The Yemen cobbler’s son — Part 2

Much to Yonathan’s surprise, Master Greenberg’s attitude towards the other students seemed to improve in the absence of David. He allowed the students a bit more time to copy his precious notes from the blackboard and even started to loosen the top shirt button underneath his tie.

One day he taught the older children about pi again. They had to figure it out by themselves by measuring the circumference and the radius of various circles. The teacher frowned down at Yonathan when Esther, the most clever girl in the school now, concluded that pi = 3.141. Yonathan however kept himself busy with measuring the various circles and made sure not to look up for the entire lesson.

On the other hand, things a home were not going very well. David immediately started to look at his mother’s accounts and insisted that her clients pay their entire bill before she starts sewing on a new dress or shirt for them. Slowly less and less women stopped by for a cup of tea or to look at the new fabrics from Haifa. And hardly anybody dropped in anymore with a button that needed be sewn back or any other small piece of mending that Sima was always willing to do free of charge. They only visited the house on Tra’ab street when they were in dire need of a new piece of clothing.

“He doesn’t understand.” explained Sima to Yonathan. “Nobody is really rich here in Zichron. They pay me a little bit and a little bit here. Sometimes they bring me a few bottles of olive oil, or some fruit of a basket of vegetables for the things that I do for them..

“I fix the clothes of Shabazi’s family without taking one lira. Nothing! And does Shabazi ask me for money when he cuts your hair? Or your father’s hair? Or the hair of your brothers?
He doesn’t take one lira form me, I tell you! That brother of yours only knows black and white. But that is not the right way. This is not how people work.”

Finally Sima forbade David to ever bother her or her clients again and so the oldest son moved to their father’s cobbler’s shop in the backyard. Yosef didn’t allow David to talk to his clients or look at the accounts but was happy for the help with fixing old shoes or cutting the leather and stitching the new ones.

The cobbler was even more happy when David showed him a better and less wasteful way to cut the leather for the new shoes. David could also take one look at the feet of the Aharonson’s family or those of their important visitors and then come home and draw the exact same pattern for his father.

This talent of his amazed the residents of the entire Tra’ab street. As soon as they heard that some important official or guest had visited Zichron, they would make sure to go and pop in at the cobbler’s to see the design that David made of their footwear. But of course, the residents of the moshava weren’t interested in buying shoes made from these fancy designs. Most of them were field workers and they only needed sturdy shoes that could last as long as possible.

David started to spend less time at home and more and more at the synagogue. Rabbi Teitelbaum was very impressed that he would spend so much time with the bar mitzvah boys and how he insisted that each and everyone should be able to read the Torah flawlessly. He was however less happy with the fact that David acted exactly the same with the grown-ups.

Every time after the men took out the Torah from the cupboard and took turns to read from it, David was just waiting to correct their pronunciation. The hardworking men of Zichron did not have endless time to study the difficult and ancient Hebrew of the Torah. The 15 year-old cobbler’s son who didn’t even study in a proper yeshiva and who corrected them in a strong Yemenite accent was just too much. Nearly every day Rabbi Teitelbaum had to listen to somebody else complain about David’s behaviour in the synagogue.

Finally he called his parents, Yosef and Sima, and the younger brother Yonathan for a talk. They met in his small and dark office near the synagogue. The office was packed with books on overflowing shelves, even half obscuring a small window. The only person, apart from the rabbi, who have read these books was of course David.

The rabbi gestured the parents to two rickety chairs in front of his desk as he settled behind it. Yonathan had to lean up against the closed door, the one place in the office that was not covered with books.

“You have to help me, I do not want to forbid David from praying but he cannot continue bothering everyone in the synagogue.” started Rabbi Teitelbaum.

“It is because that child of ours only see in black and white, Rabbi. He is very clever but he is not like us regular people.” replied Sima. “He has been like this since he was small.”

“He will never stop correcting everyone, don’t even bother asking him”, added Yonathan. “ For him right is right and wrong is wrong. The only way to get him to stop is to remove him from the synagogue.”

“We need to find that boy a job.” said Yosef. “A good job where he can use that straight-lined brain of is.”

“Yeah , joked Yonathan “Maybe he can go and design round car wheels…or maybe…he can design telephone poles!”

Sima looked crossly at Yonathan, “Don’t laugh at your brother. He cannot help seeing the world the way that he does..”

Yonathan, a bit stung from his mother’s reprimand replied, “Maybe he should go and do your accounts again Ima, he has always been very good with numbers.”

Sima glared at her younger son but did not reply.

“People, people..we are trying to help David, not fight with each other. We need to find him a job where they will be glad that he is so particular about getting things just right.” said the rabbi.

“And where he can use his good head for numbers.”, said Yonathan a bit sarcastically.

“And maybe even design things.” suggested Yosef.

Yonathan kept the thought ‘Yeah, like shoes that nobody wears or anything else with straight lines and round circles’ to himself because of his mother’s previous scolding but the idea of David designing straight lines persisted.

“Maybe he can work with a building crew? They really need someone to teach them how to build a straight wall.” he tried gently. The little town of Zichron Yaakov was undergoing a growth spurt but the hastily build buildings were notorious for their skew walls.

He caught the look that Sima and Yosef looked at each other. His parents had repeatedly told him and his siblings from a young age that they should study hard so that they would not end up working with their hands too. They especially had high hopes for the clever Yonathan but his difficult way with people has slowly eroded that dream.

“I promised Sima that our children would not have to work with their hands in Eretz Israel. We work hard so that they can do well in school and study with you Rabbi.”

Rabbi Teitelbaum nodded. The Haredi family (boys and girls) were indeed always in the synagogue on Shabbatot and holidays. And once he overheard that Master Greenberg sneered that maybe the family should hire a private tutor instead of sending their brood to school for him to babysit.

“You do not have to tell me Yosef. I know your family..and David. David is like a son to me. I remember that he was only four years old when he started to read. Didn’t he spent most of his life here in this very room, reading every nearly single book here..?

If we lived in a city, or even a larger town he could join a yeshiva and be a talmid haham.”

“But we don’t live in a city, we live in a small town on a rocky hilltop near a malaria-infested swamp.” blurted Yonathan. ”Is it really so bad to work with your hands, Ima and Abba? You have fed and clothed the six us of with your handwork.”

For a few seconds nobody said anything and his words hung silently in the air, as trapped by the surrounding books. Then Sima looked up straight into her second child eye’s, “Yonathan is right. We are making an honest living with our hands and so will our first born. And who knows, maybe the building bricks won’t mind David telling them to lay in a straight line!”

The rabbi and Yosef let out a small forced laugh but Yonathan just answered his mother’s unspoken question with a small nod. He understood. David will be allowed to become a builder but that means that it will be up to him now to do the Haredi name proud.

“Good” said the rabbi,” that is settled then. I will talk to Simon and David.”

You can read the first part of the Yemen cobbler’s son here.

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