The grass was flat and hard, and as he took one step after another away from the Rebbe’s house, Mottel could feel it through the soles of his worn black shoes.
Suddenly, he could feel everything. Things were moving more slowly, the sun was brighter, and the voices coming from the market louder. He could practically follow every one of the storeowners’ final negotiations before they closed up for Shabbos.
“This,” he muttered, “is not a good thing.”
Although he now had money in his pocket, provided by the infinite grace of his Rebbe, he knew what was coming. He didn’t know when, or what form it would take, but he knew his exit from Radzyn was imminent.
He’d encountered this particular level of awareness before. It was a slight reprieve, a short vacation, a gift. It was the few moments he allowed himself between hearing a knock, and opening his door for the debt collector. It was knowing nothing except that his efforts did not measure up to his obligations, and revelling in that last moment of certainty before payment was due.
Mottel purchased whatever was left at the market, without much regard for the price. He walked home, opened his front door, and placed the items on the kitchen table in front of his wife. The moment of certainty had ended.
He walked to their bedroom, put a small bag together carrying some clothes, sefarim, and his tefillin, and took a deep breath before embarking on the long journey back to the kitchen. He looked down at the cracks in his floor as he walked.
Rifka was standing by the stove, unpacking her unpleasant surprise. She turned around when she felt him return, and with the very last bit of himself he raised his broken eyes to meet her’s.
She simply looked, for as long as he needed her to.
Mottel endured the bumps as he approached the mysteries in the forest beyond Radzyn, and tried to find their rhythm. When the sky grew darker, but not yet dark enough for the stars to emerge, he parked his carriage on the side of the dirt road, to force a weak prayer, and maybe say a kiddush. He climbed down, pet his horse down the length of its nose, and opened for the bag he was given by the gabbai.
He reached in, and pulled out what appeared to be a map. He unfolded it, and followed the long black line that was drawn from Radzyn to Bratslav. Beside it, a note:
“Going on your journey will be difficult for Rifka and the young children. For that, you’ll need to do a tikkun as well. But Motteleh, not going on your journey would be even more difficult for your grandchildren.”
Carefully, he spilled the contents of the bag onto a blanket in front of him. Although, in this very moment, it seemed impossible, he believed that with the right tools he could fix this fiddle.
What he would eat for dinner, however, he did not yet know.