The story of Israel, the kite flyer

    October 2010            
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By Ted Roberts

As in every construct in G-d’s world, there are only two sides. There is the Cosmos - stars, constellations, and galaxies; and the Divine mind that we call our world, full of joy and pain. Suffering, exalting, hoping, dreaming. These we talk about. In my village, we tell the story of Israel, the kite flyer, who lived a mile or two down the road towards Vlank. A nice stroll from the Shtetle.

All agreed that he was a strange man with no visible measure of support except what the charitable left at his door. His vocation was zero - his avocation was flying kites. Yes, that’s what I said, flying kites. And since he did not play cards or indulge in Loshon Hara and he stayed away from the village tavern, he had no friends except every child in the village under the age of twelve who were also enchanted with the heavenly flight of kites.

When Cheder was out they flocked around Israel. Every afternoon except on the Sabbath and holidays they paraded down the road. They either brought their own kites or they flew his. And strangely enough, windy or not, the kites soared. Israel was the only adult they knew who demanded nothing of the children. No chores around the house or farm for the peasant boy, no stacking or carrying inventory for the sons of merchants. Not even study for the Yeshiva students.

One of the older and wiser children, though, was curious. “Israel,” (they always called him by his first name) “what do you do besides fly kites? My father says you either have a rich uncle or a guardian angel.”

“I wait,” replied Israel.

“And what do you wait for?”

“I just wait.” He looked away as he adjusted the cross rib on one of his best fliers. “One day, when you are no longer interested in kites you will understand, I hope.” And his face gleamed like that of Moses when he came down from the Mountain.

Now on the other side of this Cosmos, back in the village, life as usual was difficult. Almost impossible to cope with the difficulty of earning enough silver coins to feed your family. Corruption, cossacks, disease and the drought, were relentless adversaries which wiped out your crop, your family or both. And of course, the village people weren’t ethically perfect. The Jewish community had its share of wife beaters, drunks, burglars, con men, and even worse. They were a typical mix of humanity (with hearts of good and evil) beset by the chilling winds of the world’s adversity. They, too, struggled for understanding: and coped anyway they could get away with - most of which drew inspiration from their faith, and it must be admitted, with a little help from the evil half of the heart. Tzadiks (truly righteous men) were as rare as lilies in the garbage dump. Sad to say, many did not follow the advice of the prophets to walk in the ways of the Lord. Some strayed dizzily, some stepped to a different path far away

Like all of G-d’s creatures, from the hungry child to the bandit’s victim, they complained, but kept hope alive in their hearts. Just wait, they said to console each other. “Someday the Messiah will come. Hunger, disease, and injustice will be faint memories.” They wait. So does He.

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from the October 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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