Divided Attention – Chapter 12

July 30, 2010

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 12 of a new online serial novel, Divided Attention, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday. Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © 2010 by Israel Bookshop Publications

Rafi’s eyes fluttered open. It wasn’t dark anymore and he heard voices from outside. He lay silently and listened to the distant noises, and, deciding that the coast was clear, he clambered out from behind the piles of junk and ran down the path leading to the street. Now he had to find the way home. Maybe Ima would prepare soup for him today…

Teeth chattering, he ran in the direction that seemed most probable to him. A group of well dressed people stood waiting at the nearby bus stop. The boy observed them all for a moment and chose an elderly woman who looked nicer than the rest. He walked over to her and stopped, waiting for her to notice him.

“Oh, my!” she suddenly exclaimed. “Why aren’t you wearing a coat on a day like this?”

Rafi saw no reason to answer the question. “How do I get from here to Kiryat Yovel?” he asked, blinking rapidly. His entire body trembled.

“You’re shaking all over!” she reprimanded. “What mother sends her child out like this on such a day?” A bus pulled up. “I think this bus will take you there; let’s ask the driver.” She tried to take Rafi’s hand but he evaded her grip.

The driver confirmed that indeed, he was headed for Kiryat Yovel. “You getting on, kid?” he asked Rafi.

“Yes, of course,” the woman said, patting Rafi’s shoulder. “You need this bus, right, dearie?”

“I have no money,” he mumbled. “Ronny left and didn’t give me…” He didn’t care that he was mentioning the older boy’s name. Nothing mattered anymore.

Oy vey, vey,” the woman clucked. “Poor girl! Tell this Ronny that that’s no way to behave!” She boarded the bus and Rafi followed her. “Punch once here for the girl,” she instructed the driver, proffering her bus card. “Wait, don’t go. I’m not coming with you.” She waved at Rafi and got off. Rafi wanted to tell her goodbye and to point out that he was a boy, not a girl, but his throat hurt so much that he just couldn’t get a single syllable out.

He sat huddled in his seat, leaning his head on the window. A truck rumbled along in the next lane. Rafi was unaware that by the time he’d awoken it was already ten o’clock a.m. and that now it was almost eleven. He also didn’t know that he had fever, and only felt a burning sensation rising in his neck and spreading to his cheeks.

When the bus reached the familiar stop on his street, he rose and debarked carefully, holding onto the handrail. The entire street danced around him and he didn’t understand why the cars were driving crookedly. He walked slowly along the sidewalk, goaded along by the knowledge that he had to get home fast so those people wouldn’t catch him.

Suddenly he saw the silver corrugated fence on his right side; despite his blurred vision he recognized it. It was the empty lot behind his house. That’s where he had played until a year ago, when the tractors came and began to dig there. Rafi, like most children, liked to sneak in behind the fence and watch the Arab construction workers—until he’d be discovered and chased away with threats and shouts.

Drops began spattering down from the sky and Rafi found an opening between two of the aluminum fence sections. He knew that he could get home from here, and even if he wouldn’t have the strength to climb on the mounds of dirt that separated the lot from his house, he could at least find shelter from the rain in the unfinished building. The Arab workers probably hadn’t come to work in this weather; they hadn’t been coming for at least two days already.

He began to descend into the lot, the wet mud sticking to his new shoes.


Ayala added the conversation with Pessy to the list of points she had written on the inside cover of her green journal. That was also related to school, wasn’t it? The problem was that their walk had taken place the night before, while in the journal, she was holding in the middle of Cheshvan, a month behind. Keep Reading…

Divided Attention – Chapter 11

July 22, 2010

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 11 of a new online serial novel, Divided Attention, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday.    Click  here for previous chapters.

Nava sat near the radiator, studying for her dinim test. Every so often she stopped and listened to the voices coming from the kitchen. It was unbelievable; it was almost one in the morning and her parents were both still up. That she was still up at this time was no great surprise; a high school student (baruch Hashem!) often goes to sleep late. But her parents? They were usually sleeping long before twelve!

But the serious discussion in the kitchen was obviously not taking Yael and Manny Cohen’s bedtime into consideration.

