The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 51

May 4, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 51 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Will you come up to us for a cup of coffee, Abba?” Elisheva joked as they walked slowly down Chazon Ish Street. The joke was not about him actually coming up, but more about the cup of coffee, because Elisheva did not recall the last time she had seen her father drinking coffee. However, she was rather doubtful about the visit as well.

“Perhaps,” her father replied, surprising her.

“How nice! This is a route that you can walk, and the doctor recommended that you walk as much as possible.”

“And back?”

“Taxi.” Without meaning to, Elisheva found herself talking tersely, like her father. She smiled, and so did he. He must have also noticed.

“We’ll see,” he said. And they continued walking slowly.

“Everyone will be thrilled to see you, Abba, and for my part, we don’t even have to order you a taxi for the way back; you can stay with us. I think the nursing home is really wondering why you are still there. It looked like Emmanuel was really angry at me, as if—” she smiled bitterly—“as if he wants to get you out of there, so he persuaded you to buy the raffle tickets.”

“Maybe.” He smiled.

“You think so?” Her smile morphed into a laugh. “Because I simply can’t imagine that there is anyone in the world who would want to get rid of my father from anywhere! Besides, it’s one thing to persuade you to buy the tickets, but I don’t think he was also able to arrange for you to actually win.” She continued walking in silence alongside her father, watching his cautious steps.

“I…” she began again, but then fell silent. “The truth is…” She just could not organize her thoughts into a coherent sentence.

Abba continued walking patiently. He appeared to be studying the busy traffic on the road to his left, but Elisheva knew that he was listening to her every word.

“It sounds strange,” she said finally. “But what would you say, Abba, if I would tell you that I have a feeling deep down that this apartment that we won…well, it’s not really true?”

He turned to look at her.

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 50

April 20, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 50 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Should we walk around a little, before we go back to our apartment?” Blumi asked late the next afternoon, after they had paid a Chol Hamoed visit to her brother Beri. She looked at Gideon, who had taken out his keys and was about to open the door to his black car. “I don’t think I really want a full meal right now after all they prepared for us.”

“Good idea.” He stuck his keys back into his jacket pocket. “Yerushalayim is just so beautiful…I could never get enough of walking around here. What about you, Batsheva?”

“Sure! I like walking with my parents,” the sixteen-year-old declared. “It doesn’t happen often.”

Blumi smiled at her. It was a somewhat transparent smile, the type that Batsheva had learned to recognize. It was a smile that meant her mother was wrapped up in her thoughts and didn’t really mean to smile at her, like a compliment that you give someone without even seeing them.

Most of Mummy’s smiles recently, since Saba Katz had been niftar, had been of this genre. And Suri could say what she wanted, but something was definitely bothering Mummy. Not all the time—sometimes she acted normal—but often she was like this…just a bit strange. This time, for example, it began when she had returned with Daddy from the Kosel one night.

Suri had said that perhaps it had to do with her grief over Saba’s passing, but something about it was odd. Mummy didn’t look like she was mourning; she seemed preoccupied, a bit tense. Maybe she was wallowing in memories… It was hard to define what it was exactly, but the situation was pretty clear. And Suri was not a good judge here; she didn’t live at home with Mummy, like Batsheva did, so of course she could not know the nuances of Mummy’s strange behavior these days.

“Oh, are you going in here?” Mummy asked Daddy, when he stopped in front of a small door in the wall of a building. The sign read: “Beit Knesset Chanichei Hayeshivot Yotzei Halab.”

Daddy studied the door. “I donate regularly to the Beit Knesset of the Halabim,” he said with interest. “But I never heard that they had a minyan here as well.”

“So are you going in?” Batsheva wrinkled her nose. She wanted to walk, not to stand on a street waiting endlessly.

“Yes, for a few minutes,” Gideon said. “I wonder what this is, and who the gabbaim are.”

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 49

April 13, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 49 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Blumi walked backward and left the Kosel Plaza. She leaned on the gate near the stairs leading up to the Jewish Quarter and waited for Gideon to finish davening Maariv. Although they had already been in Israel this winter – albeit not for good reasons – it was already their longstanding tradition to spend Pesach in the Holy Land. They rented the same apartment in the Old City each year.

