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ISSUE 8A VOLUME 1

03/25/2020 05:59:25 PM

Mar25

Shmuli Fischman

Fiction

"PROTECTION"

He was nervous. Of course he was nervous. The incessant gnawing at his nails might have been a dead giveaway. Or maybe it was his leg, shaking north and south and east and west like a yeshiva guy trying and failing to keep himself awake in the beis medrash

He checked the room to make sure everything was perfect. And everything needed to be perfect. His suit was tailored to perfection, which wasn't easy to do given all the restrictions. His shoes--black leather with a red sole he had attached himself, all in a vain attempt to assuage his own vanity--were perfectly complemented by his leather belt and just-colorful-enough-but-not-too-colorful socks. 

Leibodik, but not too leibodick. This was a yeshiva event after all. 

He stood up and appraised himself in the mirror yet again, making sure that the notes he had carefully arranged were still singing out to him and were certain to sing to others as well. What in fact would be the point of all this sartorial harmony if no one was there to hear and see it? 

Satisfied, he bent down to retrieve the item that brought it all together: the coveted black hat. This was not your father’s black hat, long in the rim and deep in the brow. 

No, sir. 

This hat was small in stature and stout in appearance. It was refined and an upgrade to those large black hats of yesteryear. It was, he thought mischievously, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. 

Satisfied that everything was in place, he sat back down on the sofa and waited. Surely they would come for him soon. 

Finally, a loud knock on the door resembling the kickback of two shotgun blasts. Truth is, he had never fired a gun or shotgun or engaged in manual labor of any kind, but he was as confident in that sound being akin to a shotgun as he was about his future health later on that evening.

Not because he knew he would be OK, but because he was TOLD he would be ok. That would be enough, he believed. His Abba always said it mattered more what you believed than what you actually do. Anyone can do anything, his father had always asserted. Give a person enough time and energy and they can accomplish any task. But to believe something, his Abba intoned, to truly believe something and go as far as that belief takes you, well, that is truly awe inspiring.

On cue, his father strode in, with clear direction and purpose. Always on a mission, that one. 

"Are you ready?"

He jumped up. 

"Absolutely."

"Good. Grab your kittel and let's go. We are already late."

"Abba?"

"Yes?"

“I’m a little nervous. I know I shouldn't be. I know it. But I am.” He turned away ashamed as his father looked at him with curiosity. 

Abba was surely expecting this from his son. The boy was always confident and swaggering until the last moment. Then, the doubts come roaring in like the tide after Kiddush Levana

Abba walked over to him. 

"Listen, I know you are scared and I know you think this is wrong. But let me ask you something."

"Anything.”
“Do you trust me?"

"Of course, Abba!"

"Then trust I would never do anything to hurt you or your beautiful kallah or your wonderful Savta or your incorrigible Bubby, all of whom are waiting for you downstairs so we can start the Chasana. I was told it was going to be OK, and I believe it. Besides," he said, softly touching my black hat, "you have all the protection you need."

"I understand, Abba"

"Excellent. I will see you downstairs in two minutes."

Abba turned and left, leaving him standing alone with his thoughts near the white sofa with the gold trim, focusing on what needed to be done. 

After a few minutes, resolved and mentally prepared, he stood up and reached for his kittel when his eye caught the reflection of the TV that was on mute in the far corner of the room. 

There were pictures of hasidim, young and old, rich and poor, lining up to get tested and diagnosed. There were reports that Williamsburg, Borough Park and Crown Heights were now the epicenter of the virus that he was told repeatedly was nothing to worry about. Yet here was a news station Abba said he could trust, reporting that all of those who were told they would not be infected were in fact now infected. 

This was a test, he thought. Just a test, nothing more. A test to ascertain his resolve on what he believed, not on what he saw in real life. He knew it because he believed it. Because his Abba told him. And that was enough. 

Smiling the smile of certainty, he adjusted his black hat once again, rubbing it as if a talisman above his head, and made for the door.

By: Shmuli Fischman

Mon, March 30 2020 5 Nisan 5780