July 18, 2024
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July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

By Ariella Aaron


Chapter 26 summary: After speaking with her rav, Yaffa tells Debbie that she won’t be participating in the scheme to convince her parents to change their will. Debbie blows up at the news, and Shani overhears their phone conversation.


Jake walked into the Harris home an hour before Shabbat with a big smile on his face. “Hey, Aunt Yaffa! Thanks for inviting me. Yo, Uncle Shmu! My chavru!”

Shmuel gave him a big hug while Yaffa beamed. She was still shocked that Jake’s parents had allowed him to come; she could only imagine what kind of job Ari must have had convincing Debbie, and hoped it didn’t damage what already seemed to be a shaky marriage.

“Jake!” The younger boys came running up, followed by Shani, Tzippy and Moriah.

“Hey guys,” he said, slapping Binyamin’s hand. “We’re gonna have an awesome Shabbat.” He waved at the girls. “Moriah, what are you still doing here? Are you, like, moving to New Jersey?”

She mock shuddered. “Chalilah!”

Shani was bouncing impatiently on her heels. “Binyamin, show Jake where he’s staying so he can put down his stuff. We have a lot to talk about.” She cast him a significant look that Yaffa caught with some surprise. But then her oven timer went off, and she ran back into the kitchen.

***

“So, here’s the deal.” Shani plunked a bowl of caramel popcorn on the living room coffee table and settled down in the recliner. Jake was sprawled on the couch; Moriah was sitting cross-legged on the floor while Tzippy, sitting next to her, kept glancing at Moriah and shifting her own legs, as if trying to imitate her cousin’s easy, flowing grace.

Her parents had finally gone to sleep; usually, her father dozed off soon after the Friday night meal, but tonight he’d stayed up to learn and schmooze with Jake. It was fascinating for Shani to see Tatty in the role of mentor — and to see the way Jake looked up to him in that role. After all, Tatty was a lawyer, not a rebbe. And, c’mon, did Jake realize how corny her father’s jokes were?

But now, at last, they had some privacy. Shani began rocking on the recliner.

“Jake, we need to fill you in on the major bombshell I found out this week. Have you heard anything about what’s been going on between our mothers?”

Jake’s face reddened slightly. “Kind of. I mean, I heard my mom, uh, speaking with my dad …”

Shani smirked. “Yeah, they were really furious at each other, from what I overheard. Whatever. Listen, you gotta hear this!”

She leaned forward. “Grandma and Grandpa are planning on giving away all of their money to start a tzedakah foundation.”

Jake sat up. “How do you know?”

“I heard my parents talking.”

Jake frowned. “All of their money? Like, $15 million?”

“That’s what it sounds like.”

“But that’s insane!”

“Right?” Shani agreed. “Like, not to leave anything for their kids and grandkids? No wonder our parents are angry, huh?”

Moriah looked up. “I think it’s beautiful. Think about how hard Grandpa worked for that money. And now they’re giving it all away. We should be proud!”

Jake shook his head. “It’s … odd. Not what I’d expect of Grandpa, y’know?”

Shani nodded her head. “Exactly.”

“What kind of organization did you say they’re starting?” Jake asked.

“Not an organization; a foundation. You know, like Bill and Melinda Gates who sit in an office and decide who to give their money to.”

Tzippy piped up. “You mean, Grandma and Grandpa’s names will be on buildings all over the world? Cool!”

Shani looked at her sister in surprise; she hadn’t thought about that aspect. “Yeah, and maybe Mommy and Uncle Ari and Aunt Ilana will be honored by all these organizations. Like Faigy Lichtman’s parents. That would be cool.” Her voice trailed off. “I don’t know, it’s so not our family’s type.”

“What isn’t our family’s type?” Moriah asked indignantly. “Doing Chesed?”

“No … you know. Being one of these big gvirim who throws their money around.” Shani giggled. “Like, can you picture Grandma and Grandpa hosting crazy Purim parties with lines of people waiting to get in and ask for money?”

“I wonder when they’re planning on starting this foundation,” Jake mused. “They’re not getting any younger. Especially with Grandpa’s heart attack.”

Moriah reached over to grab a handful of popcorn. As she chewed, she said slowly, “Guys, I have a crazy idea. What do you think about … us starting the foundation?”

Shani raised an eyebrow. “Us? Whaddaya mean? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $15 million.”

Moriah swiped her hand. “With their money, obviously. I meant, how about we offer to help them get it off the ground now? Like, make it into a big family project.” She sat up on her heels. “Think about the huge amount of impact we can make in the world with that amount of money!”

***

Ilana’s heart lifted when she saw Moriah’s name on her phone. Gosh, how she missed her daughter! Better get used to it, she warned herself.

“Hi, how was Shabbat?” she asked.

“Nice. Jake came to Aunt Yaffa’s, we had a great time.”

“Glad to hear. Have you decided yet when you’re coming home?”

Okay, maybe she should have been a little more subtle. From across the ocean, Moriah laughed. “Not yet, Ima. There are lots of things going on here.”

“Things?” she asked suspiciously. “What kind of things?”

“Oh, you know…” Moriah paused, while Ilana prayed. Please tell me. Please don’t shut me out of your life. Yes, she was pathetic. Yes, she needed to separate herself from her children. No, she didn’t have the emotional energy to do that when her one and only daughter was thousands of miles away and showing no indication of wanting to come home.

Moriah’s next words came out in a rush. “Fine, I’ll tell you. We found out about … Grandma and Grandpa’s money. And the fact that they’re planning to use it to start a tzedakah foundation. Did you know about this?”

Whatever Ilana had expected, it was not that. Without thinking, she replied, “Yes, I did. And I can’t say I wasn’t shocked. Well, we all were. I mean, it was surprising enough to discover they had so much money. And here we were, already thinking about how we’d spend it — like, giving you and Matan money to buy an apartment in Beit Shemesh, because how could you afford it otherwise, the prices are so crazy now? Then, suddenly we find out that they’re not planning on leaving us any money at all.”

Moriah was silent for a moment, and Ilana berated herself. TMI? Had she revealed too much to her 18-year-old?

“That’s what you wanted to do with the money, Ima? Use it to buy us apartments close to you?”

Ilana cringed. If you draw them too close, they’ll try to escape. Was that what this extended trip was about? No, she was being paranoid.

“Not just that,” she said lightly. “I also had my dream to start a fertility organization.”

“Yeah?” Moriah’s voice perked up. “I never realized that.”

“Well, it’s a new idea, but it’s been 20 years in the making.” She laughed self-consciously. “I want to start a support network for mothers who’ve gone through infertility, even those who came out on the other side, thank God, like I did.”

“That’s great! You should totally go for it!”

Ilana was amused — and gratified — by Moriah’s enthusiasm. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I told you, in the end, as you heard, we’re not getting the money from Grandpa and Grandma. So it looks like that little dream will have to be put on hold.” She paused. “Now, when did you say you’re coming home?”

***

Back in Lakewood, Moriah hung up the phone and stared thoughtfully into space. Her cousins had laughed at her suggestion that they start the family tzedakah foundation themselves. But she still thought it was a great idea.

And she knew exactly which organization she planned on asking her grandparents to start with.


Ariella Aaron is an internationally published writer with a unique talent for writing stories that are entertaining and thought-provoking, with characters who are eminently relatable. A former resident of northern New Jersey, Ariella has now transplanted her family to Israel, where she is happily living the dream of raising her brood in our homeland.

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