Geveret? Can you give something?”

Blumi turned her head to the outstretched hand, and her eyes opened wide. Suppressing a gasp, she quickly placed a twenty-shekel bill into the woman’s plastic fingers, and hurried away.

Chag same’ach!” she heard the call behind her. “Tizki l’mitzvos!”

There you are, her thoughts chased her. You thought that by paying your brothers for the yad that had disappeared because of your famous negligence, you’d finally be able to calm down. Really? It’s just not happening. Even the prosthetic hand of a tzedakah collector brings you right back into that rut.

“Tell them what happened, once and for all,” Gideon had said to her, once, twice, three times. “They might even be able to help you find it.”

“No,” she’d replied, voice tremulous but her resolve firm. “I already tried to ask Shmulik, indirectly, about the bachur who disappeared with the yad, without telling him why I needed to know. And he didn’t help me much.”

“It’s because you didn’t tell him why you needed to know,” was her husband’s wise answer. “I’m sure that if you would have told him why you were asking, he would have understood the importance of it, and he would have made more of an effort to help you, instead of just giving you the number of someone who also just threw a few phone numbers at you.”

“Shmulik did want to help me!” she had protested, offended on her brother’s behalf.

“Of course—I didn’t say he didn’t. But when you asked him casually about bachurim who do this kind of thing, without specifying the reason for your question, then of course there’s no reason for him to make too much of an effort to find the bachurim who were there with your father. I think that it’s worth a try…”

“No,” she’d repeated, sounding defeated. “No, no, and no.”

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 48

April 6, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 48 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“A sefer Torah that costs one hundred and forty thousand? That sounds like top of the line,” Menachem said to his son Yehuda.

“Of course,” Yehuda agreed. “That’s the standard of those in charge of us… But you can for sure get a good, mehudar sefer Torah for less money than that.”

“How much less?” his mother, Yocheved, wanted to know.

“Maybe a hundred thousand, a hundred and ten,” her husband replied.

“One minute, Eliyahu. Don’t tell me you are now going to spend one hundred thousand shekels!” Yocheved’s expression was reproachful. “How many months of renting your apartment will you need in order to have such a sum of ma’aser money?”

“Could be some sifrei Torah are even less than that,” Yehuda tried to interject.

“There are, for sure.” Eliyahu raised his eyes from the nutcracker and looked at those around him.

“Could be,” his brother-in-law concurred. “Have you looked into it?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, so you’ve already done the field work…” Menachem smiled. “How much do they want?”

“About eighty. I’m not a hundred percent sure yet.”

“What?” Menachem’s hand left his glass and rose to his forehead. “Eighty?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Where are you going to find such a sofer?”

“I found one already. The sefer Torah is written. It’s a very mehudar sefer Torah, top of the line. A Sephardic one.”

There was a momentary silence in the room.

“I have never heard of an Ashkenazi family donating a Sephardic sefer Torah to a shul, or the opposite.” Yocheved sounded peevish.

“So you’re hearing about it now.” Her younger brother smiled. “And we are going to do it, b’ezras Hashem.”

“Did you know about his idea, Elisheva?” Her sister-in-law turned to her. “And you’re okay with it?”

Elisheva smiled. “Looks to me like Eliyahu found a very original and practical solution. We want to donate a sefer Torah, and we want it to be mehudar. So why not do it like this? Because people will say that they’ve never heard of such a thing in their lives?”

“What’s the difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardic sifrei Torah?” Binyamin asked.

“The Ashkenazi writing is considered much harder to do. Technically, the writing is more complicated and takes more time, and that’s why people pay more for it.”

“So the sefer Torah is written already?”

“Yes. Because of the time it takes, it’s rare that Ashkenazi sifrei Torah are written without pre-orders. But Sephardic sifrei Torah are written even without being ordered in advance, and I already went to see a few of them. I found them all to be very beautiful.”

“And do you know the sofrim who wrote them?” Yocheved asked.

