Squinting to read his menu, Nosson chose a drink that looked the most familiar, then shouted his order above the laughter from the table next to him. He took a deep breath, stroked his brown beard, checked one more time that the box to his right was tightly secure, and began to relax into the heavenly comfort of having arrived. He closed his eyes and began to rock back and forth methodically, returning his mind from wherever it had wandered.
His journey had taken just over a month, a bit longer than he had prepared for. Radzyn was not an easy place to get to. And other places were not easy to get to from Radzyn. That was why, Nosson figured, he had heard so many stories about this shtetl, but had met so few Radzyners himself.
Now, sitting in this pub, Nosson found himself relieved of a certain fear, which, only in its absence, did he realize had weighed so heavily on him. Since his very first premonition to leave home, he felt an urgency of whose purpose and direction he could not define, but was nonetheless keenly aware of. That awareness became a dream, and that dream a nightmare, until, eventually, sleepless nights became a long series of consultations, pouring his heart out to his Father in Heaven.
Worry is one thing, discomfort another. What Nosson felt in the months leading up to his departure could have easily been confused for either one by a man less familiar with his own spiritual condition. He could not describe what he was feeling, but anybody back home who had seen the shallow wrinkles around his smile fade, could have guessed the extent to which his mind was battling against his will. At a certain point, he learned, it became easier to pursue it than to ignore it.
When his house was finally taken by the bank for an old debt he hardly remembered accruing, he knew it was time. He sold his shop and everything else he owned, packed his tefillin, some tools, the box which was now sitting beside him, and headed off. He had submitted to his calling, a signal amidst a dark forest, whose bright flash he had to follow through the treacherous journey ahead.
While he was aware of a path, he was not yet sure if it would lead to higher or lower ground. He had noticed many disturbing things along his travels. And, although they were only small instances that could easily be dismissed as circumstantial, he saw in them a shift not dissimilar to the shift he felt within himself.
Things in the world were changing.
"L'chaim, stranger!” someone called from the next table. A man had turned his chair away from the loud group he was with, and addressed Nosson directly. “Welcome to Radzyn!”
Both men made a shehakol and took a sip.
“What brings you to our beautiful Radzyn?”
Where Nosson was from, people spoke openly, sang loudly, and bumped into each other when they danced. Self-restraint was not an attribute to which he was accustomed. But even he knew that, in Radzyn, words must be measured with the same exactitude as anything else of value.
“I guess I’ll only know once I leave,” he said.
The man turned to his friends. “He’s doing his best to sound like a Radzyner!”
When the laughter died down, he turned back to his new friend. “You can call me Koppel,” said Koppel , and tipped his glass forward.
Nosson tipped his glass in return, cautiously. “My name is Nosson.”
Koppel nodded, and felt comfortable enough not to respond immediately.
“A silversmith,” added Nosson.
Koppel continued to drink his vodka, and then took one more sip. Only after the entire contents of his glass were safely inside his stomach did he put it down and look over at his new guest.
“Well,” he said coldly. “I hope this is just a visit.” He looked down at his empty glass and then back at Nosson.
“Radzyn,” said Koppel, “already has its silversmith. And, Radzyn does not need two of anything.”