Holiday Tales for the Soul
A famous novelist retells classic stories with passion and spirit
By Yair Weinstock
Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
I promise you, they’ll be out in a week. I give you my word as a lawyer, and that’s something you can depend on. This time, I’m serious. They’ve crossed the limit. What nerve! I’ve already spoken to Motti Lakish from the municipality. They’ve broken a city law regarding the residents’ hours of rest. Don’t worry, I’m going to throw the book at them and chase them out of here. All the best to you.” He hung up.
Attorney Yoram Leiber returned the cell-phone to his pocket. Then he took a long, deep breath that filled his lungs, and exhaled violently. The nerve of those people! It gave him no rest, day or night.
Right here in his neighborhood, opposite his very own house, they were planning to build a shul!
Construction had not yet begun. Had the builder put up a sign saying, “A synagogue will be erected here,” Leiber and his neighbors would have had his head on a platter almost before the paint was dry. A shul in their luxury neighborhood in North Tel Aviv? Out of the question!
But the shul’s founders had not put up a sign. This is the way it happened.
A few weeks previously, a well-known figure had visited their neighborhood. He was a famous ba’al teshuvah and a popular speaker. In the course of a single speech, he managed to capture the hearts of thirty young people, who discovered in themselves an inexplicable and raging spiritual thirst. They had allowed the man to cut off their ponytails and had handed over their earrings, recited the Shehecheyanu blessing, and put on tzitzis.
Everyone else had been sure it was all a show. Tomorrow, the ponytails would begin to grow again, the tzitzis would be relegated to the backs of closets, and the earrings would return to the ears, noses, and even tongues of their former wearers. But today, twenty-seven out of the thirty penitents still remain firm in their desire to change their lives. They even decided to build a shul in their neighborhood — without bothering to ask their elders’ opinion on the matter.
In the meantime, the group began to haunt the deserted community youth center. To the dismay of Yoram Leiber and his neighbors, sounds of prayer wafted from the center’s windows — the very sounds that he and the others had fled to North Tel Aviv to escape.
Yoram did not believe his ears. Going in person to see for himself, he had found no mirage or hallucination, but a real contingent of the area’s finest youth. Avi, Gadi, Rami, Miki and many others — sons of his own closest friends — had hurried to the youth center to attend prayer services.
Yoram felt ready to explode. “A flame has passed through the cedars,” he thought fleetingly, quoting from the very Bible he had spurned. He despised the Torah’s traditions, and hated all religious symbols. The expression that had leaped to his mind predicted the cedars’ doom by the devouring sword of flame. Yoram was determined that this would not happen. He rummaged in his mind for a different expression to describe the situation, and came up with, “Rot and decay are spreading among us.”
The words comforted him and made him smile for the first time in hours. Yes, it was all rot and decay, remnants of primitive rituals from earlier times that had no place in modern society. The mere thought of those rituals in his own upscale neighborhood sent his blood pressure soaring.
As he had promised his friends and neighbors, Yoram spared no effort — much of it during his own office hours — to find a legal loophole that would ban the shul from the site. To his fury, the law seemed to fall on the side of the youths. According to the law of the State of Israel, if community members wish to erect a synagogue, the authorities are obligated to let them do so. Twenty-seven young people had requested a shul.
Yoram studied the youth center’s documents to see whether the shul would run counter to the founder’s wishes. But he learned that there had been no single founder: The community center had been built by the city government. The building had stood abandoned for two years, ever since a larger and more attractive center had been erected on a nearby street. The Tel Aviv municipality had no choice: It was required to provide the young group with a place to pray.
That Friday night, Yoram ground his teeth in chagrin as the melodic strains of Lechah Dodi poured from the center’s windows. He was angry enough to burst at the seams. Let those black-clad fools emigrate to Brooklyn, where they belonged!