“Look,” Yael said as she poured milk into her husband’s third cup of coffee. “She didn’t just call out of the blue. She’s not prying for the sake of it. She’s talking about something specific, but trying to probe gently to see if it’s even an option.”

“Maybe she means their Danny?” Manny asked with a thread of hope in his voice.

“I don’t think so.” Yael set the coffee in front of her husband and sat down again. Unlike him, she sufficed with a cup of hot water and only a bit of sugar added to it. Coffee was not on her menu. “She’s talking about a child she met while at work.”

“Maybe it’s just a distraction? Maybe they want to go somewhere and leave their son here?”

“Do you want Danny to become another Yossele Schumacher? No, thanks.” Yael gave a bitter laugh as she stirred her water and sugar. “But I told you, I don’t think that’s the case anyway. She wasn’t asking about a three-year-old.”

“How old is the kid she’s talking about?”

“Eight, nine.”

“It could be nice, no?”

“I think that’s maybe a bit too old.” Yael thought about Nava. Wasn’t it hard enough for her with a nephew who was so different from her friends’ nephews? Would she be able to deal with a foster brother of the same type? Ugh. If it would work out in the first place. “It’s not like a little boy whom you can mold into whatever you want. This is a child who has been growing up in a warped lifestyle for several years already. It will be much harder to straighten him out.” Keep Reading…

Divided Attention – Chapter 10

July 16, 2010

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 10 of a new online serial novel, Divided Attention, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday.    Click  here for previous chapters.

It was freezing cold outside, and Ayala’s kitchen was a mess, but she spoke decisively into the receiver. “Okay, Pessy, let’s go.”

They bundled up and went out into the cold Jerusalem winter night. Ayala hoped that whatever it was that Pessy wanted to discuss, the conversation would be short and would require no more than one round around their cluster of buildings. She didn’t dare say anything abut her tired legs, lest it lead to another evening rendezvous tomorrow night.

“So, Ayala, it’s like this,” Pessy said calmly, sidestepping the puddles in her way. “A girl named Frankel has been suggested for my nephew from Bnei Brak.”

Ayala had a student named Frankel but she hardly assumed that that was whom Pessy was referring to. So what did she want from her?

“They heard that her younger sister is in your school. I made some inquiries. She’s your student, right?”

“I have a student by that name,” Ayala said, feeling the biting wind despite her coat. She shivered.

“So that’s it. The question is: what’s her problem?”


“Why is she by you?”

“Because Hashem sent her there,” Ayala replied simply. Uh-oh, that was not a good answer, because Pessy stopped in her tracks.

“I understand she wasn’t accepted to the good schools. Why?”

“Who said such a thing?” Ayala protested.



“Yes. If I ask you why she’s in your school, and you tell me because Hashem wanted or something like that, then that means you’re hiding something, and that something can be that she was just not accepted anywhere else.”

“Absolutely not,” Ayala replied. “I mean, I don’t know about it. I don’t know the reason why any of the girls are in our school.”

Pessy stared at her skeptically, and inadvertently stepped into a small puddle. “Impossible,” she declared. “You don’t know if she was one of the girls transferred from your old school or one of those not accepted anywhere else?”


“My sister will think you’re being evasive,” Pessy said snippily. “And to tell you the truth, I think so, too.”

Ayala was cold, but she was afraid that if she would tell Pessy that, it would be further “proof” that she was trying to avoid the subject. So she continued walking and just said with a small smile, “Nu, nu.”

“So am I right?”

“No,” Ayala replied, and then continued with uncharacteristic assertiveness.  “I’m telling you again, Pessy, I specifically asked that I not be told the reason for each girl’s attendance in our school; it’s not only Zahava Frankel. I think that is the girls’ basic right.”

Pessy continued clucking with her tongue with obvious disapproval, but to Ayala’s relief, she began to head back home. “So what should I tell my sister?” she asked, somewhat coldly, after two minutes of silent walking.

“That if it’s so important to her to know, she should try and find out somewhere else. I can’t help her.” Ayala hoped that it wouldn’t take long for Pessy to get over this. “What I can tell you,” she added with an appeasing smile, “is that the Frankel in my class is a wonderful student. You can tell your sister that, if it interests her.”

“How much time have we been walking?” was Pessy’s response.

“Something like fifteen-twenty minutes.”

