OLD ZVI, THE STORYTELLER

by Jacob Ben Avraham


Old Zvi left Prospect Park, walking now with a slow gait since he was advanced in years, yet he was happy even in his old age. Slowly but surely, he walked on three legs, two of flesh and blood and the third made of hard-wood. He had spent the day telling stories from the Bible to both the young people as well as adults, who often times would pause to listen. He would do this every day, and even on the Sabbath.
As he had his days free, he would go to the park in Brooklyn, and tell his stories to all who would listen. On the Sabbaths he would teach God’s Word to his Torah study group at his small “Kehilah”, then he would go to the park and find the kids.
They were used to seeing him now for many years. This had been his life, his passion, his calling, to make God’s word come alive through storytelling. This he had inherited from his grandfather who he loving called “Saba” which was passed down to his own father “Abba” and now he was the Story Teller, to all who would listen.
He had his little place in the park just in front of the wooded area. People would come to listen to him, sometimes being as few as five or six, at other times perhaps ten or fifteen. They would listen and ask questions, both the little ones as well as adults. Zvi would answer as best as he could.
Today was a bit cold and Hanukkah was just around the corner. Mr. and Mrs. Wong, a kindly Chinese couple from one of the upstairs apartments in Zvi’s building helped Zvi as he walked, giving him support and company. They would come with him to the park everyday so he wouldn’t be alone. When the Wongs couldn’t make it, Good-Neighbor Bailey, who lived in the apartment across from his, would walk with him.
Once out of the park, Zvi and the Wongs walked along Lincoln Road until they came to Zvi’s old four-story apartment building which stood across the street from a Jewish Deli. The building hadn’t changed much in the past years, yet Zvi kept it in good condition just like Abba and Saba had done in years past. He preferred it that way, old but in good condition.
“I need to sit for a while” said Zvi quietly to the Wongs. The Wongs understood this routine. He would stop, rest, sit, think and ponder for a while, then he would get up and cross the street to his apartment building. This was home since birth, oh so long ago, ages ago.
Zvi wrapped his long, black “Bekishe” around his body more tightly, with his raggedy grey beard blowing softly in the cold New York City wind. He reached for his wide rimmed black hat, pushing it more firmly on his hoary head. Mr. Wong opened the portable canvas chair and put it in front of “Stein’s Deli” which was directly across from his apartment building. Zvi sat down, ever so slowly. He looked at his place and slowly nodded. Yes, it brought back memories, memories of saba, abba, mamma, and of course, Zvi’s wife who had given up the ghost so many years ago.
God had been good to him, many blessings, not so many hardships, or perhaps just a few since life is not one-hundred percent a bed of roses. A year ago, a black cat appeared at his doorstep. Zvi adopted it and called it “Nunu”. He found a large cardboard box and put it under the stairwell that connected the floors above. With a few old rags inside the box Nunu settled in quite well.
Zvi closed his eyes imagining himself going back, back in time, a time when he was young, oh so young, a boy even, sitting at the feet of grandfather saba. He enjoyed listening to the stories that saba told from the old country and also, from the Torah. It was always after the lighting of the candles by grandma, who he lovingly called sav’ta, that saba told stories from the Torah. He would make it come to life, sometimes shouting, sometimes whispering, waving of his hands and gesturing.
During the weekdays, he would tell stories from the old country, but would always include some teaching from the Torah, many times it would be a midrash from Psalms or Proverbs. Sometimes he would mention the rabbis from the old country, some were even distant relatives, maybe fourth or fifth cousins as he would say. He would always say something like; “That rabbi was similar to Father Abraham, do you know why?” well, remember that Abraham….” Then he would retell the calling of Abraham. He would also tell the story of how Abraham sat at the feet of “Old Shem” the story teller, of how “Old Shem” son of Noah, told the story of the flood to youths that lived near the Plain of Shinar. He sat under the shade of a large Tamarisk tree with all the youths around him, but then Abraham was just a youth himself. Well, at least that was how Saba told the story.
Now saba was from Germany, from an area called Holstein, but his ancestors moved to that area from Russia centuries ago.
“Well” he would begin, “my father bought a small farm near Holstein back in 1850, and he taught me how to plow with a horse and…” Then he would come to the exciting part of how he’d found some buried treasure on his property.
“Well” he would say, “After my abba died, I managed the farm myself, caring for the small flock of sheep and goats and tending the rows of standing corn. Then, one day, the plow hit something and I heard the sound of something breaking. What did I do you ask? I stopped to see what it was!”
The saba would come to the best part, he would raise his hands shouting; “Baruch HaShem (Praise the LORD) it was an ancient clay pot that contained ancient Roman silver and gold coins, plus three uncut emeralds and five uncut rubies! Zvi had learned later on in school that at one time, Rome had conquered “Germania” which later was called Germany. Perhaps some Roman soldier had buried his loot for safe keeping, but never returned for it. Then Saba would continue his story.
“Now with Elohim’s blessing, I decided to move to America” he would say, “I sold the farm, booked passage on a ship bound for Ellis Island. Before I left, however, I took the coins to Count Ludwig Von Graff.”