He had a miserable headache already, and it was bound to get worse. If only those confounded ba’alei teshuvah would stop singing!
l l l
But the “fools” not only kept singing, they sang louder and even more energetically. And one night, Yoram heard a call that shattered the quiet of his living room. More accurately, with his television blaring the room was not exactly quiet, but that was Western culture and therefore acceptable. What he was hearing now was a very different sort of call.
The wheels in Yoram Leiber’s head began to turn. The mere word carried strong religious overtones, but he was not sure what it meant.
He did not have to wait long to find out. Within minutes, Avi, Rami, Gadi and the others came running, large black yarmulkas on their heads and tzitzis flying. In the community center, the lights were already blazing and voices were raised in song.
“I will give them something to think about,” Yoram fumed to his wife, Reumah. “There is a city ordinance protecting citizens’ rest after 11 at night. What time is it?”
“Ten-thirty. Why?” Reumah asked drowsily. Her husband’s religious battles held little interest for her.
The Selichos services continued, night after night, for a full month (as is the Sephardic custom). The young group of newly-observant Jews worked hand-in-hand with a reputable legal adviser who guided their activities. All of Yoram’s scrambling through the law books yielded no results. He quickly saw that the religious group was being guided by a man who knew no less about the law then he himself did. If not for his placid wife, to whom he was able to pour out his venomous feelings from time to time, Yoram would undoubtedly have succumbed to a heart attack or stroke. He swallowed a great many pills for his rocketing blood pressure and spent his free time cursing the religious Jews in the world who would not leave him alone and had come to ruin his own peaceful corner of the globe.
He had run all the way to North Tel Aviv just to escape the religious — and here they were, pursuing him like a shadow.
l l l
Yoram had imbibed hatred of religion together with his mother’s milk. Ever since he could remember, he had been taught that religious people were the source of all the world’s troubles. At first, he had had no idea who those people actually were, as there were none to be seen on the kibbutz on which he had been raised. But his father had been quick to correct that. Every time he saw a picture of ultra-Orthodox people engaged in a demonstration of some kind, he would hasten to explain to his only son, “You see, here are the ‘blacks.’”
As a child, this kind of talk had seemed natural. One was supposed to hate the Orthodox, whose extremism caused all kinds of problems. As he grew older, however, Yoram was a little surprised. His father had never spoken with such pathological hatred about the Arabs who threatened their tiny State. He was always quick to find ways to understand or forgive them. It was only the religious Jews who earned his scorn. Yoram became curious to learn the source of his father’s deep hatred.
One evening, his parents had a serious talk with him. The talk continued long into the night, and left them all with eyes reddened from weeping.
His father and mother had revealed that Yoram was not their natural son, but an adopted one.
At once, he had asked for details about his birth parents. His parents’ reaction had been swift and hard.
“That’s why we hate the religious,” his father had burst out. “Do you know what they are capable of? We found you in a garbage dumpster — all of one day old!”
“What?” Yoram had shrieked in surprise. “That’s impossible. Parents don’t throw a day-old baby into the garbage!”
“Normal parents don’t,” his father had replied grimly. “But religious parents who already have twelve children at home — they certainly do throw them away! We found you tossed on top of the rubbish, wrapped in rags and crying weakly. Your mother and I happened to be passing the hospital when we found you. We took you inside and demanded to know who was responsible for this outrage. The hospital conducted an inquiry and informed us that you had been born to ultra-Orthodox parents who already had a dozen or possibly even thirteen children at home. They could not afford to feed another mouth, so they threw you into the dumpster, like a watermelon rind or a piece of dirt.”
“Now do you understand why we hate the religious so much?” his mother had asked. “At that moment, your father and I decided to adopt you and to give you everything we could, a wonderful life. But from then on we also despised those creatures who are capable of doing such a thing to their own flesh and blood.”