“Yes, the one who wrote the one I’m thinking about is in my kollel. You remember Gueta, Elisheva? The one who wrote Binyamin’s tefillin? So he writes tefillin for Ashkenazim as well as for Sephardim, but he only writes Sephardic sifrei Torah. He has a beautiful handwriting, and he’s a real yarei Shamayim…” He smiled. Something dreamy and unfamiliar was glistening at the corner of his eye. “Maybe we’ll be able to make a hachnassas sefer Torah before Shavuos.”

“To which shul?” Yocheved asked.

“I’ll find out about a Sephardic shul that needs a sefer Torah.” Eliyahu nodded to himself. “There are lots of new minyanim of bnei yeshivah that haven’t yet fully established themselves. I’m sure they’ll be happy to receive their own sefer Torah.”

***

5708/1948

 

The coughs almost tore Gustav’s throat, and they annoyed the other passengers in the crowded sleeping hold of the ship.

“Take the boy out!” one woman grumbled, hugging a baby close to her. A five-year-old boy trailed behind her. “He can infect all of us!”

“He has nothing contagious,” Rabbi Walkin explained patiently yet again. “He was sick, but now he’s completely recovered. The doctors made this very clear before they released him from the hospital.”

“You can’t believe them.” The woman was angry. “I don’t want him near us!”

“Come, Gustav.” Rabbi Walkin grasped the boy’s hand. “I’ll arrange the best place for you: at the entrance near the stairs. If you feel like you need some clear air at night, you can go out quickly without having to find your way through this big room. Does that sound good to you?”

Gustav nodded and glanced back. Everyone was quiet, looking at him. Even the boys from the orphanage were staring in his direction. The boys liked their director very much, and even Gustav liked him, seeing what a good man he was. But all the children knew each other very well by now; they had been together for so long, more than a year already. Only he was new. Only he didn’t belong.

But soon, he would be in Eretz Yisrael, and he would be together with Edo again. He had been with Edo for so many years that they definitely could be considered brothers, if not more. He would go and tell him what he had done: that he had run away from Janek and Ulush’s house in order to retrieve the paper, so that he could remember what Edo’s real name was. All the children here had names, and they told all kinds of stories about themselves from the past. Maybe they were making things up; Gustav did not know. What he did know was that he had no stories to tell about himself, because he didn’t remember anything from his past. And there was no one to remember for him.

“Rabbi Walkin.” A short, slight boy suddenly appeared at the director’s side. “I also want to sleep near the door. Can I share a mattress with him?”

“Sure, Moshe.” Rabbi Walkin smiled at the boy. “Here, sit down here together.”

Both boys sat down quietly.

“How old are you?” Gustav asked.

“About eleven.”

“About?”

“You know exactly how old you are?”

“No.”

“So neither do I.”

Gustav took a deep breath. “Is Moshe your real name?”

“Yes. My Jewish name.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I always knew that. At home they called me Mosh’ke, but my father called me Moshe.”

“How did you know?”

“Why are you called Gustav?”

“Because that’s what the man at the orphanage decided to call me.”

“I have always been called by my name, even in the ghetto.”

Gustav was quiet. He wasn’t quite sure what the boy was talking about.

“Where are you from?” Moshe asked him.

“Bratislava.”

“And I’m from Budapest. Hungary.” He sat with his legs folded for another moment, and then stretched them in front of him, rubbing his knees. “When we went to the ghetto, I was almost seven. They even made me a little birthday party in the ghetto. But I don’t remember the date. At the end of the war I was about eight, or maybe just seven and a half.”

“And do you have a family name?”

“Sure. Horenstein.”

“Do you remember that too, or did you make it up?”

“I didn’t make it up,” the older boy answered, his eyes narrowing. “Why do you think I made it up?”

“Because, why don’t I remember anything?”

Moshe Horenstein frowned. “When did you come to that orphanage?”

“When I was little. Maybe three. No one really knows.”

