there, feeling full of gratitude for a monetary donation…It was wonderful, to be sure, but think of the people on the other side.”
“They don’t realize how much they’re benefitting from the learning of Rav Goldstein every day of the year! And that’s much more than a financial gain – it’s a spiritual one.”
The other malach nodded in agreement. “One day, they’ll see who really benefitted from that donation. One day…”