The Black Sheep – Chapter 31

May 24, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 31 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Back to the Present, 2015

“I moved to a new place yesterday,” Ariella commented, returning her chair to its place, her session having just ended. She knew she was Sarah’s last client for the day, but for some reason the therapist remained seated. Ariella could not decide if she was looking at her directly, or half an inch above her. But the gaze was interested and warm—not pressuring.

“I’m hoping that that means new mazel,” she continued. She didn’t mean “mazel tov” when she said that, but the thought flashed through her mind that she could think of at least three women who would be sure that that was what she’d meant. It was all well-intentioned, she knew. Still, she liked Sarah’s type of intentions better: the latter merely nodded.

When the silence lingered, Sarah asked, in her American accent, “How is this new place?”

Baruch Hashem, it’s very nice. She’s a widow, sixty-five years old, who rents out rooms. I actually thought she was younger at first.”

“And she’s nice to you?” Sarah smiled.

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 30

May 17, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 30 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Binyamin sat in the little room, not knowing what he was waiting for. He had not been assigned a prison uniform when he entered, though he’d heard from others that that was what usually happened. He just passed by the reception room, and his escorts said something to the soldier who sat there, and continued further inside with him. A long corridor, steep stone stairs, and here he was, with his own clothes.

If he was not mistaken, at least two hours had passed since he had been brought here.

There was one narrow window in the room, and Binyamin rose toward it. He looked out at an empty pit between the high walls, filled with thorny summer flowers. A cool sea breeze whistled between the tall stone walls and reached him, cooling his sweaty forehead. He was still thirsty. And he still had no idea what was going to happen to him today. But he tried to focus on the fact that despite it all, it was not the British who would render his fate, nor would it be the Jewish policeman who had displayed a modicum of empathy. It was not even his own father, who was certainly scrambling about right now, trying to exercise his connections to make it clear to the British that this entire arrest was one big mistake.

There was only one Decider.

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 29

May 10, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 29 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Good morning, Mr. Shikovitzer.” Binyamin put his tefillin bag down on the small table at the entrance, and grasped the nearest bench. “How are you?”

“Hashem will have mercy,” Zelig’s father replied, and his lips pressed together firmly. He continued sweeping the entryway of the shul without saying another word. Binyamin’s eyes darted around in an effort to catch sight of Zelig, but his friend wasn’t there.

“Come here, Binyamin!” Shikovitzer shouted suddenly. “The bench doesn’t have to be like that. Did you forget where it belongs? Really now!”

Binyamin glanced up. Zelig’s father had never spoken to him in such a tone. He surely had a good reason for doing so.

“Here,” Yitzchak Shikovitzer said. “Let’s lift this bench together and push it against this wall.” As they lifted the wide, heavy bench, he muttered, “A friend of Zelig’s came to me in the middle of the night and brought me a note from him. But keep quiet—they are hanging around the windows.”

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 28

May 3, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 28 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

The shul for Ashkenazi immigrants from Russia was located in a simple, two-story structure, on the ground floor. Minchah was coming to a close, and Mr. Shikovitzer, the dedicated gabbai, distributed volumes of Mishnayos ahead of the rav’s shiur. Rabbi Betzalel Miller, who had accepted the position of rabbi reluctantly and temporarily, glanced at Binyamin, the only yeshivah bachur in the community, who sat down next to his father and opened his sefer.

“Perhaps we can give Mr. Reiness’s son the honor of giving the shiur today,” he said. “Binyamin, will you give the shiur today instead of me? A bachur who’s already learning Nashim and Nezikin…”

Binyamin raised his head from the volume of Mishnayos that he had opened, and a small, bashful smile crossed his lips as he shook his head from side to side. His father looked at him with a nachas-filled smile, and Binyamin, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks, hurried to bury his eyes in the small sefer.

Nu, nu,” the gabbai said, “our Binyamin is bashful, Rabbi Miller. We’ll be happy to have the Rav give the shiur, as usual.”

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 27

April 26, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 27 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Welcome!” Mr. Shikovitzer said warmly. “Binyamin, it’s so good to see you! We haven’t had a visit from you since Pesach. I’m sure the whole family was happy that you’ve come, huh? When did you get back from yeshivah?”

“Last night.”

“At night? You weren’t afraid?”

“We left in the morning, and the automobile was escorted by a British policeman.”

“The fellahin are cowards, Abba,” Zelig added scornfully.

“That’s not exactly true,” his father said, glancing outside. “In any case, you should speak a little quieter. Nu? Did you bump into Mahmoud?”

“He bumped into us.” Zelig chuckled, and took his regular seat on the right side of the table. “He already told us there’s a delicious Polish soup for lunch. When will he remember once and for all that it’s a Russian soup?”

“Good question…” Mr. Shakovitzer rubbed his blackened hands on the large, blue apron that he wore, and pointed to the big metal oven in the corner. “It stayed hot especially for you.”

