By Esther Rapaport
“What? The food in the freezer…was from you?” Chaiky was stunned.
“Yes. Shifra cooked, baked, prepared, and packaged it, and you didn’t even notice that I stowed it all in your freezer. Well, was it at least good?”
Chaiky went over to the freezer and looked inside, somewhat tensely, at the boxes and what was left inside them. She was so sure that Goldie had sent the food that she hadn’t even thought of Shifra and Yoel.
And unpalatable as the idea was, right now, she would have preferred to discover that the food had indeed come from Goldie. True, Yoel was her brother, but there was no getting around the fact that she just couldn’t be sure about the hechsherim he used at home. Of course, everything was kosher—but kosher at what level? She wasn’t sure that it was the level they had been raised with at home.
“It was delicious? Good, I’ll tell Shifra. It was a big deal for her to prepare and package it all.”
A moment’s silence. “Don’t tell her. I’ll call her later myself.”
“Even better. I think she’s actually waiting for it, you know, because she worked really hard. She even sent me to buy the chicken from the shechitah that Shlomo once told me about, and I looked for the fish with the best hechsher for you…”
“Then you also deserve a big thank-you!”
So the chicken and the fish were fine—at least for that. But what about the spices? The vegetables? The other things?
In other words, Chaiky, next time, don’t eat food if you’re not 100% sure where it comes from, even if you think you know how it landed by you.
Too bad she hadn’t called Goldie right away to thank her. You can only gain from being a mensch. Had she done so, she would have clearly heard that the food hadn’t been from Goldie, and she would have started thinking a bit more broadly about who could have sent it.
On second thought, had she called, it would have been quite awkward. And that was all Chaiky needed now—for her to warmly thank Goldie for food put in her freezer, and then have to hear Goldie’s stammered apologies that it hadn’t been her, and maybe this coming week she would send something, because she’d actually planned to but hadn’t gotten around to it…
The kitchen was relatively clean, but the rest of the house was upside down after a whole Shabbos. The children hadn’t even wanted to go out to the yard to play at all, and Chaiky hadn’t pushed them. She had no idea what exactly other children asked them, and how comfortable her own children were in the neighbors’ company.
But she had no energy to straighten things up now. What was she in the mood of?
Somehow, Chaiky found herself on the way to work. She nodded in greeting at a woman who was walking out of the grocery, not sure that she knew her name but confident that the other woman knew hers. Their up-and-coming neighborhood here in Yokne’am was still small enough that everyone knew everyone else, even though it wasn’t quite as small as it used to be. When Chaiky and Shlomo had come there nine years earlier, everything had been so small and new. Aside for the yeshiva and the families of the staff, there had been hardly anything. Then the rosh yeshiva had begun buying up the empty lots around the yeshiva, and now one of the largest chareidi housing projects in the country was going up in Yokne’am, brick by brick. So while their community wasn’t quite the center of things in the country, or even anything close to that, it certainly was no longer small, and its members were high caliber, serious people. Housing prices were low, and the construction was of excellent quality. These days, anyone who came to the town without having experienced the initial growing pains benefited from wide, paved streets, communal institutions of all kinds, shuls, two chadarim, and a girls’ school that had classes through fifth grade so far.
There was even a chareidi community center with an expansive library. Chaiky, the daughter-in-law of the yeshiva administrator, had gotten the job of managing it. Her mother-in-law had spoken to Elka Cohen about the job while Chaiky and Shlomo had still been engaged, and the job was waiting for her as soon as sheva berachos were over.
True, without Elka, nothing would have happened; there wouldn’t have been a building or funding, no money for hiring additional workers, or anything else. But if Chaiky Struk hadn’t been there, lots of other things wouldn’t have happened either. She had worked to build this place up for nine years, step after step, and a significant part of its success was to her credit.
She stood in front of the low, well-kept structure. There was no denying that Elka’s fingerprints were everywhere, from the attractive sign announcing, “Bais Leah Community Center,” to the types of flowers the gardener had been asked to plant out in front.
She entered through the open door. What day was today? Sunday. It was pretty quiet. There was supposed to be a baby-massage workshop in Room 2 with Clara Goldin, and she really had no patience to meet her now. Bella Braun should be giving her self-awareness and assertiveness course in Room 4. Chaiky wondered how she was doing.
She glanced at her watch. 11:05 a.m. Everything was orderly and calm, as always. She couldn’t take the sickly pastel pink that Elka had chosen to paint the walls with, but aside from that, things seemed to be doing well. The plants were flowering beautifully even though she hadn’t been there. The air conditioning and the soft classical music that she couldn’t identify offered a gentle background noise, interrupted only by the wails of an irritated baby from Room 2. One of the babies in that workshop was obviously less excited about the massage than his mother was.
The electronic bulletin board showed her that she hadn’t been wrong: Sunday morning was the quietest day of the week at the community center, except Friday, of course.
She turned to the secretary’s desk. “Good morning, Miri. What’s doing?”
Esther Rapaport is a prolific author whose novels include Diamond in the Rough, Divided Attention, Behind the Scenes, Without a Trace, Dance of the Puppet, Blood Brothers, and The Kenya Conspiracy. She resides in Israel. Stay tuned for the next installment in next week’s Five Towns Jewish Times or visit 5tjt.com for more.