Nu, so how do you expect to remember?” The eleven-year-old fell silent. “I don’t know the details of what exactly happened during the war, but I think that the Nazis, yemach shemam, occupied Bratislava quite a few years before they occupied Hungary. So I was able to grow up a little bit, and know my name, before they took my mother and father away.”

“And I didn’t get to,” Gustav concluded tonelessly.

Moshe Horenstein lay down on the mattress, trying to keep to just one half of it, so he could leave space for Gustav. But Gustav did not want to lie down. He sat at the far end of the mattress and stared at the steps, which were very close to his legs. Then he suddenly stood up and went upstairs.

“Hey, where are you going?” Someone hissed, grabbing his shoulder. It was not Rabbi Walkin.

“Leave me alone!” the boy replied. “Let me go!”

“Where are you going?” the adult growled again into his ear.

“To the deck.”

“To the deck? It’s nighttime now. And we warned everyone over and over that there must be silence outside. Remember? The closer we get to the coast of Eretz Yisrael, the more dangerous it gets, because there’s a greater chance that the British will discover us. Go back downstairs.”

“I don’t want to!” Gustav said. He shrugged off the man’s grip.

The man’s long arm reached for Gustav a second time. “Young man, you don’t want me to lock you up in a room for you to understand what I’m saying, do you? No. Going. Upstairs. Period.”

Gustav went back down to the sleeping hall, defeated. Without saying another word, he curled up on the edge of his mattress. It was too quiet. Some of the adults sat and spoke in hushed voices, discussing the chances of getting to shore without being caught. He stifled a cough and turned over to the other side.

Fine, so this boy, Mosh’ke, came from Hungary, and that’s why he knew things about himself. But there were other boys in Rabbi Walkin’s orphanage from Czechoslovakia and even from Poland, and they had been very little when the Nazis took their parents away. How come almost all of them knew something about themselves?

He rubbed his eyes. Bondy, the tall one, had been hidden with neighbors, and they’d told him everything. Meir and Pinya had been hiding out in a convent, similar to where he had been, but their parents had brought with them documents with all their personal details. Like Edo, sort of. Yanku and Srul’che and Chaim’ke were hidden by the Underground, by all kinds of gentiles, and the Underground kept records of all their details, even their exact birthdays.

He turned to the other side and heard Moshe moving, as well. It was too bad that before they’d left, his father and mother had not thought to give him a paper with the names of his uncles, or his own name, and where he had lived before the war, and the names of those who might know him. Then Theodore would have found him with the paper, and he would have known everything about him. Gustav would have also known everything about himself. Now he was just plain Gustav: poor, little Gustav, with no one in the world, without even a family name, who didn’t know anything about himself.


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 47

March 30, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 47 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Yes, yes, thank you. Low alcohol, please.” He looked at the clear red liquid that slowly filled his crystal goblet to the lip.

“Right you’re going to let me steal your afikoman?” seven-year-old Benjy asked him cheekily. “Because yesterday my father didn’t let.”

“Tell me when exactly you want to take it, and I’ll decide then,” the guest replied with a smile.

Kadesh!” Benjy’s father announced, and placed three square matzos into his tall, tiered Seder plate as they all stood up. The guest preferred not to pick up the full glass in his hand, and instead encircled the narrow stem of the goblet with his fingers. His hands were not what they used to be, and he had no desire—even after being a Pesach guest here for fifteen years—to stain the family’s pristine silk tablecloth and make it awkward for everyone. He insisted on staying young, and when those parts of him that refused to remain young emerged, he did his best to conceal them.

He drank most of the wine in the glass, and leafed through the leather-bound Haggadah on the table in front of him. It was the night of Pesach, the Festival of Freedom, so why did he feel like his brain was in prison? It was roiling with thoughts that kept turning over in his mind, preventing him from enjoying the company of his devoted relatives. His fingers played with the lace napkin that had been arranged into a fan next to his gleaming plate. He didn’t like the design on the napkin, or the plate. He also hadn’t enjoyed the Seder last night, and feared he would not enjoy tonight any more.
What was going on?

