Weaving together two completely different stories, one of a youngster facing his own worst fears and the other a stirring account of a young mother's battle with a deadly illness, this is an eminently readable novel that engages both our imaginations and our minds, bringing a tear to our eyes while at the same time offering a deeper understanding of basic issues of faith and trust in G-d. Ezra returned from another teeth-pulling meeting at shul. At least tonight they had committed, on paper, to a fund-raising strategy that the majority of the board agreed upon. The only problem was that the actual strategy itself was going to cost money to implement, and the board would have to meet again to decide where that money was going to come from. Devorah had tea ready for him when he walked in the door. She looked a little weary from standing much of the day. ?How are you feeling?? he asked her before unloading the events of his own hectic day. She smiled. ?Baruch Hashem. Just rolling along. I have some sores in my mouth, though. I think I may be getting a cold.? ?How many days do you have left at the shul office?? ?Well...? She counted on her fingers. ?About nine.? ?Maybe you can ask for leave a little earlier. It?s too stressful for you.? ?Maybe.? She shrugged. ?We?ll see how I feel tomorrow.? * * * The next day he was staring blankly at his screen, trying to figure out why a particular bug in the program just wouldn?t go away. The secretary buzzed. ?It?s your wife, Mr. Gelb.? Devorah told him that her entire mouth hurt although she displayed no symptoms of a cold. She had left work in the morning and made a visit to the doctor. He had suggested that her wisdom teeth were infecting her mouth and that they should be surgically removed. Ezra sat back in his chair. ?Is that a common thing?? ?I don?t know. He didn?t seem to know the cause of the infection, but, of course, he did tell me how common it is to have one?s wisdom teeth removed.? ?But what about the fact that you?re pregnant?? ?Right. So he said that surgery is risky, and I should really wait until after I?ve given birth, since I?m in my thirty-fifth week anyway. In the meantime, he?s prescribed antibiotics that are safe to take during pregnancy.? Ezra leaned forward and tapped his fingers on his desk. They were both silent for a while. There was an almost tangible undercurrent of nervousness. ?So are you calling from home or from work?? he asked finally. ?From work. Apart from my mouth, I feel all right. Just a little tired. I?ve already gotten my prescription filled, and I?ve taken my first dose.? ?Is it painful to talk?? ?A little.? ?A little? in Devorah?s vocabulary usually translated as ?A lot, but I?m dealing with it.? He told her to get into bed the minute she got home, and he would be there as soon as he could. He would throw together some food for dinner, perhaps call Ima to come over and help, but he didn?t want to worry her. Devorah?s parents were out of town, and in any case their relationship with their daughter was strained. They had never come to terms with her decision to become more observant, despite countless overtures on Devorah?s part to convince them that nothing had changed in how she felt about them. On the contrary, she would point out, her new lifestyle had deepened her appreciation of her parents and what they had done for her. But they closed their ears to her entreaties. Any attempt at reconciliation was defiantly and abruptly halted with a crude and painful remark that Devorah would bravely deflect. Still, she tried to keep the lines of communication open, even if it meant making herself into an open target. Ezra turned his attention to the computer screen and chewed on his knuckles. The jumble of code stared up at him, waiting for him to continue. It was going to be really difficult to concentrate now. He remembered a devar Torah he had heard at a Shabbos table about what made a person great. The real trick in life was the ability to focus on the moment at hand. The great tzaddikim would pour every ounce of energy they had into what Hashem required of them at each moment. That was the secret of success in Torah learning, in tefillah, in empathizing with a fellow Jew, in all areas of life. To be able to block out all else was an art. And it took many years of hard work to cultivate it. With a sigh, he returned to his work.
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