Pessy wasn’t satisfied. “Not enough,” she said disappointedly. “I heard from the instructor at the exercise class I go to, that for the first forty minutes you walk, you don’t even burn any calories. So we didn’t really do anything.”

Ayala suppressed a yawn. But just then Pessy added, “But it’s too cold for me, so let’s go back in.”


That night was equally as cold and as dark on another Jerusalem street. Keep Reading…

End of “Endless” Story – Zucker Learns a Lesson

July 15, 2010

Thank you Chavi for a beautiful winning entry:

Within thirty seconds a father and his three sons had walked through the door. They looked up and asked if Silver and Zucker were waiting for a minyan. Their eyes lit up when they heard the response. They had just arrived back from England on a delayed flight and had not gotten to daven yet. Two minutes later a prestigious looking man walked in with the same question. He was a surgeon who had been stuck in a surgery with various complications that kept coming up. Another minute passed before two drenched yeshivah boys came in. They had gone to the north for the day and had gotten very lost on the way back and had been so nervous that they had completely forgotten to daven. In the next five minutes, eight of the nine assembled men kept glancing anxiously at the door. But Silver just smiled a reassuring smile.

And then, a young businessman walked in. He was excited to see the assembled minyan. He had worked extremely late that night in order to make a deadline and was going to daven by himself when he remembered that it was his father’s yahrtzeit.

Zucker’s mouth dropped open. It was less than ten minutes and eight other ordinary people with ordinary stories had walked in to complete their minyan. How had Silver known it would happen?
The next morning, after their early meeting, Zucker asked Silver to explain what had happened.

“Well, it’s nothing really unusual. When I was much younger, business was really bad for me. I couldn’t make ends meet. It was a tough life for me, and I felt like I needed to change something in my life.
Then, one Shabbos afternoon I went to the regular shiur that my rav gives before minchah. He told us a number of stories of how people had committed themselves to certain mitzvos and would never deviate from their commitment. He told us how these people’s lives were saved in miraculous ways, or how their lives simply improved. And, he mentioned how even in the most unlikely situations they were always able to fulfill that commitment. Whether it was kiddush levanah, saying tefillas haderech from a siddur, or simply having more kavanah while saying the brachah of Asher Yatzar.
I thought about that. I knew that I needed to commit myself to something.
You know how something will suddenly ‘hit home’ for you? Well, after minchah I sat down to say pirkei avos. I came across the mishnah ‘Al shlosha devarim ha’olam omeid. Al haTora, al ha’avodah v’al gemilus chasadim.’ That just resounded within me and I started to think. Torah. I’m not very good at that. Well, I can say tehillim and mishnayos. That’s what I was doing every day. But, if I can start to support Torah, now that would be a different direction I could take, but couldn’t afford. Avodah. Well, we all daven. I wanted something unique in that department. I was already working on my kavanah. And then it came to me. I would commit to always daven with a minyan. It was something I’ve tried to be careful about, but never committed to.

And so that is what I did. It wasn’t always easy, but with time things did in deed change. As I began to prosper, I took it upon myself to try and fulfill the rest of the mishnah to the best of my ability. I started to support Torah institutions and do various chasadim secretly.

Once I had made that commitment I’ve found that I never have to wait more than ten minutes for a minyan, no matter how unlikely the situation.”
Zucker was intrigued. Indeed, he needed help in his life to. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to finally settle down and start a family.
Silver noticed his thoughtful distraction throughout the rest of their trip. He, also, was not surprised at Zucker’s new commitment to davening with a minyan.

He was, however, just as surprised as everyone else, when four months later Zucker had gotten engaged.

And the real ending…

Keep Reading…

Divided Attention – Chapter 9

July 9, 2010

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 9 of a new online serial novel, Divided Attention, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday.    Click  here for previous chapters.

Copyright © 2010 by Israel Bookshop Publications

“Nothing’s missing.”

Rabbi Nechemia Paksher, principal of the Nachalas Yisrael school, stood with his arms folded and his expression uncharacteristically somber as he spoke to the police officer. He didn’t even have the option of slumping helplessly into a chair, because the chair—like most of the room—was covered with that horrid black paint. The drawers had been replaced, but a mound of crumpled, dirty papers littered the desk. Reb Nechemia sighed. “If I could catch that vandal, I’d really give it to him!”