He must be tired. He hadn’t been sleeping well, and he would have to come to terms with the fact that tonight would also end earlier than he would have liked. You get old; that’s how it is. And as long as you stubbornly refuse to take sleeping pills, take into account that your days start at three a.m.

He set his empty goblet down with the weariness of an old man. He liked Pesach vacation at Daniel’s home in Perth, but although the visit was as pleasant as ever, these things seemed to drain him at this point. He wasn’t twenty anymore, and he needed his bed, his house, his quiet, and his privacy…

His back stiffened in pain, and he leaned against the back of the chair, unable to move for a moment. He closed his eyes and reflected on the fact that he hadn’t been at the orthopedist for quite some time. He’d never tolerated doctors.

“Are you afraid they are going to tell you to write a will?” Alexander Korman would tease him in those halcyon days when they were both young, busy, and successful, and the thought of wills only flashed rarely through their minds, if at all.

“And if so?” he used to answer. “Let’s say I am afraid of that. Why can’t I be? Isn’t it my right?”

“It’s your right, of course,” Alex—he should rest in peace—would always reply.

Your right. Indeed, it is your right to ponder wills very rarely, because you know that if you think about them too often, you’ll get into trouble. As it is, you spend most of your days trying not to think. Not about the past, not about the future, and not too much about the present either.

The problem is that when you age—which you are doing—your head automatically fills with thoughts. Unwanted, wanted—they don’t ask permission to barge in.

Okay, enough already! It’s Pesach tonight! Be happy! The family in Bnei Brak is also celebrating Pesach happily tonight.

Maybe he should send someone to Bratislava to try to dig into the past again. Why not? He had been most pleased by Leonid’s recent work. True, investigations in the present were simpler, but Leonid was very good at what he did. He hoped that Leonid would do a good job of meandering through the pathways of the past, which had gone up in smoke, seemingly silenced forever.

Again these thoughts?! On Seder night?

“I wish you lived closer to us,” Benjy whispered to him, and wiped his lips after emptying his smaller, child-sized becher. “I like it when you come to our house. My mother and father like it also.”

Really? He was somewhat doubtful about that, but to their credit, he had to admit, they had never tried to get out of hosting him each year. He preferred not to think too much about the reason why they were so devoted to him. Each year, Daniel called a week or two before Pesach and reminded him that they were expecting him for all of Yom Tov, of course. It was a domestic flight that wasn’t too many hours, and he would spend the whole week of Pesach in Perth. And this year, here he was again.

Urchatz!” Daniel announced. “Uncle and I will wash our hands now.”

“I’ll bring the cup and bowl!” Benjy volunteered. He seemed to have adopted their guest this year, and was determined to wait on him hand and foot. As he stood with the towel on his shoulder, polite and patient, he asked, somewhat randomly, “How are you related to us, anyway?”

He smiled at Benjy, took the towel off the boy’s little shoulder, and wiped his hands.
Benjy’s mother answered patiently, instead of him. “Stop badgering him with questions, Benjy. It’s a bit complicated to explain. He’s a cousin of Saba and Savta in Israel; you didn’t know them. And when Arik was in eighth grade, he went on a summer trip to Israel and met them.”

“Uh-huh,” twenty-year-old Arik said, from the other side of the table. He yawned. “Can we continue? I’m hungry already.”

“A cousin of Saba or Savta?” the boy pressed.

“Saba. Now go back to your seat. And don’t get the drapes wet as you pass by! How many times do I have to tell you that!”

The guest sat, paging through the Haggadah in front of him. Drapes. He couldn’t imagine that the family in Bnei Brak had drapes, even for the Seder night. They probably did not have crystal glasses or pure silver napkin holders, either. But he hoped that they had managed to use a bit of the generous Yom Tov grant that they had received to buy some new things for themselves.

***

“I don’t believe it, Eliyahu!” Yocheved stood gaping at the built-in bookshelves that were packed with sefarim. Then she spun around to her brother. “Where is that very dignified, traditional bookcase of yours?”

“In the storage room downstairs,” her brother answered patiently. Elisheva was bustling from the kitchen to the dining room, serving dates and nuts, Pesach cookies, cake, and homemade lemonade.

