Staring out his window, Yakov tried ignoring the overwhelming sweep of emotions. He watched as the horses calmly grazed in the fields, oblivious to the deep hate brewing on each side of the farm. The audacity his brother has, Yakov shuddered thinking about it. Shaking his head he couldn’t think. Things hadn’t been easy since Father had died, he admit, but why now? After all the legal issues to deal with. After all the emotional pain. After watching their own mother wither away from the ache and void. But Levi couldn’t let it go.
He couldn’t let that child rivalry pass. Fighting over toys. Fighting over who sat where at the table. Why couldn’t it just disappear with the childish freckles? Why couldn’t they just move on, and start their lives all over again? Was it still about whose sandcastle stayed over night? Whose tower didn’t topple? Whose snowman didn’t melt? Somehow it still leads to those subconscious levels of hatred.
Silently Yakov had hoped it would stop, now that Father had died. Didn’t Levi realize it wasn’t a game? Can’t he see that this is real life now? But still, for Levi it was about whose side of the farm was better. It’s still about who can do it faster.
The glimmering blue water, shining in the sunlight. Biting his lip, Yakov couldn’t believe this immature gesture. Levi had built a lake. A lake to separate them – like a trap in Capture the Flag.
A lake! To separate their halves of the farm. Like the jump rope they had tied across their bedroom. Swallowing, Yakov couldn’t hold back anymore. Levi was no brother. This was not the way brothers acted. Years of this, and still it hadn’t stopped. He was tired of it, he decided.
Yakov watched as the muscled workers carried long wooden panels across, their sweat laminating in the sunlight. Ten thousand pounds of wood, the contractor explained. A couple of weeks and the wall would be up – a wall that would cut Levi off from Yakov’s side of the farm. He wouldn’t have to watch Levi’s children running through the meadows. He wouldn’t have to watch Levi come out every morning, content with life, while torturing his younger brother, just a couple of acres across the field.
Turning from the window, Yakov sat down to eat his breakfast, finally satisfied. All these years of tireless childish arguments would come to an end. A wall blocking his view of that half of the world. Blocking him off from the entire idea. Running away from the reality of facing the painful rendezvous.
Hours later, Yakov turned back to see his masterpiece. A forced smile was on his lips as he strutted towards the lake, and that’s when he saw it. There wasn’t a fifty foot wall, blocking every ray of sun from that side of the planet. It was just a thin bridge. One that went from one end of the lake to the other. Connecting his half to the other. Breaking the gap. Ending the problems.
Staring blankly Yakov didn’t understand, “I asked for a wall,” he yelled at the contractor, “To block that devil out of my life forever.”
Rummaging through his pockets, the contractor extended the blueprint, “It was the same ten thousand pounds of wood,” he explained.
Biting his lip, Yakov tried holding back his anger. He thought these useless games were over. But Levi would come back at him some other clever way. He would think of another childish prank to break off their ties once again. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes in defeat.
Scratching his head, he looked up at the contractor, “You’re going to need to take this down,” he demanded. “You’re going to have to build the wall I asked for.” Pausing he tried biting back his anger and then burst, “I don’t understand! You know I hate him!”
Shaking his head, the contractor whispered, barely audible, “It was the same amount of wood. It was the same effort.”
And then Yakov noticed, under the splash of the watercolor sunset, his brother’s shadow came closer and closer. Levi stood humbly in front of him, a slow smile creasing his face, “You did it, dear brother. You built a bridge.”
The trees gently swayed as Levi took a step closer, taking his brother into an embrace, “Thank you,” he croaked. “You stopped our useless fighting.”
Closing his eyes, Yakov thought of what his farm would look like, with a tall wall, blocking all sunlight. Closing him off from his brother’s world! What kind of world would that be? A dark, empty world. Clinging to his brother he thought about how many times he vowed he would make amends. He thought about how many inspiring moments during which he would decide to end these useless child games. And suddenly it all came back to him. The gentle cries for help which he skillfully dismissed for a whisper in the wind. The desperate signs of yearning, blasting so obviously in his face. Through all the childish stupid play, there was always that twinkle asking for a new beginning. He’d sometimes stop, listening to the cricket’s song, late on summer nights. He’d heard his brother calling out, but then he’d slip back into the old routine. Slip back into the old banter from when they were five and eight. Now it suddenly came blasting back, obviously. Impossible to ignore.
“It was the same amount of wood,” Yakov answered, a smile now spreading over his face too, as he finally hugged his brother, without dropping an ice cube down his back.
(The story is based on a mashul heard from Rabbi Wallerstein.)
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