July 21, 2024
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July 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The score was six to five in the bottom of the ninth inning when Nate Blau came up to bat. The pitcher, Jay Leonard, looked tired, but he was still throwing heat. Jay walked the first two batters but then struck out the next two in the order. Nate was the best hitter on the team, and everyone was counting on him.

Nate let the first pitch go by, and it was called a strike. The next two pitches were balls, and on the fourth pitch Nate swung hard and hit it foul, outside the third base line. The next pitch was a ball, in the dirt, and now Nate faced Jay with the count full and the tying run on second.

Jay wiped his sweaty forehead with the tail of his shirt and then stared Nate down. He went into his windup and then let it fly. Nate swung hard, and the bat made a loud “thwack” noise as it connected with the ball. The ball went flying into left field. It just kept flying. Nate’s team rose to their feet as Nate rounded first. It was going, going, gone—right through the front window pane of Mrs. Kahn’s living room.

The crash noise of the shattered window was the cue for everyone to scatter. Mrs. Kahn was known in the neighborhood as a scary woman. Not only had she never returned a ball that had landed in her yard, but she scolded many a child who had trespassed on her property. No one wanted to mess with her.

Nate was well on his way to second base when the window broke. When everyone else ran, he stood in the baseline and considered his options. He knew what he had to do.

Crossing the empty field, Nate could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He walked up to the Kahn’s house, pausing for a moment before their perfectly manicured lawn, and then mounted the front steps and knocked. He was ready to face—dare I say it?—the wrath of Kahn.

Mrs. Kahn answered the door in her bathrobe. She was a woman in her seventies who was on the smaller side, but you could tell at first glance that you wouldn’t want to be on her bad side.

“Yes?”

“Mrs. Kahn?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“I’m Nate Blau, and I’m the one who broke your window.”

“Hmm. Are you Arlene Blau’s son?”

“Yes, Mrs. Kahn.”

Mrs. Kahn eyed him with curiosity, maintaining the scowl on her face. “Come inside for a second, Nate. I want to have a word with you.”

Nate walked into the Kahn’s house and was escorted to an ornate white couch, covered in clear, thick plastic. He sat down with his hands in his lap.

Mrs. Kahn came back from the kitchen with a tray of long, thin cookies she called Lady Fingers and offered one to Nate, which he took as politely as he could. It was dry, but not half-bad.

“I know your mother well, Mr. Blau. She often helps me carry my groceries to the car at ShopRite. She’s very sweet.”

“Thank you,” Nate said, still chewing his cookie.

“Nate, I can’t say I’m too thrilled you broke my window, but I’m impressed with the courage it took for you to come up to my door and claim responsibility. Not too many children would have done that. Do you know what it reminds me of?”

“No, Mrs. Kahn.”

“It reminds me of the beginning of this week’s parsha, Vayigash.”

Mrs. Kahn, also known as Doris, had been a teacher for many years at the local day school before retiring. That was where she perfected the scowl that drove fear into the hearts of boys and girls all over town, and where she developed the ability to conjure an appropriate dvar Torah on a moment’s notice. It is an excellent skill. You should try it sometime.

“At the beginning of Vayigash, Yosef is about to put Binyamin in jail for stealing his geviya, his goblet, which Yosef had planted in his bag. That is when Yehuda steps up and defends his brother. After giving a speech reviewing the family history, Yehuda says: Ve’ata yeshev na avdecha tachat hana’ar eved la’adoni, vehana’ar ya’al im echav. Now, therefore, let your servant remain instead of the youth as a servant to my lord, and let the youth go up with his brothers. Yehuda takes responsibility for his actions and the actions of his family. And that’s when Yosef breaks down and reveals himself. Who knows, maybe that moment of personal bravery is what qualified Yehuda to be the tribe that King David comes from.

“That’s what you did today, Nate. You showed personal bravery. I think you’ll be a great leader someday.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Kahn.”

“Don’t mention it. Oh, and Nate?”

“Yes?”

Mrs. Kahn took the ball out of the pocket of her robe and hurled it at Nate. The velocity was poor, but it was somewhere between a curveball and a slider. “Try to pull the ball toward right field next time. Mrs. O’Hanlon has a much more liberal return policy.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

By Larry Stiefel

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