Yoram had sobbed all that night. Shock and confusion left their mark for many days afterward. When the first emotional scars began to heal, Yoram was left with an enduring bitterness. A profound hatred of his birth parents gnawed at him constantly. Later, this personal hatred transformed itself into a generalized hatred of all religious Jews. He loathed the entire ultra-Orthodox community that could allow such horrible people to flourish among them, and wished he could poison the whole lot of them!
l l l
Attorney Yoram Leiber planned to stay at an Eilat hotel over the Rosh Hashanah holiday. He had already made reservations for himself and his wife in a luxury suite, and purchased a pair of round-trip airline tickets. He would spend these “High Holy Days” as far away as possible from the gang of fools in the community youth center. Otherwise, he felt, he would go mad from their mournful prayer melodies.
On Erev Rosh Hashanah, Yoram and his wife made their way to the small Sdei Dov airport. Reumah had been ready for an hour or more, but Yoram, immersed in a complex legal brief he wanted to finish before he left home, put off their departure first for 10 minutes, then another five, and then five more.
The delay proved his downfall. Their car got stuck in a long traffic jam, and by the time they began to crawl forward again Yoram knew that they had missed their flight. Nonetheless, he continued on to the small airport — only to learn, to his extreme frustration, that the plane had been delayed on the ground for three-quarters of an hour, and had lifted off just two minutes earlier!
“They couldn’t wait for us?” he fumed. “Well, they don’t know with whom they’re dealing. I’ll show them. Reumah, we’re staying home for the holiday, and the hotel won’t see a penny from me. According to paragraph 14 of the relevant law, there is no obligation for a guest to pay a hotel or motel before he benefits from its hospitality.”
An airline official tried to calm him. “We are trying to arrange an additional flight,” he said. “It would be worth your while to remain here.”
“I’m not interested!” Yoram screamed, and returned to the parking lot with his wife trailing behind.
The other latecomers took off on the additional flight about 90 minutes later. Stubborn Yoram Leiber stayed home, nose in a heavy legal textbook.
Out of habit, he strained his ears that night to hear the familiar Selichos tunes. Instead, from the hated building came strains of a completely different holiday melody. After the service, he saw streams of young people leave the building with radiant faces. They shook one another’s hands warmly and wished each other a blessed new year.
Yoram felt something painful twist in his heart. When had he ever had the chance to stand outside like that and exchange heartfelt good wishes, his face glowing and filled with emotion? What did he have, apart from legal wrangles and courtroom debates?
For that matter, when had he last strolled like that among friends, chatting together in this relaxed fashion? Did he even have any friends?
After a restless night, he woke early the next morning, put on his jogging clothes, and went out for a run. His legs took him past the youth center. He moved determinedly away — only to find himself running back in that direction. This happened again and again. “It’s a good thing no one’s here to see me,” he thought with a wry inner laugh. “I must look like a pendulum on a clock, going back and forth, back and forth.”
The shofar blast hit him with shocking suddenness. It made his heart stand still, the way the siren does at wartime.
Without any warning, the sound of the shofar rent the air with a sound he was hearing for the first time in his life. First a long wail, followed by shorter bursts. Yoram began to shake like a leaf in the wind.
He danced about on uncertain feet for a moment, moving as if in a dream. Later, he would describe the sensation as follows: “It was as if an electric shock ran right through me. A powerful current burned my entire body!”
Attorney Yoram Leiber, the sturdy battle-horse who squeezed blood from his opponents in court without mercy, found himself shaken and terrified at the sound of the shofar.
On second thought, it was not an electric current. It was much more than that — something enormously more powerful. The sound wove a spell over him, toppling the defensive wall that Yoram had built on the night his adoptive parents told him of his origins. A day-old infant, tossed onto the garbage-heap!
His legs carried him into the shul. On a conscious level, he wanted to scream at the ba’alei teshuvah for disturbing their neighbors’ peace with their infernal trumpeting. Secretly, he also wanted to see what the place looked like on the inside.