Now Ludwig Von Graff was a wealthy man who lived in Holstein, and just by chance, well…nothing happens by chance, not with God in charge…he happened to be a coin collector. Saba showed the coins to the man and he was over-joyed at the prospect of owning a “piece of Rome” as he stated.
“Ludwig paid me well for those coins” he would say, nodding his head. Then he would go on to tell how he booked first class passage to New York City, and got the royal treatment to boot. Then when he got to New York, he bought a newspaper and looked for the “for sale” section in the classified. Even though Saba spoke and understood just a little bit of English, since his primary languages were German, Hebrew, and Yiddish, he did understand the words; “For Sale” and “Apartment Building”. He figured that out with a small English-German dictionary he had brought with him.
“Well Zvi”, he would continue, “I just had to buy our building, and I did just that.” Then he would tell how he found the owner and asked about the price. Then he showed the owner seven gold aurei, and seven silver denarii, two rubies, and two emeralds. Saba was smart, he didn’t sell all the coins to Count Von Graff, he kept some for his new life in America.
The owner’s eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw the coins and the jewels. Then both of them went to a jewelry store in Brooklyn. Saba waited outside while the apartment building owner spoke to the jeweler. When the owner left the shop, he shook hands with saba and said “Sold!” Well, to make a long story short, the coins and the jewels remained with the owner, and Saba signed the deed for the apartment building.
“And that’s how we got this place my dear Zvi” Saba would say. Now since Saba was up in years, he became mindfully forgetful and he had repeated this story quite a few times. He never found out if the coins and the jewels were worth more than the apartment building, but at that time, all he wanted was a place for him, his wife, his future children and grandchildren.
Now the four-story apartment building had 4 large apartments on each floor, Saba of course choose the largest of them all, the one with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. His family would get the best, that went without saying. The other apartments in the building were of two bedrooms and a few with one single bedroom.
Now at that time, almost all the apartments were already rented to families from Italy, Ireland, and even a few Jewish families who had immigrated from Russia and Poland. Now when the Jewish families saw Saba with his black hat, his long black coat and beard, they immediately felt a bond of kinship as far as the faith went. They brought Saba and his wife to the local synagogue which was just a few blocks away. Saba and his wife felt immediately at home. So, to make a long story short which is the gist of every short-story teller and writer, a few years passed and then Abba was born. He also grew up in the local synagogue and there too, he met his wife. Soon afterwards, their son Zvi was born.
And so, we have it. Zvi was raised listening to all of Saba’s stories from the Torah, stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samson, and many more characters from the Bible. But oh, Saba knew so much, and all that learned sunk little by little into Zvi’s head. But the years passed and as Saba got older, he slept more. The stories ended but Abba continued the tradition. Both Zvi and his father learned a lot about the Torah, and they continued the tradition of story-telling, just as the rabbis of old did.
Now it came to pass that one Autumn morning, Saba’s dear wife gave up the ghost, and he lamented dearly crying
“Oh Adonai-Elohim, creator of all the lives, you gave me jewels but you have taken from me the most precious one of all, so much that I have become so attached to it, ‘Ana Elohim’ I plead to you my God, take me also, so that where she is, there I will be too!”
They buried grandfather’s precious jewel in the cemetery the next day. Grandfather and the rabbi from the local synagogue both said the kadish over grandmother’s grave. Zvi was there too, standing between his Abba and Ima, holding on to their hands. Two months later, saba also gave up the ghost and was buried beside his jewel. Elohim had honored his prayer.
So, the years went by and Zvi grew into a fine young man. Zvi’s mama and papa thought it good to send him to public school as well as Hebrew school at the synagogue. This way, he would get to know the ‘two worlds of thought’ as Abba once said to Ima. He had come to this decision remembering the schools of Shammai and Hillel. Some students would consult both schools and their teachers concerning life and Torah issues. They would hear both sides and then come to their own conclusions.
So Zvi went to public school during the day and three times a week in the evenings, he went to Hebrew school where he learned the Holy Language and Torah. He loved both places as he enjoyed learning now things. Now is was Abba’s turn to tell the stories that his father had told. Zvi was, as always, all ears. His father told him of the race of the Nephilim, the fallen angels from heaven who produced giants when they joined with human women. He retold the story of Noah and the flood, about the ark which he called the “Beit HaBrit” the House of Covenant, and the destruction of mankind. Most of the stories Zvi had already heard from grandfather, but Abba gave them a new appeal, a sort of different flavor. His father didn’t have any stories from the “old country” since he was a “Brooklynite” so he concentrated on the Torah. The years went by and towards high school graduation time, Zvi came to his father with an intriguing question, a question that had been on his mind for some time now.
“Abba” he began one evening after dinner, “a kid at school told me of a man in the bible called “Jesus” and he told me that He was the promised Messiah, not only of Israel, but of the whole world. He told me that his name in Hebrew is Yeshua, and that he died for the sins of the whole world, is this true?”