“Stop bringing so much food already,” Yocheved scolded her. “Come sit down for a minute. What is this? You’ve already let Eliyahu put his sefarim into the wall?”

“It’s not a wall.” Eliyahu looked over at the plaster shelves. “It’s a built-in bookcase. What difference does it make what a sefarim shrank is made out of? It’s easier to use than the wooden bookcase.”

“What’s easier about it?” Yocheved turned to look at her younger brother.

“The shelves don’t sag.”

“Oh, you think plaster is stronger than pressed wood?” she asked, hardly concealing her scornful tone. It wasn’t directed at Eliyahu, of course, but at the offending, modern, new bookcase that she decidedly did not approve of.

“Plaster is not stronger than wood, but metal is. And there are enough metal bars in those shelves.”

“And the silver display,” she said. “Why is it on the side? Why didn’t you put your silver items in the middle, to make the whole thing more symmetrical?”

Elisheva retreated to the kitchen.

“I don’t think the silver has to be in the center,” Eliyahu answered, in the same patient, respectful tone that he used when speaking to his oldest sister. “I think the sefarim are the center, and it’s more appropriate for the silver to be placed on the side.”

“So why wasn’t it like that in your old bookcase?”

“Because I didn’t have the choice. The silver display was built into the middle of our old bookcase, and that was it. We bought a floor sample from the store twenty years ago. Here, the person who installed this asked me exactly how I wanted to plan the layout of the shelves.”

Nu, very nice. And what other furniture did they give you?” She looked up as Elisheva set a mug of hot tea in front of her. “Oy, Elisheva, I told you that you don’t need to!”

“It’s fine; let us host you with the honor you deserve. When do we ever have a chance to have you?”

“That’s right. In your old apartment, it was nearly impossible to get into the dining room. So what’s with the furniture? I see your antique table is still here. And the chairs.”

“We were supposed to get a table with eight chairs, and another coffee table with a couch and two armchairs,” Eliyahu said.

“A coffee table,” she repeated. “Menachem, why aren’t you sitting down? Yehudah, you too. Take a drink or something to eat while I take another look around the apartment.”

“The children are showing me this large porch,” her husband, Menachem, said. “I never would have believed there could be such open air in Bnei Brak at this time of year.”

“Well, the sixth floor on the outskirts of the city—what did you expect?” she said. “Wait until some more buildings go up here, and you’ll want to run back to your little porch in our house in Yerushalayim.”

She turned back to Eliyahu. “So, a coffee table, you said, Eliyahu? Really now. A set of matching chairs sounds good—better than this whole hodgepodge you have here. But armchairs? Why do you need them? And a couch?”

“We always had a couch, but it’s old already. And I like this table and don’t really want to replace it. So we asked for only the chairs and the couch, and they let us exchange the rest of the stuff for bedroom furniture—dressers and beds. But they’ll only be coming in after Pesach.”

Yocheved conducted another walk-through of the house, which passed without any comments, and then they all sat down in the spacious dining room. “I understand that your father isn’t here anymore,” she said to Elisheva.

“No, he left on the first day of Chol Hamoed back to the nursing home. But he enjoyed being here very much, baruch Hashem.”

“I’m sure.” Yocheved’s eyes, which were usually narrowed with suspicion or criticism, also knew how to smile. “Plenty of space, well-raised grandchildren, a devoted daughter and son-in-law… So, children, what do you say about the new house?”

“It’s nice,” Chani and Esti said in unison.

“And big,” Devoiry added.

“But Ima doesn’t let us ride our cars here,” Shloimy complained.

Bentzy quickly soothed him. “But there’s lots of room in the lobby downstairs, so it’s okay.”

“I miss my friends who live near the old house,” Meir said, “but it’s not so far. On Isru Chag I’ll go help my friend collect wood for the Lag B’Omer fire. It’s only a fifteen-minute walk.”

“Oh, that’s not too bad. All the kids stayed in the same schools, right?”

“Yes,” Elisheva and Eliyahu said together.

“So what’s with your apartment? When are your tenants moving in?”

