Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Happy Deeds and Sad Thoughts

1

At sundown, the laborers returned from their work, dirty with plaster and dust and sand. They put down their tools and went, this one to wash his face and hands and that one to rinse his throat with a glass of soda, this one rummaged in his window in case there was a letter for him there, and that one picked up Havatselet and started reading. One of them saw Brenner, ran up, and greeted him. Brenner held his hand and looked at him affectionately, like a person who wants to give his brother a gift and has nothing but the affection in his eyes. He whispered to him, Order yourself a cup of tea. The other replied excitedly, as if he had suddenly discovered what he had been lacking and said, Right away I'll order a cup of tea. But he didn't go order tea for himself, for it was hard for him to get away from Brenner, whom he had just met by chance.

Malkhov wrapped himself in a long heavy cloak that came down to the bottom of his legs and put a hat on his head that was designated especially for prayer and for every Commandment, and said, If we were blessed, we would pray here in public, but as we are not blessed, I leave you and run to the synagogue. Our comrades who rejoiced to see Brenner said, Pray for us too, Reb Jacob. Malkhov turned his head around and said, May this person pray for himself.

Malkhov's prayer house isn't far from his hotel, but the road is all sand and the long cloak he wears for prayer, because it is his garb of honor, weighs him down and bangs his feet, and whenever he goes to pray, all his limbs are stirred, as if he were going to do something beyond his strength.

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