At these words, Abba put his arm around his son saying;
“Son, I will not tell you to believe or not to believe that claim, only to investigate all claims that the Torah is supposed to contain. If you can prove from the Torah and find evidence that Yeshua is indeed our promised Messiah, then it is your job to embrace and believe just that. If it is false, then do not entertain that idea anymore. Our rabbis don’t believe that claim, but you are who you are, and you must do your own study and come to your own conclusion, do you understand?”
“Yes Abba” replied Zvi slowly, “I understand and I will indeed investigate this claim.”
So Zvi entertained the idea of investigating for himself the claim of Yeshua being the Jewish Messiah. The kid at school gave Zvi a Bible and also some scripture references to read, and Zvi began his search for the truth. He read and compared both the Old and the New Testament scriptures. He read and re-read the prophecies of Daniel and Isaiah. Little by little, he learned more and more. The light of the scriptures was shining bright in his soul, the truth was nigh, so close. One day he smiled, yes, he had found the answer, his soul rejoiced, he was re-born inside with new life. He had found Mashiach.
The years went by and both mama and papa grew old, his beard grew grey and his skin became wrinkled. He slowed down a bit, mama too. It was Zvi’s turn now to collect the rent from the tenants, and order repairs for things that broke in the building. He made the meals for mama and papa both, he left them rest, they were nearing their eternal Sabbath’s rest, they would soon be part of the World to Come.
Now there came a year that winter’s frost came a bit early and the air outside was quite cold, yet mama, Abba, and young Zvi stilled walked to the synagogue to worship and pray. But a morning came that Abba started to cough and wheeze something awful and it seemed like mama too came down with the same ailment, so they both stuck to their bed.
“Zvi” old Abba said one morning, “you must continue to take charge of this building as you have been doing, collecting the rent, maintenance, and the other things, remember that the tenants are precious in our eyes, treat them as Mishpochah, as extended family members, for they are precious in the eyes of Almighty God. I believe that HaShem is calling us both home.”
Yes, Zvi understood, but Abba would recover, wouldn’t he? And mama too, they would soon be on their feet once again. All they needed was a bit of medicine. The doctor was called. In a few minutes he was at the door.
“Your father and mother are both ill…strange” said the doctor and he paused for a few seconds to ponder. “It is almost as if they are in this together, getting sick together, growing weak together and perhaps…” but the doctor didn’t finish his thought, he preferred not to.
“Here” said the doctor as he handed Zvi some medicine,” give this to them, it may help, and yet it may not make any difference, I’ve seen this before with old people”. The doctor just stood there looking down at the weak, sickly couple, wishing he could do more.
“Time will tell” were the doctor’s last words as he left the room and returned home to his small clinic only a few blocks away.
Zvi returned to the bedroom where his parents lay, resting peacefully. They didn’t even seem sick, yet there was that look in their eyes that saw much beyond the earthly realm. Mama and Papa looked at their son smiling, as if waiting for his first words.
“Abba, Ima,” began Zvi slowly, “I just wanted to say that I have investigated the Torah and the Prophets, and about Yeshua being the promised Messiah…” then he paused to await his parents’ reaction.
“go on son” said Abba smiling, “we’re listening.”
“I am convinced that Yeshua IS our promised Messiah as Daniel prophesied, Isaiah also speaks of Him, even the prophet Zechariah wrote of Him in Hebrew with the words “Yeshua Shmi” which means “Yeshua is my name”. “So many prophecies fulfilled …well…I have accepted Him as such, as my Messiah and LORD.”
Zvi’s parents just looked at each other and a strange look overcame their faces, they nodded to each other holding each-other’s hands.
“Son” began Zvi’s father, “If you have studied and have come to that realization, then hold on to that, we also will accept that. Both of us have had similar feelings toward that subject for many years, but you son, have opened our eyes, and yes, we will also accept Him as our Messiah as well.”
Then, both Abba and Mama closed their eyes. Mama rested her head on Abba’s bosom, her grey hair matching with Abba’s beard. Zvi left them for a while and soon, the day turned into evening. As the sun went down behind the many buildings in New York City, Zvi heard the voice of his father, a voice of bereavement, of anguish;
“Oh Adonai, you have taken my jewel, my precious, so precious jewel! Oh, that you might take me now also so that I might join her for all eternity!”
He wept and hugged his dear wife who now lay ever so still on his bosom, her ghost had departed. Abba continued to weep and implore the God of all creation to take him as well, then he too closed his eyes…for the last time. God had granted his request and now they were together for all eternity. Now, all of a sudden, Zvi found himself alone, alone in his large apartment which had been his home since birth.
Adonai had answered Abba’s prayer. The loving couple, Zvi’s mother and father had lived together, loved together, and gave up their ghosts together. The synagogue held a service and afterwards, the members went to the cemetery. There, the rabbi said the kaddish. Zvi’s mother and father were returned to the ground from which they were made. Then the rabbi asked Zvi to say a few words. Zvi thought and thought hard over what he might say. Finally, he got up in front of the mourners and started his discourse.
“I loved my father and mother very much” he began, “and they loved each other so much, but now, they are gone, their bodies have returned to the earth yet their souls…are now with Adonai. I’ll join them too someday because where they are, I will be also.”
