Yoely had been in charge of this key since his father left it to him, and he carried it with purpose. It had been his birthright, and when he died it would be his eldest son's. He was first to arrive to minyan each morning, and last to leave maa'riv each night, and his years of service had granted him the ability to distinguish between the many states of despair and joy with which the husbands and wives of Radzyn approached their Creator in prayer. From a single moment of any given day, Yoely could see the entirety of Radzyn and discern the state of its well-being.
Today, however, he stood outside the shul and could not identify the spirit behind what he saw before him. Typically, erev Shabbos connected the highest and lowest of Radzyn together in the market. The holy yidden would scrape the bottoms of their pockets for the few rubles they saved from the week, and joyfully hand them over for meats, fish, bread, and vegetables to fill their souls and their stomachs. However, the bargaining, pleading, and exchanging did not quite feel right, almost like there was an imbalance in its rhythm.
"Moishele is peddling his milk," he whispered softly, scanning the movement for signs of dysfunction. "Yankele is sweeping the street, like he does each morning. Menachem is collecting rubles, so he can buy just a little bit of fish for shaloshshudes."
He closed his eyes, trying to hear the imbalance instead. Everything seemed to be in place, but the desperation in the voices was too great for him to bear.
"Where is Mottel?" he whimpered. "Where did Mottel and his fiddle go? The whole world is missing his sweet songs."