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THE PROMISED CHILD
to celebrate the bris. The city of Pulichev had never seen
such an exuberant celebration.
Shloimele was an unusual child. Before he was one year old
he was already walking and talking exceedingly well. He had
tremendous curiosity, learned very quickly and retained every-
thing he learned. He was clearly a prodigy who could be
expected to grow up to be a big Talmid Chacbam, especially in
view of the illustrious Pulichever lineage. Even at that tender age
he was becoming quite famous. Travellers would detour through
Pulichev to visit Reb Mendel and catch a glimpse of his wondrous
Much as Shloimele loved to learn new things he loved music
and singing even more. He would sit on his mother's lap and try to
sing along as she crooned to him. And he would stand next to Reb
Mendel as he davened before the amud, his arms wrapped tightly
round his father's leg.
Reb Mendel and the Rebbetzin were happier than they had
ever been. They savored every moment of every day. Reb Mendel
immersed himself deeply in the study of Torah. He sat in his study
or endless hours, humming to himself as he pored over his
sefarim and wrote his chidushim and teshuvos. The Rebbetzin
busied herself with the needs of the poor people of Pulichev. She
fed them in her own house or brought them food to their homes.
She collected unwanted clothing which she distributed among
he poor. She raised money to help them marry off their children.
Every day Reb Mendel and the Rebbetzin thanked Hashem for the
wonderful gift He had given them.
Every chance he got, Shloimele would come into the study.
Leb Mendel would put the little boy on his lap and bounce him
him and down as he continued to learn the Torah. Shloimele
would beam with delight, but he would never make a sound. He
new that he mustn't disturb his father's learning. When people
came to consult with Reb Mendel about Torah matters or
personal problems Shloimele would move to a corner of the
room and sit there silently as he observed every detail. But Reb
Mendel knew that Shloimele was there, and every once in a while,
he would glance at him and smile.
Whenever Shloimele could not be in the study with his
father he clung to his mother's side as she stood in the kitchen
cooking and baking. He especially enjoyed offering food to the
poor people who frequented their house, and they in turn
responded warmly to the kindness of the tiny child. They would
kiss the top of his head and bless him.
The years passed, and Shloimele's third birthday was ap-
proaching. A message came from Reb Zalman during the month
of Elul reminding them that he was expecting them in Krakow on
the child's birthday, some three weeks after Sukkos. Reb Mendel
and the Rebbetzin had not forgotten. In fact, they were very eager
to make the journey to Reb Zalman with the child. They wanted
Reb Zalman to see the child and to give him a berachah. They also
wanted to ask his advice about how to bring up such an
extraordinary child. They began to make preparations for the
journey immediately. They would set out on the road to Krakow
three days after Sukkos.
Rosh Hashanah was a festive occasion that year. Reb Mendel
and the Rebbetzin poured out their deepest gratitude to Hashem
for the happiness and fulfillment he had given them. Their joy was
infectious; they had an aura of holiness about them. All the people
of Pulichev felt swept along in the fervor. It would surely be a
good year for everyone.
Shloimele sat in shul, looking about him in wide eyed
wonder. He stared curiously at the grownup people standing
with tears streaming down their faces like little children. He
loved the sounds of the special Rosb Hashanah prayers. But most
of all, he loved the sound of the shofar. It made him thrill with
Yom Kippur came to Pulichev in a blaze of autumn color.
People who ordinarily davened in small shuts all over the city
crowded into the main shul to hear their esteemed Rav, Reb
Mendel, say the KolNidre. Even though Shloimele was not quite
three years old the Rebbetzin brought him to hear the Kol Nidre
before he was put to bed.
Shloimele was overwhelmed by the excitement. Everyone
was wearing white kittlach and white yarmulkas. They were
standing slightly bent, as if they were carrying heavy burdens; the
looks on their faces were intent.
What a strange feeling there was in the air! Joyful expectancy
mixed with dread and awe. What was the meaning of this? His still
unsophisticated mind found the atmosphere puzzling but also
Then Reb Mendel stepped to the amud, and a deep hush fell
over the crowded shul. The Sifrei Torah were taken out from the
Aron Hakodesh, and Reb Mendel began to sing. He stood
wrapped in his kittel and his tallis, with beads of sweat gleaming
on his forehead, and his warm, sweet voice soared high into the
heavens. All that was in his heart poured into his singing, his
Torah, his Yiras Shamayim, his kindness, his compassion, his joy
and his gratitude. He sang with a holiness that seemed to have no
place in the mundane world.
Shloimele did not understand what was going on, but he still
found it an intensely moving experience. He could not believe
that a sound could be so beautiful, so haunting. And his little heart
swelled with pride that it was his beloved father who was
creating such beauty.
Yom Kippur passed and it was time to build the sukkab. Reb
Mendel had already bought an esrog and a lulav during the Aseres
Yemai Tesbuvah, but it was still a very hectic time in his
household. Between building the sukkah, preparing for Yom Tov
and preparing for the journey to Krakow there was just no time
for anything else.
Shloimele was left to his own devices. He sat by
himself under a tree in the yard, out of everyone's way, playing
with his toys or watching the passersby.
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