The synagogue members nodded their heads, some were also weeping. Yet Zvi had not finished speaking;
“We will be together with our Messiah, who is Yeshua HaMashiach, who was foretold by the prophet Daniel and Isaiah. He is the Messiah of Israel and of all mankind.”
He stopped and looked at the synagogue members who were now murmuring and shaking their heads.
“Rabbi” started one old man who was as old as Zvi’s father, “speak some sense into Zvi, he’s confused, he’s speaking as a “Goy”.
Slowly, the old bearded rabbi stood up and put his arm around Zvi; “Son” he began, “I know you’re sad, losing both parents at the same time, it is rather unusual but it was the will of HaShem. Don’t let that cloud your judgement.
About Messiah, no one knows who he is and about this Yeshua, “Jesus” as the Christians call him, well…”
“He IS Messiah” stated Zvi boldly, “I’ve studied the Torah and the Prophets, and they all point to HIM, especially Daniel, why in chapter 8…”
“That’s enough” growled the old rabbi, now very much annoyed. “As long as you think and speak like that, you are no longer welcome in our synagogue. You shame us all, especially your mother and father who…”
“They also accepted Yeshua before their deaths” replied Zvi in a soft but firm voice. “That’s why I know that they are with God in his Kingdom, where I will be too, and where ALL will be who accept Yeshua and his gift of salvation.”
The rabbi did not respond, but just turned his back to Zvi and walked away from the grave site. The whole congregation followed, some looking back, shaking their heads. Now he was really alone. He had no more mother and father, no more synagogue family, just an apartment building with its occupants. He had his faith though, it would be enough.
A few of the apartment building neighbors had accompanied him, and they consoled him on the way back.
“We’re all here for you my friend” said “Good-neighbor Bailey” as he put his arm around Zvi, “you’ll never really be alone. You have us, and you have Jesus, and you spoke well. They might reject you, but we will never abandon you.”
Zvi thanked his good neighbor for his words. All his tenants loved him dearly as they had loved his mother and father. There was “good-neighbor Bailey” and his wife who lived across the hallway, the “Wongs” from Hong Kong who lived on the third floor. A young couple from Haiti, Claude and Claudette, who lived on the second floor. These were just a few, but all would be his family now.
Zvi was blessed indeed since all twelve apartments, being four on each floor, were never without tenants. They were very good neighbors and hardly ever caused serious problems. So Zvi assumed the responsibility of collecting the rent and maintenance of the apartment building. Soon, the Sabbath came and Zvi began to set the table with a white table cloth, and a pair of silver candlesticks. These were the candlesticks which Saba had brought from the “old country”. All was set in place when Zvi remembered the Challah bread.
He put on his black coat and hat and headed for the door when he heard a soft knocking. He opened the door and was surprised to find seven of his old synagogue members standing there. One of them even held two loaves of Challah bread.
“Shalom Aleichem” they all said in a perfect harmony, greeting him with warm smiles.
“Aleichem shalom” responded Zvi, very much surprised to see them, especially since after the old rabbi had dismissed him from fellowship. Then one of them, Saul Stein, spoke up saying;
“We all heard what you said at your parents’ funeral, about Yeshua being the Messiah, well, we’re interested in knowing more, can you tell us more?”
Zvi was overwhelmed with joy, this was indeed unexpected but he was relieved that there was at least a small remnant that sought-after Messiah.
“Yes, yes, come in all of you. I will indeed tell you all that I know.”
He would indeed tell them all that had learned from the Torah, the Prophets, and from the New Testament. Thus, started a new Sabbath fellowship in his own apartment building. It started with these seven Torah students, and soon the word got out that there was a new Messianic Torah-study group in the neighborhood. As the weeks passed, more and more came over to study. Some came Friday evening and others came Saturday morning. The group grew to twenty, and then twenty-five. Some of the tenants in Zvi’s building even came to study, including good-neighbor Bailey and his wife.
One Sabbath, a name was suggested to put to their study group. All thought it was a good idea to give a name to their small congregation.
“Here in this house, we study about Yeshua. What about “Beit Yeshua?” questioned Saul Stein, looking around to see if others agreed with him. All nodded in agreement.
“Good idea” responded Zvi, “we will be congregation “Beit Yeshua” the house of Yeshua our Messiah, and all will be welcomed, those who wish to study Torah and learn about Messiah.”
The group picked some Sabbath prayers and they started singing songs from the Psalms, then studied the scriptures from the Torah, from the Prophets, and from the New Testament. Soon, all had professed Yeshua as their LORD and Messiah.
Now it came to pass that one Sabbath, a young Hispanic woman came to the Torah study group, as she had heard from neighbors about the knowledge of Zvi concerning the scriptures. Her name was Judith, and she was very beautiful to look upon.
“Yes” said Zvi, taken in by her beauty, “come in and join us in our study, may this home be your home.”
To make a long story short, Zvi’s apartment soon would become her home. The two grew to love each other deeply and they expressed their desires to be part of each other’s lives. A year after they had met, they were married right there in the apartment. A pastor from a local church performed the wedding. All the neighbors came by and wished the couple “mazel tov” They took their honeymoon trip to the “Isla del Encanto” namely Puerto Rico, since there was a special deal that week on flights to the “Isle of Enchantment”.