The shul was filled to capacity. There were many more than twenty-seven people present. Some of them wore festive white clothing. An atmosphere of holy seriousness permeated the room. A few children pointed at Yoram and giggled. He became angry at first, and then blushed in confusion. The children were right: the contrast between the others’ holiday garb and his own jogging suit was laughable.
His gaze swept the worshipers, seeking the one who had managed to produce those awesome sounds he had heard. The sheer technique astounded him.
The other men saw him, but did not stare or embarrass him. They let Yoram make his way along the rows of seats until he came to an empty chair and sank into it. He gazed with open curiosity at the instrument that had made the sounds.
“That’s a shofar,” one of the children told him.
“Shofar? I’ve never heard that word.”
“It’s just a ram’s horn,” the children said, amazed at his ignorance.
No philharmonic orchestra had ever produced such an emotional storm in him. Soon, the “musician” picked up the ram’s horn and began to blow it once again. Yoram was nearly swept away by the same powerful feelings he had experienced outside. On the one hand, he was furious at being unable to express his opposition to these rituals and the tremendous noise they made. But, at the same time, with each new shofar blast he felt as though something was melting inside him.
His eyes followed the blower, but he could not see the man’s face. A tallis covered it almost completely.
Very quietly, Yoram stood up and left the shul.
l l l
“They say that this lake is full of crocodiles.”
“So what? They say a lot of things.”
“And what will you do if you suddenly feel a croc’s teeth sinking into your leg? They say it feels like an electric shock.”
“Are you trying to scare me? I have some repellant spray with me.”
The sounds of revelry might have belonged to children of 10, but they actually belonged to a group of young secular Jews whose average age was 22. They were newly released from army service and had decided to take the almost obligatory trip to the Far East. Yet another group of Israelis who had chosen to abandon a living wellspring to dig in empty pits.
Gabi, Oron, and Tommy were spending some time in Singapore, in Southeast Asia. They had arrived six months before and extensively toured that country, where poverty and wealth existed side by side. The young men tried to learn the local customs as they resolutely ignored a rising tide of emptiness. To divert themselves, they dreamed of traveling on to Tibet and climbing Mount Everest — a dream they all knew would not become a reality. Meanwhile, they killed time with reckless contests and pointless feats of daring. Now, arriving at this small lake, they dived in at once despite the large sign warning of danger in five different languages, along with a picture of a dangerous-looking crocodile that even the youngest child could understand.
“Hey, chevrah, are you nuts?”
The three Jewish youths stopped spraying each other with water and looked curiously at the figure that had come running up to the lakeshore.
“Mazal tov, we’ve found another Israeli!” Tommy said with a condescending grin. “Hey, guys, let’s get him to come close to the edge and then pull him into the water!”
“He looks religious,” Gabi complained. “Do those guys follow us even all the way out here?”
The man did, indeed, look religious. He was young, with a short blond beard and long tzitzis hanging down either side of his trousers. In his hand was a small sefer. Coming closer to the lake, he called urgently, “Get out of the water! A month ago, an American tourist was devoured right here by a whole school of crocodiles!”
“We’re not afraid,” Oron said nonchalantly.
“You’d better turn around,” the young religious man warned. “Take a look at what’s coming at you. Maybe then you’ll reconsider.”
The three glanced over their shoulders, and began to shriek in panic. A group of large crocodiles was swimming their way at a rapid clip. They were ominously silent, and their eyes were evil.
Spurred by terror, the three young men swam for shore with all possible speed. To their good fortune, the crocodiles had still been far-off when the stranger had spotted them, and the trio managed to clamber ashore and escape at a sprint before the crocodiles reached them.
Five years can pass in a person’s life without any experiences that are out of the ordinary — and sometimes, just two or three minutes can leave their mark, changing him forever. The two minutes that it had taken the young adventurers to swim ashore were the second kind. With stunning suddenness, they sensed the profound emptiness of the lives they were leading. They understood the deep feeling of nothingness that had led them into this sort of foolish and dangerous escapade.
