Hashem Told Me
Rabbi Levi was sitting behind his worn out desk, stroking his gray flecked beard, in his tiny office in the back of his small synagogue, Bais Simcha. In front of him sat Batsheva Weinstein, tormenting him.
“Wait a minute, Rabbi, there’s more I have to tell you,” she said, for the fifth time, when he tried to interrupt her.
Batsheva continued on while the Rabbi studied her. She was mid-fortyish, short, slightly less than five feet tall, and emaciated. She had a cheap red-colored shaytle, or wig, sitting above a scrubbed face that bore no eye makeup nor lipstick. She was wearing a long sleeve gray sweater because she was always cold, even in the hot humid summer of Sunshine, Florida. Below her sweater was a woolen ankle-length faded black skirt, followed by old black shoes with large square heels. Her shoes were scuffed and beyond being improved by polish. She was a plain woman in an understated, orthodox way, except for her eyes. Her emerald green eyes were on fire.
Rabbi Levi sighed and said, for what seemed like the hundredth time, “I see.”
He had been listening, at first patiently, and then the reverse when he realized Batsheva was going to describe in excruciating detail every nuance and facet of one of her dreams. Nothing was going to deter her from fulfilling this task, certainly not the rabbi’s good natured attempts to bring her to some sort of conclusion. Towards the end of her long and interminable story, he stopped stroking his beard, took off his glasses, and rubbed his red streaked brown eyes. He glanced at the clock on his wall and shook his head. It was 8 PM.
Eight o’clock and he still hadn’t gone home to eat supper. Becca would shake her head, also, and add a rolling of her eyes, when he finally came through the front door. Then she would warm up his meal in the microwave, like she did four or five times each week, and keep him company while he ate. He would hurry through the meal so he could read stories to Avi and Hannah, his two youngest, before they fell asleep.
“And then Hashem told me to come to you and tell you about this dream,” Batsheva concluded, taking a deep breath and looking searchingly into the rabbi’s eyes.
Rabbi Levi rose from his old leather chair and brushed white stuffing material off his dark pants, stuffing that had come out of the cracks in the chair upholstery. As he walked toward the door, he asked:
“Batty, just out of curiosity, did Hashem come to you in your dream, or afterwards when you woke up?”
Batsheva closed her eyes and went into a trance while Rabbi Levi sighed even deeper. I should have kept my mouth shut, he thought. He drummed his fingers on the molding around his door and got a nasty splinter in his index finger. He cringed as he pulled it out, then continued to wait for Batsheva to come out of her trance. Finally, she opened her eyes.
“It was afterwards, while I was feeding Ester.”
Ester was one of Batsheva’s beloved cats, a white Persian that someone had discarded. She had dozens of them now, different sizes and shapes, the numbers growing as she took in more strays. When Rabbi Levi made a visit to Batsheva’s home at the insistence of Dinah Richardson, he found her home wreaked from cats. The animals also raked over her curtains and furniture with their claws, shredding the material. The rabbi tried unsuccessfully to get Animal Control involved in helping Batsheva with her army of orphaned cats.
“I see … He spoke to you afterwards … Well thank you Batty for coming to me with this. I will keep it in mind the next time I-”
“Keep it in mind! Rabbi, you must do more than keep it in mind. Your life is in danger! You simply cannot get behind the wheel of your car!”
“Then how will I get around, Batty? I have sick people to visit at Sunshine Memorial … Mr. Greenberg is in the I.C.U. with lung cancer … and I have to go to Restside Nursing Home … I pray with Gerty Rosen who hasn’t talked to a Jew other than me for ten years … and who else will bring left over challah from shabbos to Moshe Jacobs across town at the Breeze apartments on Sunday morning? If I don’t he won’t eat anything kosher … and who will take my children and their friends to the bowling alley on Sunday night? Who will do all these things if I cannot get around in my car?”
“You must find another way until-“
“Until Hashem tells me it is all clear. Hashem would not send me this dream unless it was a matter of life and death.”
Ordinarily Rabbi Levi would smile, nod his head, and humor Batsheva until she shuffled back into the life she had chosen for herself that included more furry animals than people. But, like on the Passover seder, this night was different from all other nights. Rabbi Levi had been going non-stop since 6 AM and had lost his patience after a fourteen hour backbreaker of a day, a day filled with ungrateful people, some who were angry at him, many who believed they knew the job of a rabbi better than the rabbi. The special sauce on this Big Mac of a day was a growling stomach, and a pounding headache.
“Batty, if this was so important, why wouldn’t Hashem come directly to me with this warning?”
Batty closed her eyes again and mumbled unintelligible phrases under her breath. Rabbi Levi shook his head and sighed so deeply he felt dizzy. Finally Batsheva opened her eyes.
“I can’t tell you, Rabbi.”
“Can’t tell me what, Batty?”
“What Hashem told me.”
That was the drop in the bucket that broke the water carrier’s back. Rabbi Yaakov Levi, known as Yankee to his friends, had more restraint and good manners than ten good men if they were exposed to the same intense frustration that he was subjected to on a daily basis. But now his angry stomach and pulsating headache brought him over the edge of restraint.
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