“You look worried today, yeshivah bucher’l.” Zelig’s father patted his son’s friend on the shoulder. Binyamin’s normally cheerful expression was more thoughtful than usual, and he was staring blankly in the direction of the large oven.

“Binyamin?” Zelig asked. “Is everything okay?”

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 26

April 19, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 26 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Five days had passed since her arrival in Acco, and she still hadn’t learned much about Osher’s place. There really was no good reason for her to go back to Bnei Brak just yet. Especially since she was actually enjoying it here.

But where could she stay?

The wind picked up, and Ariella tightened her scarf around her. She leaned on the low wall, not right across from the Reiness home, but a few dozen yards down the block, and let herself revel in the feeling of the wind pressing at her back.

“You again?” a voice asked from the side. Ariella turned around, slightly shaken, and saw the same woman she’d met up with the day before, staring at her curiously. This was their third encounter.

Ariella stared back steadily, and they locked gazes for a few long seconds. “Yes, it’s me,” Ariella said finally. “This is no one’s private property, right?”

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 25

April 12, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 25 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

The next afternoon, Ariella needed to get out again: she felt the walls of the small room closing in on her. She wondered if she should approach the Reiness home again, or if she should suffice for now with the next appointment she’d made with the therapist. The woman had made an excellent impression on her. But what kind of chinuch was Osher getting in her home? What was the learning level of her husband’s yeshivah? Ariella needed to observe the place from a closer vantage point and to figure out who the other students were. But how could she do that without Osher spotting her? How many hours could she spend wandering around the area to glean information about the place?

She walked out of her room and locked the door, not yet sure where she was headed.

“Are you going out now?” Miriam opened the door of her house, holding a large garbage bag.

“Yes, I decided to go out for a bit.”

“Where to?”

“Not sure yet.” Ariella smiled.

“Do you want to come with me to the shuk?”

“The Arab market? In the Old City?”

“Yes.” Miriam smiled back. “I buy my vegetables there, and we ma’aser them at home. There’s no problem this year, you know, since it’s not shemittah.”

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 24

April 5, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 24 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Welcome, come on in. So you are Ella Rothman?” Sarah Reiness smiled at the young woman who walked into her office.

Ariella coughed. “Y…yes,” she said, at the same time. It was highly unlikely that Osher had somehow shared his late brother-in-law’s name with the Reinesses. She was also certain that Sarah maintained professional confidentiality and did not share the names of her patients with her husband or his students.

“Nice to meet you. Are you from around here?”

“For now,” the younger woman whispered. “I’m from Bnei Brak, but…I’ve taken some time off for myself and came here for a little while.” She coughed on the last few words. It wasn’t a show. Her throat had decided to sync itself beautifully with her emotions right now.

“And you came to me because of the reason that I see and hear?”

Ariella smiled. “What you hear, I understand. But what do you mean by a reason that you see?”

Sarah smiled back and opened a drawer. “Here you go,” she said, and placed a small mirror in front of Ariella. It had a green striped frame. “Is there something you want to say?”

Ariella gazed at her reflection. What did she want to say? Nothing. She hadn’t come to speak. She’d come to find out more about this woman in order to figure out what kind of place Osher had found for himself.

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 23

March 22, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 23 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Mission number one had been crowned with success.

Ariella watched as the taxi carrying Sarah Reiness drove off into the distance. An older man, wearing a small yarmulke, approached briskly from the other side of the sidewalk, and pushed open the gate. He was holding a faded tallis and tefillin bag, and he pulled a key ring out of his pocket, as he called over his shoulder, “The carpentry shop is closed now. It will open later this morning.”

Carpentry shop?

Interesting rabbi Osher had found himself—a carpenter-rabbi!

Ariella observed from afar as the man opened the iron door on the ground floor and switched on the light. A bitter taste filled her mouth. If this was Osher’s rabbi, she would need to think hard about what to do and how. It was a bit strange, because the speech therapist, who had just left the house a few minutes before her husband came back from davening, had given a totally different impression.

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 22

March 15, 2021

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 22 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“They caught the fox.” Reb Elazar shared the news with his two students when he arrived to arrange their discharge from the hospital.

“Nice,” Shlomo said, as he sighed and touched his swollen cheek.

“Was it Gadi who caught him?” Osher asked, and then whispered to himself, “Shlomo.”

“No, he saw the fox early this morning and told my brother-in-law, who right away called the Health Ministry office in their district. It took them two hours to come, but the fox was feeling very at home and didn’t seem inclined to run away.”

“So what now?”

“They will put the fox in quarantine and take tests. If, in a few days—I’m not sure how long it takes—they find out that the fox is healthy, then you won’t need to continue treatment.”

“Thrilling,” Shlomo muttered.

“He wanted to catch it, you know,” Osher said, as he handed Reb Elazar his phone. “But I told him not to do it himself. Ooohh, I’m so dizzy.” He quickly sat down on the bed again, and the Rav watched in alarm as Osher’s face drained of its natural color.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

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