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"Did you take the Machzor?" mother asked from the corridor. Personal column

Elul is here, the thoughts run through Yaakov Nahumi's head, and he can't calm down. So he decided to retrieve the events of the first day of Elul in Yeshivah Gedola from his memory
Yaakov Nahumi, Behadrey Haredim, ד' אלול תשע"ב 22/08/2012 10:14

For the last few days, a harsh feeling of "they" are there and "I" am here, has been pursuing me. Their "Elul" and my "Elul".

Did some kind of drizzle of the Elul in Yeshiva stay in me from those days? So far I have no answer.

Thoughts run through my mind over the last few days, and I cannot calm down. So I decided to retrieve from my memory the events of the first day of Elul in Yeshiva Gedola.

Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul.

On Nechemya street in Bnei Brak, apt. no. 9, which is situated on the 3rd floor, another closet is opened. Clothes and articles are placed in a suitcase which is about to burst.

Fears accompany the event: where will my place for Tefilla be, who will be the chavrusa for Seder Iyun, will it be a Yeshiva like the Rosh Yeshiva Ketana promised, and will there be a shower and bathroom in the room, or will I have to share them with the rest of those in the dormitory?

"Did you take the Machzor?" mom asks from the corridor. She, so it seems, is more pressurized than me. Her darling son is leaving home for the first time, after three years in Yeshiva Ketana, moving to a status of "dorm dweller".

Mother strokes me lovingly, looks and ponders.

Many years later I wondered what was that moment of thought. She already knew then that a Gadol Batorah I won't become. I did, indeed love, and probably wasn't bad at, learning. But I was always more curious than my peers, to know, to understand, to feel. Already then the visual part in me was developed, enough to see in every situation an object for photography.

Perhaps mother thought then that a person always has to be busy, to be creative, effective; to himself, to others. And not always does it matter in what. This habit mother inherited from her childhood home – way back on the Carpathian mountains on the Czech-Hungarian border – not to sit idle. Get up early in the morning, go out to pick mushrooms, prepare breakfast, clean the house. Simple village life, but endlessly full of doing and creativity.

The bus drove into the bus stop.

Mother hopped along after me with three suitcases. The weight was really exceptional, but the situation pretty usual – one of many. The street was loaded with Yeshiva bochurim, accompanied by mothers and fathers. Going out to the first day in Yeshiva Gedola. Who will see them going out and won't come out.

This was on a Friday. A little bit of a strange day and even not suitable to start a life at a new place. I arrived with my belongings at the Yeshiva not many hours before Shabbos. There were many things to be sorted out. Where is my room, which bed, who are my room mates – and onwards , obviously to get ready for Shabbos.

No need to say, the landing was hard. But the heart overburdened with excitement. The arrangements were pressing, and who has time for feelings. I act like a robot, to make it on time for Shabbos.

And then, quiet.

I'm clean, organized and ready for Shabbos. I sit on my bed, look at the watch as if waiting for the first Shabbos in Yeshiva to come in. And in one moment, the pressure diffuses.

One last phone call to mom, and then the dam burst. "Who said that everything is fine?" "There's a problem with the shower, the water current is weak", "there's a strong noise from the generator which is right under the window where my bed is", "and I don't know anyone here".

Mother listened to my flood of complaints, without saying a word. Only listened. At times it seemed to me that she wasn't interested. As if she was too busy with her business. Or that they were more important than the shower and generator which made a noise under my head.

Years later I understood, that what a person needs at the time of frustration, is listening. He doesn't need answers, because there are none.

Mother blessed me with "Good Shabbos" and the conversation ended.

A bochur with a thick beard passed between the rooms and announced: "The Rosh Yeshiva is gathering the whole Yeshiva for an opening talk at the Beis Midrash, half an hour before Shabbos. Everyone must show up and bring the new Maseches – Bava Kama".

A mischievous ray of light found a small opening behind the flowery curtain, and lay on the Gemora in the closet. A sort of path of light which comes and goes, which symbolizes that in a short while it will be dark, and Shabbos the Queen will enter.
I took the Gemora in my hand, and stepped towards the Beis Midrash, burdened with thoughts. About a new life, new friends, and new creation which is getting close.
And from dreams, back to reality.

Years later, when I sit at this moment and my fingers are jumping over letters which form into words, thoughts come up. I am no longer a Yeshiva bochur, and didn't open the Zman with the infinite announcement of "E-l-u-l". Just a ballebos, taking photographs here and there. Did something of those years stay in me? Could I retrieve something from those feelings which inspired me every time I heard the declaration of "E-l-u-l"?

A while ago I read some things which my friend, the thinker Harav Yaakov B. Friedman wrote in the Kehilla newspaper (I don't remember the exact quote, please forgive): "If only that a ballebos in the present, a Yeshiva bochur in the past, will jump towards a Rashba which fell on the floor – then all those years in Yeshiva were worthwhile".

Of course this is a little extreme. But the spirit of things is understood and obvious. For a person whose Jewish feelings are alive, many years in Yeshiva are a priceless treasure. A treasure of endless feelings, of honor, appreciation for Torah and mainly for the announcement of "Elulllll"…




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