After their honeymoon, Zvi and Judith organized their life together which was centered around the chores of running an apartment building, maintenance, collecting the rent, and their small Sabbath Bible study group. When Friday evening approached, Zvi would buy the challah bread while Judith would make dinner and get the white Sabbath tablecloth ready with the candles to be lit. The guests would come and bring their covered-dishes of food which would complement the dinner.
Zvi thought it a good idea to share the Bible stories in the park, so, after Sabbath service, as well as during the weekday afternoons, Zvi and Judith would go to park, sometimes it would be Prospect Park, at other times, they would take the bus to Central Park. Zvi found a place to sit and call out to those who would pass by. At times, the people would stop and listen. Soon, many young folk and even the kids would come and sit down near Zvi and listen to the stories from God’s Word.
At times, both Judith and Zvi would act out Bible stories doing “two-person” dramas. After a while, other residents of Zvi’s apartment building would accompany the couple and share parts in the dramas. Years passed and the fame of Zvi’s story telling spread, even as far as New Jersey. Churches would come to either Prospect Park or Central Park to invite Zvi to come their churches and tell the stories from the Bible.
To make a long story short, which is the gist of every short-story writer, Zvi and Judith enjoyed many years of marriage together, their Torah study group grew to about 30 members. Judith, however, was barren and bore no children to Zvi. Zvi still loved her in spite of the fact. They had each other and they had their ministry, both their Bible study and their story telling in the parks and in churches. Most of all, they had their Heavenly Father who loved them deeply and watched over them day and night.
During those years of togetherness, a few neighbors stayed put but most apartments changed occupants every two or three years. Good-neighbor Bailey and his wife, however, stayed faithful renters. They even attended the Sabbath Bible study and even made a profession of faith in Yeshua. The years went by and they turned old and gray just as Zvi and Judith did.
So, the years passed and the youthful years of sunrise turned to mid-day, and mid-day to twilight. The love between Zvi and Judith grew as the years passed. They were husband and wife, two friends, two lovers and lovers of God. Now it came to pass that Judith began to tire easily, she felt a little strange like her body was shutting down, slowly but surely. It happened then that early one sunny morning, Judith embraced her husband and lifting up her voice said;
“My dearest husband, you have been with me for all these years, and you have been a faith husband, a friend, a lover, and a teacher sent by God to teach his word to me and to those around us. But I must tell you that the LORD is calling me home. Soon I shall leave you but only for a season.”
Zvi was surprised by her words, and a bit of anguish filled his soul. “Nay wife” began Zvi, “you must live on, for many years await you and me together. You are my precious jewel given to me by the master jeweler himself.”
“Indeed” replied Judith softly with a few tears in her eyes, “yet the jewels that are given by the master jeweler are only given on loan, and when he wishes, he will take them back.”
“Let us not speak any more of this” answered Zvi, with tenderness and a bit of anguish in his voice. “We have this day ahead of us and many more.”

Yet Zvi’s demeanor changed that day. He began to meditate on his wife’s words, wondering why she would say such things. Was there something she knew and he didn’t. Did God reveal something to her? He would care for her even more so that nothing would happen to her. The days passed and also the weeks. Zvi and Judith continued their trips to the parks with their storytelling to those who would hear.
Autumn passed and soon the winter season was upon them. The days grew colder and the New York wind was bitter. Zvi noticed that Judith no longer walked quickly as before. She tired more easily and she went to bed earlier. Zvi took his wife to the doctor, but the doctor could not find anything wrong.
“Just old age catching up with her” he said a little puzzled, what else could he say?
Yet Zvi sensed that something was indeed wrong. he was saddened to see his wife so, yet they loved each other even the more in those years of twilight. Zvi sensed that the sun was indeed setting on his beloved, but he didn’t want to admit it. They would go to sleep each night wrapped in each other’s arms.
Now it came to pass that Zvi and Judith went to sleep one winter’s night, a night of much wind and frost. Judith lay on Zvi’s bosom, the grey hairs of her head matching the grey of his beard. The two were embraced as always during their evening slumber. Morning came and the sun peeked through the bedroom window, melting a bit of the prior evening’s frost. Zvi awoke and stroked his wife’s hair.
“Tis morning my love, it is time to arise, pray, and eat. Time to visit the tenants and make sure all is well.”
Yet Judith did not awake. She lay there on Zvi’s bosom, cold and lifeless, asleep in an eternal slumber, gone from the present world yet alive in other.
“Oh God,” cried out Zvi with anguish of soul, “You have taken from me my precious jewel, my gem, if you had only taken me Oh God, how can I go on without her, how?” and he wept and wept, cradling his wife’s body in his arms.
His cries reached the ears of good-neighbor Bailey who lived across the hall. Baily came and knocked on the door.
“Zvi? Are you OK? What’s happening?” Bailey waited a few minutes, finally, a very distraught and red-eyed Zvi came to the door.