“You — you saved our lives,” they panted as they stood beside the stranger. “It’s as if you were brought here by invitation.”
The man shook their sodden hands and said, “I believe that Heaven sent me here to save you. I’ve been traveling through this area, searching for Jews to come join us in shul on the holiday tomorrow. Local residents mentioned that they had seen three young men jump into the lake. I understood at once that you must be Israelis. Only Sabras jump into a lake after being warned in five languages that doing so is to risk their lives. I see that I was right.” He paused. “Who are you?”
They introduced themselves: Gabi, Oron, and Tommy. The stranger then presented himself as Yerucham Shekedi. He told them that he had been staying in the area for several months now, and would soon be organizing a seminar for the many Israelis that passed through Singapore.
“Right now, though, the pressing issue is tomorrow’s holiday services at the shul. Will you join us?”
“What holiday is it?” they asked.
By this time, he was accustomed to the ignorance of secular Israeli youth, and did not crack so much as a smile. “Rosh Hashanah,” he said simply.
As the three hesitated, Yerucham chuckled, clapped them warmly on the shoulder, and urged, “Come on. Maybe you’ll learn something new!”
l l l
They came that night, bewildered and unsure of themselves. Uppermost in their minds was escape. But Yerucham and his friends quickly broke the ice and drew in the three secular young men.
That night, the three prayed for the first time in their lives.
The next morning, they came again for the long daytime service. They listened to explanations about the great Day of Judgment, about the shofar-blowing, and the three books that were opened on that day. They were entranced.
In silence, they soaked up Yerucham’s explanations. They thought about the significance of what they were hearing, and of the religion that had seemed so oppressive to them when they were growing up. Only today did they understand that they had been raised with lies about their own faith and unfounded hatred of their fellow Jews.
After the day’s Torah portion was read, the time came for the shofar to be blown. Oron and Tommy were beside themselves at the sound of the mighty blasts that shook the window panes. As for Gabi, he appeared to be hypnotized. He kept his eyes trained on the shofar without moving, utterly consumed by emotion. Several times, afterwards, he began to walk toward the table on which the shofar lay, and then retreated backward. Yerucham saw, and understood. He picked up the shofar, walked over to Gabi, and placed it in his hands.
Gabi stared at it for a moment, and then brought the shofar to his lips. An earsplitting blast rent the air. He tried again, and the second blast was even mightier than the first.
“He’s a born shofar-blower,” Yerucham thought. “Who knows how much Jewish talent is buried in the garbage-heaps? They need someone to set them free.”
Gabi seemed transfixed by the shofar. Carefully, he imitated the sounds he had heard the ba’al tokea produce: the teki’ah, shevarim, and teru’ah. It was strange to see the secular youth, with his long hair and his earring, lovingly stroke the shofar and succeed in making sounds that might have come from a seasoned ba’al tokea.
“Wait till I tell my father,” Gabi laughed happily. “He’ll never believe it.”
Then the laughter died, as he remembered how much his father, attorney Yoram Leiber, despised anything that smelled religious. “Maybe I won’t tell him,” he thought. “If he saw me in shul here today, listening to the shofar, he would probably have a heart attack on the spot. Actually, I don’t much care what he thinks. His rabidly anti-Jewish upbringing was so extreme that I reacted by actually liking religious Jews.”
His reflections continued. “Now, here’s an interesting thing. This instrument, this shofar as they call it, is drawing me like a magnet and I don’t understand why. I’ll have to check this out. After the service, I’ll talk to Yerucham. He’s been signaling that he can’t talk until he finishes praying.”
l l l
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Yoram Leiber woke up to find himself filled with curiosity. He must inspect that incredible shofar up close, and learn its secret. He waited until the morning service was over. Listening from outside, he heard the shofar blasts once again; again they moved him, though this time there was no element of surprise. When all the worshipers had gone home, Yoram slipped into the empty building with the stealthiness of a cat going after the cream.