“Citizens have no authority to punish,” the bespectacled officer responded blandly.

“Citizens also have no right to do this!” the principal snapped back, pointing at the wall. There was a message painted there, but the words were very unclear. “He can’t even write normally, this robber,” he added and stared again at the crooked letters. To him they seemed to say, “We don’t want you here,” but some of the letters were upside down or cut off, and he only figured out the whole sentence from the context.

“You said he didn’t take anything,” the officer said in a soothing tone.

“But he’s still a robber! Breaking in here isn’t called a robbery?”

“Where do you think he came in from?”

“I don’t know,” Reb Nechemia said, beginning to pace around the room.

“And where did he leave from?”

“Our front door is fashioned in a way that it can be opened from the inside, in the event that a child gets locked in. But now that you mention it, where did he get in from?”

“I looked around a little and found a window open upstairs,” the officer said.

“Well, why didn’t you say so before?! Which window?”

“At the end of the hallway, near the sinks.”

Reb Nechemia waved his hand dismissively. “That little window? The one that’s broken?”

“It also doesn’t have bars,” the policeman pointed out.

“But who could get into such a tiny hole?” Reb Nechemia wondered aloud.

“One of your younger students, perhaps?”

The principal stopped in mid pace and looked sharply at the officer. “No. It could not have been one of my students. Impossible!”

“Why are you so convinced?” Keep Reading…

50% Off Mission Possible

July 6, 2010

It’s the classic case: You had a flight to catch for an extremely important visit or appointment somewhere, and you were running late—and missed the flight. And the flight did not crash.

Why me?! you think to yourself. Why did this have to happen to me?

Of course, when the stakes are higher, and the challenges and ordeals that arise are of even greater proportions, the question “Why me?” can become even stronger and more painful. How are we, as believing Jews, supposed to view challenges in life? How are we to strengthen our emunah and bitachon in Hashem when faced with adversity?

In Mission Possible!, popular and beloved author Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff, a rosh yeshivah in Jerusalem, provides us with valuable insight into this critical area. Using Talmudic sources, divrei Torah, and true stories, Rabbi Parkoff gives us a glimpse into the purpose of life’s challenges, helping us understand the function of suffering in this world. The second part of the book is an English adaptation of the Malbim’s introduction to his commentary on Sefer Iyov, which, as is well-known, is the classic work on human suffering. The Malbim probes this topic in depth, providing a firm hashkafic foundation for all, on how to view challenges and affliction.

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Divided Attention – Chapter 8

July 2, 2010

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 8 of a new online serial novel, Divided Attention, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday.    Click  here for previous chapters.

Copyright © 2010 by Israel Bookshop Publications

Ayala’s pen suddenly dried up and refused to write. She walked over to the supply drawer, hoping she’d find a pen that wrote in a decent color. Near the cabinet in the hallway stood Sari with—what else—the receiver pressed to her ear.

“Excuse me a minute, Sari,” Ayala said.

Still talking to her friend on the phone, Sari moved over, allowing her mother to reach the drawer. “I don’t think the girls are going to like it, Gila. We need something more active, more challenging. We’re not little girls anymore. Listening to a good story while sitting in a circle on the grass is just not going to do it. We have to seriously think about this.”

Ayala found three pens, two blue and one black. She took them all to the table so she could see which, if any of them, actually wrote. Pens are like batteries, she mused. People don’t like throwing them out even when they start to fade, because, “Maybe we can still get some more use out of it, and we’ll check it when we have a chance.” But when you’re looking for a pen that really has something left, all the almost-finished pens become a real pain in the neck!

The black pen was the only one that wrote normally. One blue pen just scraped the page, and Ayala put it aside, making a mental note not to put it back in the drawer, but to throw it out—something that should have been done long ago. The second pen formed something resembling letters, but it was so faint that it was barely legible. It, too, joined the garbage pile.

“Ima?” Sari entered the kitchen. “Did you find a pen? You can borrow mine.”

“Thanks,” Ayala said with a smile. “I found one. I just hope it’s not almost finished also! Are you planning a program with Gila?”

“Uh-huh. Morah Levy asked us to prepare a program for the field trip we’re taking the day after tomorrow.”

“Field trip?” Keep Reading…