“She’s gone my good friend,” sobbed Zvi, “My dearest and most precious jewel has departed from this world. She has returned to her maker and redeemer, never to return to me. If only the LORD had taken me instead of her!”
Good-neighbor Bailey embraced old Zvi tenderly. What words could he say? Enough was his company. In a few minutes, all the tenants had come down to pay their respects and to console old Zvi. Yet like Jacob of old, who refused to be consoled when he thought he had lost his precious Joseph, Zvi continued to weep and cry for the loss of his dearest Judith.
The tenants brought Judith to the cemetery, and together with Zvi’s Torah study group, they held a memorial service. Zvi’s voice cracked as he recited the Kadish, weeping between the lines. They took turns with the shovel and filled the grave with dirt. Finally, they left and retuned home. Good-neighbor Bailey and his wife, now showing the signs of old age, walked with Zvi, slowly, ever so slowly, back to the apartment building.
The week passed and the sabbath came around. The members of the small Messianic congregation arrived at Zvi’s large apartment for the weekly service. By this time, many of the apartment building’s tenants has been attending the Sabbath Eve and morning services. Some attended out of curiosity, others out of conviction of faith. There, in that unique New York City apartment building in the midst of Brooklyn, many did find the answers to their faith through Zvi’s Bible reading, explaining, and storytelling.
Zvi had always left the apartment door unlocked during the Eve of the Sabbath, in that way, the people would come in and sit down. Some brought covered food dishes to the kitchen and others just sat down and waited for Zvi and Judith to start the service by lighting the Sabbath candles. There would be a small table with a white table cloth and two silver candle holders with a candle in each one.
But on this Sabbath, nothing was ready. The folding chairs were still folded up in one corner of the apartment, the white cloth and candle sticks were still in the wooden cabinet with the glass doors. Good-neighbor Baily together with his wife and a few others decided that they would set up for Sabbath. They went about and unfolded the chairs, set the white table-cloth on the table and placed the two silver candle-sticks in the middle. Now, all was ready. The congregation sat down and waited for Zvi, their rabbi.
Good-neighbor Bailey looked around and found the master bedroom. He knocked on the door ever so softly, then he opened it and quietly walked in. Zvi lay on his bed sobbing into a pillow, a picture of his wife by his side. Zvi lifted up his head and turned to Bailey.
“Oh, had I been taken instead of her, how I miss her so, my precious jewel. How can I continue life without her? The LORD has dealt harshly with me! Oh, how can I bear this suffering? How can I continue in the land of the living, with her in the world to come?” and he thus wept so and sobbed the loss of his wife.
Now Good-neighbor Bailey had known Zvi for all these years, they had grown old together. Now both were grey haired and wrinkled. Bailey had always respected Zvi and had always spoken kindly to him. This time though, Zvi needed a sort of “wake-up call.
“Rabbi” began Bailey with a stern voice, “We have all mourned with you and feel your sorrow but you will indeed see your wife again. Just as the son of David could not return to the king, the king would go to him one day. This is just a temporary separation, as you yourself have taught us. We should have our loved ones in an open hand, so that when the day comes for departure, it will hurt less to return our loved ones into the hands of our creator. Now you must listen to your own words my friend. Now, will you stay in this room and wallow in sorrow, while the rest of us are outside waiting to learn Torah from you?”
“Remember how Aaron was bereaved of his sons Nadab and Abihu, yet he continued to minister in the Tabernacle.
Will you continue to minister to us my friend? Do you think that Judith would want to see you like this? She would have you on your feet and out in the living room to teach God’s Word. Or would you have us go elsewhere to learn Torah from whoever and learn whatever, be it truth or lies? I think you are being rather selfish my friend and rabbi, but it’s your choice! Only you can decide what to do now!”
With those words, Baily left the room and closed the door softly. He returned to the spacious living room where everyone was seated. All eyes were on Bailey. He just shrugged and sat down. The congregation waited silently…and waited…ten minutes passed…then fifteen. Then the bedroom door opened and Zvi walked out dressed in his usual black and white raiment. He went to the sink and washed his face and then put on his tallit and went up to the table.
Good-neighbor Bailey nodded to him as he approached.
“Mrs. Bailey” replied Zvi, as he looked at the now aged couple, would you be so kind as to light the Sabbath candles?”
Good-neighbor Bailey’s wife got up and smiled, nodding her head. She went up to the table with matches in her hand. A pray was said and she lit the Sabbath candles, a job that up to then, only Judith had done.
“Good to have you back rabbi” said Bailey cheerfully, and the rest of the congregation replied with “Amen”.
Since that Sabbath, Zvi was never really alone. When he went to the parks to tell his Bible stories, someone always went with him. Sometimes Mr. and Mrs. Wong from upstairs went with him. At other times, the young couple from Haiti, Claude and Claudette Duvall and their little daughter Angelique accompanied him. Then there was the Ramos family from Puerto Rico, the Hernandez family from Cuba, and also a few Jewish families had moved into the building;
Such as the Horowitz family, and the Goldsteins, they also walked with Zvi in the parks.