“They’ll get the key a week after Pesach. I don’t know when they are actually planning to move in.” Elisheva passed Yocheved a platter with slices of cake.

“But you’ll get paid from the minute they get the key, right?” Menachem inquired.

“Yes. They pay a few months’ rent up front.”

Menachem nodded approvingly. “That’s good.”

“Yes, it sounds very good,” his wife added. “So, you’ll have some more ma’aser to give for Aunt Minna’s operation, right? Yankel told me that you gave him a nice amount, but you know how it is; there’s never enough money.”

“We’ll see,” Eliyahu said.

“What does that mean, ‘we’ll see’?”

“It means that I have a few ideas about what to do with my ma’aser money, and I have to look into it.”

“What’s there to look into? What other things were you thinking of doing with it?”

“Buying a sefer Torah for a shul,” he replied.

“A sefer Torah!” Yocheved stared at him as though he’d swallowed five whole dates with the pits. “How much are you renting that apartment out for, Eliyahu, that you can deduct ma’aser of one hundred and thirty thousand shekels?!”

At the doorway of the porch, Binyamin was chatting with his cousin Yehuda, Aunt Yocheved’s youngest child. They both turned around when they heard her voice rise. “What costs one hundred and thirty thousand shekels, Ima?” Yehuda asked.

“A sefer Torah.”

“A sefer Torah? Our yeshivah got a new sefer Torah before Purim that cost more than a hundred and forty thousand.”

Nu.” Yocheved looked triumphantly at Eliyahu. “After all, Eliyahu, you didn’t become a millionaire. Although…” She looked around. “Maybe this apartment might delude you into thinking otherwise.”


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 46

March 23, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 46 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

The next morning, just as Elisheva was about to leave for the new house, there was a knock at the door.

“Someone’s here to see the clock!” Chani announced loudly.

Eliyahu, who was home from Shacharis already, escorted the man into the empty dining room.

It was silent for a few moments; the potential buyer was probably appraising the value of the clock.
“Nice piece,” Elisheva heard him say after a few minutes. “I understand it’s not working properly, is that right?”

“Yes,” Eliyahu replied. “A clockmaker once told us that there’s a problem in the delicate balance of the mechanism.”

Meir was probably making desperate hinting gestures, because Eliyahu suddenly added, with a smile in his tone, “My son sometimes gets the bird to pop out. If his ball strikes a specific spot that apparently jogs the balance of the cogs or the springs back into place, the cuckoo bird works once. Meir, you threw your ball a few minutes ago, right?”

“Yes,” the boy replied.
“So maybe we’ll see the bird in action,” the man’s voice said. “What time does it announce?”

“Something else each time,” Meir answered bashfully. “Once it cuckooed three times; sometimes it’s five times. I don’t know how it decides.”

“May I take a closer look at the clock?”

“Sure,” Eliyahu said.

There was a long silence, which was suddenly broken by the cuckoo bird; it cuckooed eight times.

“If it’s able to work,” the man said, his voice muffled; his face was probably buried in the clock’s innards, “that means there is definitely hope.”

Eliyahu smiled. “We always knew there was hope. The thing is that the repair costs money, and it wasn’t worth it for us.”

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RECENT RELEASE: Nightflower

March 18, 2020

Nightflower

I attended an American seminary where most of the girls were boarders at the homes of various families in the community. Girls from all over America, as well as from Israel, France, and Australia, boarded with local families in groups of 2, 3, 4, or even 5 or 6 per home. One family, whom I’ll call the Golds, had 6 girls boarding with them that year—all at the same time! They converted their basement into a virtual dormitory, with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and the girls called it, “The Golds’ Boarders’ Quarters.” They loved it!

Most of the boarding arrangements seemed to work out great, but of course there were always those situations where the boarders and their hosts were simply not a “shidduch,” and then arrangements had to be reshuffled.