He found the shofar taking pride of place on the table — but, to his surprise, it was not alone. Beside the table sat the “musician” who had blown it. Something about him troubled Yoram. The man sat looking into a big book and swaying gently as he hummed a low tune. Yoram wanted to turn and run. Then the man lifted his eyes and saw him.
“Did you want something?” he asked pleasantly.
“Nothing special,” Yoram blurted. “Uh, something interests me about your instrument. What do you call it, a shofar? By the way, what is your name, sir?”
“I am Rabbi Shaul Nahari.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m attorney Yoram Leiber. You’ve probably heard of me; I’m pretty famous in these parts. The religious folk don’t like me because I frequently fight them. You’re the musician, right?”
“Musician? I am the ba’al tokea. The shofar is not a musical instrument. It is a holy tool with which we perform a mitzvah.”
The rabbi picked up the pale gold shofar and showed it to Yoram. “This is the instrument that the Torah ordered us to blow on Rosh Hashanah, so that the Creator of the world will remember us favorably on the Judgment Day.”
This was the longest religious lecture Yoram had permitted himself to hear in his life. The rabbi noticed this, and smiled. “Is this your first time here?” he asked.
“Nice to meet you.” The rabbi extended a hand, letting waves of warmth flow out of him and straight into the lawyer’s heart. “Do you live in the neighborhood?”
“In the building opposite,” said Yoram. “Tell me, how did you learn how to play this so well? Do you practice, and is there special professional training?”
Rabbi Shaul broke into merry laughter. “Professional training? You must be joking!” He shook his head, still chuckling. “No, we are a family of shofar-blowers — seven unbroken generations of experienced ba’alei tokea. You might say it’s in our blood.”
R’ Shaul went on to tell Yoram about his father, R’ Tzvi Nahari, who had blown the shofar for sixty years before retiring. He described how he himself had been drawn to the shofar even as a young child, and how he had managed to blow it beautifully the very first time he had tried. His father had told him then, “That’s how it is in our family. The shofar is an inseparable part of who we are. Everyone in the Nahari family is a ba’al tokea from birth. It’s the sign of a Nahari son if he knows how to blow the shofar properly.”
“I myself,” R’ Shaul Nahari continued, “am in great demand as a ba’al tokea, and I’ve blown the shofar in many different shuls. I go from one shul to the next. This youth center in your neighborhood is my last stop for today — unless I am summoned again later to blow the shofar for some woman who has just given birth or something of that sort.”
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” Yoram asked. What had come over him? It wasn’t like him to invade another person’s privacy in this way.
R’ Shaul did not seem put out. “I have eleven brothers and sisters, bli ayin hara.” Then, almost as an afterthought, he added that he had once had a twelfth. “I had a twin brother,” he said sadly. “He disappeared from the hospital no more than two hours after birth. The doctors told my mother, ‘You had twin boys. One of them is alive and well, but the other died an hour ago. He had serious respiratory problems ... basically, he suffocated for lack of breath.’
“My mother did not believe them. She saw the nurses whispering among themselves constantly, and caught snatches: ‘Sara Nahari is naive, like all the Yemenites.’ ‘She’s easygoing.’ ‘There won’t be any scandal.’ That was back in the days when the State was new, and when ordinary citizens felt powerless to oppose the governing party. Basically, the government did whatever it pleased. Yemenite children were kidnapped from their parents and handed over to childless couples who wanted to adopt, in exchange for vast sums of money or political favors.
“My mother is elderly now, but she believes to this day that her son was adopted by a childless family, and that he is alive and well today. And she may be right. She cannot forget the baby that was born to her forty-eight years ago, while in the case of one who has died, the person does eventually leave one’s mind.”
Yoram had to control himself to keep from screaming. “Forty-eight years ago, you said?”
“I am 48 years old.” Yoram’s face had become pale as chalk. “Interesting ... What is your birthday?”
“The Hebrew date or the secular one?” This secular lawyer probably had no working knowledge of the Hebrew calendar.