Zvi also never had to cook for himself. He was either invited out to eat, or families would bring him lunch or dinner. As the years went by, the fame of Zvi and his story telling spread, even as far as New Jersey. Churches got word of his talent and he was invited to tell Bible stories to Sunday School classes, to both the young and the old. Zvi learned how to act out the stories in the form of drama. At times, even some of his apartment building tenants played roles in his dramas.
Now, to make a long story short which is the gist of every story writer, old Zvi continued his ministry of teaching the Word of God on the Sabbaths and through story-telling during the week. He continued to visit the parks and churches. He did not, however, neglect his job as apartment building owner and manager. He fixed things as needed, and even trained a few tenants to do some repair jobs themselves.
The years went by, and Zvi got older. It came to pass that his bones began to ache and his muscles grew tired, yet he continued to be faithful to his calling. He began to walk with a third leg, a leg made of hard-wood. He continued his routine, day by day, month by month, and year by year. Time continued to pass and Zvi grew older.
He was suddenly awakened by a strong gust of winter wind. Perhaps he had fallen asleep for a few minutes, so it seemed, there on the corner across from his old apartment building. With his hands resting on top of his cane, and with his chin on his hands, he slowly lifted his head. For just a few minutes, his entire life passed before him in his mind’s eyes.
“Are you ready to continue rabbi, to cross the street to our apartment building?” asked the now elderly Mr. Wong as he gently helped old Zvi to his feet. Mrs. Wong folded up the canvass folding chair and put it under her arm, then the three crossed the street, ever so slowly to their old apartment building.
They stopped in front of the concrete steps that lead up to the front door of the building. They were old and worn now, but they were the same steps that Zvi had walked up and down ever since he was a child, the same steps that “Abba” had used, the same that “Saba” had used. They were almost a hundred years old now, give or take a year or two.
Slowly but steadily, Zvi climbed the 5 concreate steps with the Wongs beside him. They opened the front door and allowed Zvi to go in first. He turned left towards the door of his large apartment which was right across the hall from Bailey’s. He turned the key slowly and pushed open the door and went in.
“Nunu” the stray black cat was just outside the door meowing, so old Zvi scooped up some dry cat food and put it in a small dish that was just outside the door. The cat appeared there about three years ago and Zvi kind of adopted it as his own. He placed a medium sized cardboard box just under the stairwell going up to the floors above. Inside the box he placed a small blanket and the cat felt right at home.
Zvi usually locked the door at night except on the Sabbath, but this evening, he forgot. He headed towards the spacious living room and sat down in an overstuffed easy chair. The big living room brought back memories, memories of his father and grandfather telling the stories from the Torah, of famous rabbis from the “old country”. He lay his head back and smiled, ‘yes’ he thought, ‘they had taught him many things, many truths from God’s Word, the love of God and his holy Torah.
Beside the easy chair was a hard-wood table with a lamp. The lamp had a ceramic “tiffany type” shade made of different colored glass. Right under that lamp were two precious objects. An old Bible and a framed photograph of his wife when they had first met. Zvi reached over and took the Bible in one hand and the picture of his wife in the other. He opened the Bible to Psalms and started reading. Now and then he took the picture of his wife, kissed it, and pressed it to his heart. After a while, he fell into a deep sleep.
The morning arrived with a cold breeze blowing across New York City which left a slight frost on the windows of the apartment building. “Nunu” the cat walked back and forth in front of old Zvi’s apartment meowing rather nervously. It didn’t seem like sound of hunger, rather of worry. The cat sensed that something was wrong. It didn’t let up meowing until Good-neighbor Bailey opened his door.
“What’s wrong with you Nunu?” asked Bailey who was still half asleep, “hasn’t Zvi fed you yet?” The cat paused to stare at Bailey for a few seconds, then continued its pacing and meowing.
“Honey, maybe something IS wrong, better check on Zvi. The cat IS acting kind of strange.” Said Mrs. Bailey who joined her husband at the door.
He went over to his old neighbor’s apartment and noticed that the doorknob was a little loose, turning it, he found to his surprise that the door was unlocked. He opened the door and went in. He saw the back of Old Zvi’s head which rested peacefully against the back of the over-stuffed antique arm-chair.
“Hey Zvi. Are you OK, you forgot to lock your door!” said Bailey a bit surprised. At that moment, Nunu ran to the chair and jumped up onto the head-cushion and began to lick Zvi’s old hoary head ever so tenderly, yet Zvi did not awake.
“Zvi?” said Bailey quietly, as he went over and took Zvi’s still hand into his, yet there was no sign of life. The old story teller’s hand was cold and limp for he was fast asleep in an eternal slumber.
The whole apartment building mourned the passing of their beloved landlord, rabbi, teacher, friend, and story-teller. He had touched so many lives and now, he was enjoying his eternal “shalom”. He had gone the way of all men, a precious jewel, product of the master jewelry maker, a loving soul that now returned to the creator of all souls.
