Once there was a child called Eli who acquired powers before he was born. Someone had just then kidnapped the other children, so naturally his mother was screaming and yelling, and of course Eli felt it too while in the womb.
Not only did he feel it; he soaked it up, a combination of fierce love, guilt, outrage, and loneliness, and the catalyst was some holy spark inside him. This exploded into a prayer, and the prayer knocked down the kidnappers, whom his parents sued for enough money to move the family to Israel by the time Eli got his first haircut at age three.
Eighteen years later: a far cry from childhood. Eli stood tall in his black hat and suit, the only student in the top Bnai Brak yeshiva to be picked by the Rosh Yeshiva’s right hand man, who happened to have a sister of marriageable age. She was a little bit fat, but so what.
And so this Eli, who for real had to fight just to enter a yeshiva, whose brothers knew nothing of yeshivas but rather made their place with the army, whose parents understood nothing of a world not at all simple to navigate, arrived at a high, secure, and enviable position.
No one could tell how Eli rose from the depths. He and his family had lived in a caravan on the edge of a desert. Eli had a friend named Dan, who one time refused to go away with his parents for Sabbath, so Eli grabbed the chance to welcome a guest and invite him home. Eli baked fresh bread, made a fresh bed, prepared special food, drinks, snacks, and games, and waited for Dan to come for the first meal.
Dan didn’t come. So Eli looked everywhere in the small settlement that Sabbath night, and when he found Dan at last in a darkened caravan, Eli had a bad feeling about it.
Eli coaxed Dan with chips and coca-cola. Dan would not come, and the longer Eli stayed to argue, the worse things got in the darkened caravan. And you know that staying to converse with bad company can rub off.
Therefore, when the police arrived next day to investigate, Dan and the other kids in the caravan pointed at Eli.
I won’t go through the details: the scandal reported on the radio, the glowing report of the investigating psychiatrist, the damning report of the settlers and social workers, Eli’s expulsion from yeshiva, the family’s expulsion from the settlement, and the monolithic refusal of every yeshiva in the area to accept anyone from this family. Only one yeshiva did accept Eli, and fought to stay open until he completed his studies. One year later, it closed.
This yeshiva had brought in students whose fathers had never studied in kollel. No one in the office investigated the cell phones of the parents and children, or the televisions and Internet connections. Some say that the yeshiva closed by Divine Retribution. Okay; I won’t argue. And the parents should have moved to Kiryat Sefer, so their children would have no choice but to stay on the good path. Perhaps the marriage would not have run into trouble. I mean, the girl grew up in Kiryat Sefer. Should she tell her parents that her brother-in-law reads the newspaper?
Let’s say she tells. So her parents get worried; don’t go there. Bad company can rub off. Stay in Kiryat Sefer.
Eli feels he’s choking; it’s too much; it’s not him.
And the girl moves back to her parents. Eli comes to get her; they kick him out.
The rabbi gets involved, and another rabbi, and another, and all the talking makes the situation worse. Eli breaks. He feels fierce love, guilt, outrage, and loneliness, and the catalyst is some holy spark inside him that explodes into a prayer.