“Actually, my family used to celebrate my Hebrew birthday,” Yoram Leiber said. “I was born on the 23rd day of Shevat, forty-eight years ago.”
R’ Shaul froze. “But that’s my birthday!”
“In which hospital were you born?” Yoram whispered. He felt as though he were a heartbeat away from fainting.
“Hadassah Hospital, in Jerusalem. In those days, it was on Rechov HaNeviim.”
Yoram stared at him. “My adoptive parents found me abandoned in a garbage dumpster in the courtyard of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, on Rechov HaNeviim!”
Their eyes met. With blinding suddenness, Yoram realized what had been subconsciously troubling him about the rabbi all along. Apart from the beard and yarmulka, there was an uncanny resemblance between them … as though they were identical twins. Was it possible?
His voice grew low and vicious. “Your mother no doubt could not bear the thought of raising a pair of twins, and threw one of them into the rubbish!”
Rabbi Shaul’s eyes bulged with anger. Gripping Yoram’s hand so hard that it hurt, he said between clenched teeth, “My mother, may she have a long life, grieves to this very day over that thirteenth child of hers, who was taken from her on the pretext that he had died of suffocation. For all these years, the rest of us have urged her to forget the infant she saw only once in her life, and enjoy the dozen other children who are alive and well, thank G-d. And you come along to talk this way? What kind of home were you raised in? Who taught you to hate like that?”
“My adoptive parents,” Yoram said, his breathing labored. He put a hand to his pounding head. “I — I’m stunned. I believe they filled me with lies all my life. The fact that they discovered me in a garbage dumpster is about as true as the fact that all religious people are primitive and coarse.” He looked up at the rabbi with agonized eyes. “But how will we ever know if I am really that lost son who was stolen from the hospital nursery? There might have been twenty babies born in Hadassah on that day.”
A broad smile lit R’ Shaul’s face. “First of all, I am surprised at you — a successful lawyer like you never once checked his adoption file to verify the story you were told. As a prominent attorney, you must have connections to the right offices where your adoptive parents’ lies can be exposed.” He handed Yoram the pale gold shofar. “But here is the best proof. If you are a Nahari son, you will know instinctively how to blow this.”
Tentatively, Yoram took the shofar. He stared at it, hesitating. R’ Shaul clapped him on the shoulder encouragingly. “Go on, give it a try.”
Yoram raised the shofar to his lips and blew.
The blast was tentative at first, then gathered strength until it flowed free and loud. Drawing confidence, Yoram blew a second time. This blast belonged to a seasoned ba’al tokea — a full-bodied sound that shook the walls. Yoram blew again and again, imitating the broken shevarim sounds and then the teru’ah, as he had heard R’ Shaul produce them. He blew as though he had been a ba’al tokea from birth.
Shaken, he lowered the shofar from his lips. “I don’t believe it!” he crowed, delighted. “I blew it just like you!”
Rabbi Shaul Nahari threw back his head with joyous laughter. “Yes, you blow exactly like me — because you are a Nahari, exactly like me.” He threw his arms around Yoram’s neck and hugged him. “Welcome to the family, attorney Yoram Leiber. Maybe it’s time to think of a different name … eh, Mr. Nahari?”
He grinned broadly, and winked at the stunned expression on Yoram’s face.
l l l
Gabi cradled the shofar tenderly all the way back from shul. Yerucham had given it to him as a gift, and already Gabi cherished it. Every few steps, he stopped to inspect the shofar, and at last he lifted it to his lips and blew into it. Passersby on the Singapore street turned their heads in astonishment, but Gabi ignored them.
He hugged the shofar close, feeling exalted. On his return home, he would mount this shofar in a place of honor in the living room. Let his father say what he would. His mother, Reumah, would probably back him up, and even his father — prominent attorney Yoram Leiber — would not toss the shofar away. After all, his father was always saying that you don’t throw things of value into the trash.