The apartment building tenants carried Zvi to the cemetery and buried him in a coffin made of sweet-smelling cedar. When the word got around that the old story teller had passed, the cemetery was filled with hundreds of visitors from all over New York City and New Jersey. They all came to mourn and pay their respects to the old rabbi who brought God’s Holy Writ to life through stories and dramas for so, so many years.
But Zvi was no longer concerned about Nunu the cat, nor about Good-neighbor Bailey, nor about the neighbors and the apartment building for he found himself walking along a street which glowed of pure gold. He followed the street which led to an immense celestial city. As he approached one of the gates of the city he beheld a pool of crystal clear water along side of the street. When he looked down into the water he saw a very young man with a soft brown beard looking up at him.
He noticed that he wore a dazzling white tunic with golden sandals, there was also a golden belt which was tied around his waist. As he approached the gates made of mother-of-pearl, he noticed two giant cherubs that stood at the entrance. The two cherubs motioned him to go through, pointing to a golden throne. When Zvi went through, he noticed that the throne was encircled by a rainbow of dazzling colors, and at the foot of the throne was a sea of glass likened unto the color of emerald.
Upon the throne sat a figure liked unto the Son of Man who was shining like a thousand suns. Zvi was awed at this sight and fell flat before the figure. In his heart he knew who He was. He cried out with a voice of joy and happiness;
“Holy, Holy, Holy art thou my LORD and my God. Thou art Yeshua my Messiah and Redeemer!”
The figure then arose from the throne. Zvi looked up and saw the face of Him who was before him. The face was one of love and kindness, yet a face of authority over all things of the earth and the heavens.
“Zvi, my beloved son and servant, enter into the joy of thy LORD. Thou hast been a faithful servant all these years, like a glowing jewel, the pride of its maker. Thou hast brought my WORD to life through thy stories. Thousands upon thousands have been blessed through thy words. Many awards await thee in my kingdom, for my kingdom is your home, now, and for evermore.” Thus, spoke the KING of kings and LORD of lords.
“Oh, my LORD and my God!” replied Zvi, “for you are my Messiah Yeshua, the one who IS, WAS, and always WILL BE. I tried to serve you well and with love, revealed your Torah to all who would listen. I thank you my LORD and Savior, for the years you gave me on earth, but Oh, how I long to see my precious jewel who you gave to me to be my beloved helpmeet for all those years.”
“Ah, yes” replied King Yeshua with a voice so tender and understanding, a voice which reflected pure love, “Judith, who served thee as wife, companion, friend, and helpmeet is here and awaits thee as we speak.”
At those words, an angel touched Zvi on his shoulder saying; “Arise Oh servant of the most High God, I will take thee to thy beloved.”
Then the angel took Zvi by the hand led him through the many streets which glowed of the purest gold. There were canals of clear, flowing water which ran behind the great mansions that were along the streets. Along the canals grew fruit trees that flowered and produced all goodly fruit. The mansions were made of bricks of gold embedded with all sorts of precious stones.
“This is yours forever” said the angel, pointing to a mansion that was now before them. “Judith awaits you in the back yard.” And with those words, the angel disappeared.
The mansion was seated on a large parcel of green grass and surrounded by flowering bushes. It was the most beautiful sight to behold. Zvi ran across the flowering lawn towards the back yard of the mansion. In the back he was a very large flowering tree with many overhanging branches. Attached to one branch were two flowering vines which connected to a swing made of acacia wood.
Seated on the swing was a very young-looking woman, who appeared to be in her twenties or thirties. She wore a long flowing white dress with a golden sash tied around her waist. Zvi looked and looked at the woman who appeared to be in such peace. She smiled and hummed a sweet melody with a small blue bird perched on one of her fingers.
Yes, it was her, his Judith, his beloved wife on earth, now they were together again. He ran towards her with all happiness and joy.
“Judith, my love, my precious jewel” cried out Zvi with all the joy of his heart and soul, “at last we are together again.” Upon hearing Zvi’s voice, Judith looked up at this young man running towards her.
“Zvi” she cried out with complete recognition of who this young man was, yes, he was her beloved from earth. She got up from the swing and ran to her beloved and the two embraced and kissed each other tenderly.
“May you have peace and may your soul prosper my dearly beloved from earth” responded Judith with all joy.
“and to you as well, may you have peace in this wonderful place, the place of our LORD and Messiah Yeshua” replied Zvi, who still held her in his arms.
“Oh, my beloved” continued Zvi, “it has been so long, so many years have past without you, ten, no, fifteen years, Yes, fifteen years since you departed and came to this wonderful place. Now I finally have you back and we are also in the presence of our God.
“Fifteen years?” questioned Judith, a little bewildered, “that can’t be so, I just got here myself, just a few minutes ago. An angel walked me down the road and showed me this wonderful mansion and said; ‘this is yours forever’
“Yes…just a few minutes ago…so it seems.”

The End.

Abba…Father, in Hebrew
Saba…Grandfather, in Hebrew
Kehilah…Congregation
Bekishe…a long black coat
Midrash…a commentary on the Bible
Baruch HaShem…Praise the Name (of the LORD)
Ima…Mother
Mishpochah…Family (Hebrew)
Mashiach…Messiah
Yeshua…Jesus