When I read Nightflower, a top-notch novel with a most intriguing, out-of-the-box plot, it made me think back to my long-ago seminary year and all those boarding arrangements. This was because two of the characters in this book are boarders, living with other families. The two girls, however, are as different from each other as night and day, and while Rachel might seem a bit…much for most hosting families, she is adorable as she is helpful, and a ray of sunshine in her host Chaiky’s life. Whereas Anna is…quite the opposite, to put it mildly…

But why should I ruin this bestseller for you? Pick up a copy of this book and read it yourself, before I form any judgments of its characters in your mind!

Seriously, this is one book you’ll find yourself reading over and over again…yes, it’s that good!

 

Click here to purchase online.


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 45

March 16, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 45 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“I’m calling about the cuckoo clock you advertised that you’re selling?”

“Okay…?” Elisheva was getting tired of these phone calls. The day after tomorrow, the day before bedikas chametz, was moving day, with Hashem’s help, and she didn’t know where she would get the energy from for this final battle. Perhaps it had been foolish to try to sell the clock; it was a shame they hadn’t just dumped it.

Her father, remarkably, had not displayed any particular sentiment for it. “You can throw it out,” he’d replied when she’d asked him, on the day he was released from the hospital. Of course he had returned to the nursing home. He was weaker than he’d been when he’d left from there, but healthy, baruch Hashem.

“I understand that it needs some repairs, is that right?”

“Yes.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“Something with the balance of the gears.”

“It doesn’t work at all?”

“No. Sometimes the cuckoo bird pops out and chimes, but it’s rare, and we have no idea what causes it to happen.”

Meir entered the empty kitchen, mouthed something to her in a whisper, and then suddenly blushed and fled outside.

“How much do you want for it?”

“Two hundred and fifty shekels.”

If someone would come and show interest in the old clock, they could always knock down the price a bit—that’s what Eliyahu had told her. But so far, no one had expressed serious interest in it at all.

“And how much should a repair cost?”

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NEW RELEASE: Framed!

March 16, 2020

Framed!

“All of my kids loved this book, from my 3rd grader up to my 9th grader!”

“My son could not put this book down!”

This is some of the feedback we’ve been hearing from parents whose kids have read Framed! Or perhaps “gobbled up” would be a better way of putting it!

There’s something unusual about this book. It’s a top-notch, spine-tingling, bona fide thriller novel, yet there are no phones (certainly no cell phones!), cars, or planes anywhere in the plot. That’s because the story takes place in long-ago Eastern Europe, when fervently religious but illiterate peasants were mainstays at Jewish-owned taverns, and Catholic priests were often conniving, insincere individuals who wanted nothing more but to harm the Jews…and line their pockets with money.

Against this historical backdrop, skilled author Chayele Kohane weaves a dramatic plot that will keep your tweens and teens on their toes, from the first page until the very last. This is a most wholesome novel, and it contains plenty of wonderful lessons as well. But at the same time, there’s no skimping on the fun and suspense with this book!

Read Framed! for yourself (adults have loved it too!), and you’ll see just what we mean!

 

Click here to purchase online.


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 44

March 9, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 44 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

The little house slowly underwent a change. Every piece of furniture was cleaned, packed well, and prepared to be sent to the new apartment. The children ate “Erev Pesach suppers” long before they were used to doing so every other year, but Elisheva knew that something had to give; she couldn’t be perfect on all fronts. So they ate pitas and pastrami and franks, and baruch Hashem no one seemed to be the worse for wear because of it.

“We’ve finished the dining room,” Eliyahu said with a sigh of relief late one night. The bookcase was dismantled, the sefarim were packed in boxes, and the table and chairs were wrapped in plastic. The little ones were sleeping, crowded tightly into the bedroom. Later, they would be transferred back to their mattresses, in the dining room.

Elisheva sat down on a plastic chair that still remained unwrapped. ““There are two things left that are questions: the cuckoo clock and this silver yad.”

“Right.” Eliyahu squinted his eyes. “What is this? A mystery without a solution, or what?”

“There has to be a solution,” Devoiry said, looking from one parent to the other. “Things don’t just land in homes out of nowhere…”

“Maybe one of the little ones brought it from someplace?”

“Who? Everyone says they don’t know what it is,” Elisheva replied.

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