“Malkah, why aren’t you with the other children, having a good time at temple?”  The rebbetzin, the rabbi’s wife, poked her head through the back door of the orphanage.  “It’s Joy of the Torah today.  All the boys and girls are singing and dancing together.  Without Malkah!  You didn’t have a fight with them, did you?”

 

The blind girl turned away from the window and pulled her scarf across her face, pretending to be embarrassed.  “Hannah and Rachel almost dragged me out the door,” she confessed.  Hannah and Rachel were her best friends among the other girls in the orphanage.  “But Honey wanted to take a nap before we went to temple.”  Dropping the scarf and letting her dimples flash out, she stroked the kitten dozing on her lap.

“Will Honey mind if I come in?” asked the rebbetzin.

“Of course not,” said Malkah, “you’re family.”

As the rabbi’s wife came in, she put something heavy down on the bed beside Malkah.  Right away, Honey put her head up, leaped off Malkah’s lap, and began to rub her face against it.

Malkah ran her fingertips against the hard cover and spine of a big thick book.

“What is it?” she wanted to know.

“It’s papa’s Bible,” said the rebbetzin.  “He died ten years ago on this same day.” She took Malkah’s hand and brought it up to her face.  She wanted the blind girl to feel her tears so she would know how much she loved her father.

“I was sitting by his bed, and just before he died, he pushed his Bible toward me and said, ‘For Little Spark.’  I didn’t understand what he meant, but I wrapped the Bible in a silk cloth and put it safely away in a drawer.  I was keeping it until I met this person my papa was talking about, this ‘Little Spark.’

“When I ran into one of his friends last month, I asked him to tell me what papa’s words meant.  The man quoted King David, ‘God has made darkness His hiding place.’  Then he smiled at me, tipped his hat and walked away.

“I had to think about what he told me for a long time.  Yesterday, I realized that papa meant you.  In some mysterious way, he knew you were being born as he was dying.  He knew my beloved Malkah was coming into the world.

“Because you can’t see, your world is the darkness the man was talking about.  But it’s a darkness filled with God!  You are filled with God!  And that’s why your smile is a great big glowing spark of wisdom and love.”

Malkah ducked her head.  She couldn’t take in what the rebbetzin was saying, but the words were wonderful, and they were describing her!

“Did you hear that, Honey?” she asked.  “You have to be a Little Spark too, because I won’t be one if you aren’t.”  She put her face right down to the little kitten’s face as she said that.  With a soft paw, Honey batted Malkah’s nose.

“Honey says she’s full of beans as well as sparks,” the girl laughed.

“Speaking of beans,” said the rebbetzin, “I have to go home now and set the table with all the good things that my husband and his friends will be expecting.”  She tapped Malkah’s cheek as she got up and went lightly out the door.

When the rebbetzin’s footsteps died away, Malkah slipped her fingertips across the cover of the rabbi’s Bible.  Her hand moved shyly and gratefully, as if it were touching the holy man himself.  Then, holding her breath, she opened the book.  As her fingers came to rest on the first page, she felt Honey leap over her hand.  The kitten settled herself down on the page, and Malkah heard the lick, lick, lick of Honey’s tongue, scraping against the words. 

Instantly, Malkah grabbed her and lifted her off the Bible.  She started to say, “Honey, don’t . . . .“  But she got no further.  Something like a hot wire zipped up her spine and zipped down again.  Her toes wiggled on their own like ten little worms.  And before she knew it, the floor fell away beneath her, and she and Honey were drawn out the window.  They soared past the trees in the back yard and went sailing along high in the sky, riding the breezes of noon. 

“This is a miracle,” cried Malkah.  “I can see!  I can see colours!  I can see everything!  The sky is bright blue,” she sang to Honey.  “The trees” – she pointed way below her shoes – “are dark green, and the grass is light green.”  She even saw the tiny brown blur that was the roof of the orphanage and could pick out the rebbetzin’s house among the other houses. 

Suddenly the air around Honey and Malkah was filled with wings.  Wild birds came flocking to welcome them into the sky.  A motherly white heron, stroking Honey with her bill, clattered questions at Malkah, “Is she your youngest?  When was she hatched? Isn’t she beautiful?”  Malkah, Honey and the birds were drenched in a shower of sunlight.   

Glancing way up above the heron, Malkah got another and bigger surprise.  A fluffy white cloud towered over her head, and on the cloud were seven bearded men sitting on gold thrones.  They were dressed in beautiful robes of red, blue, green and gold, purple and white and silver, and their shoulders were shaking as they laughed with one another.  The oldest of them all, the one with the thickest and whitest beard, leaned out of the cloud and waved to Malkah and Honey.  “Come,” his hand was saying.  “Come up here.”

Obediently, Malkah floated up, holding Honey tightly against her shoulder.  When a breeze lifted the girl over the edge of the cloud and dropped her onto its fleecy softness, she whispered to the kitten, “Honey, these are our Fathers.”  She gulped as she looked into the face of the man who had beckoned to her.  “This is Father Abraham,” she said.  “And next to him,” she added, “are our fathers Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.” 

Shifting Honey to her other shoulder so she could see the holy men on the other side, she went on with the cherished names.  Becoming shyer and shyer, she mouthed, “Moses, Aaron and King David,” soundlessly into the kitten’s fur.

When Father Abraham held out his hands, Malkah reached up to put Honey into them.  The elderly man kissed the top of her head and spread out his fingers so she could crawl through them.  Then he handed her to his son, who let her play hide-and-seek in his beard before he handed Honey to his son, who dug into the pocket of his robe and fed her something that made her fur glow. 

When it was Joseph’s turn to take Honey, he smiled at Malkah. “Even when I lived in Egypt, where cats are revered, I never saw one as beautiful as your Honey,” he told her.  He whispered little compliments in Egyptian into the kitten’s ear, and she purred compliments back at him.

As soon as Honey was claimed by Moses, he took her in his right hand and held her above his brother Aaron’s left hand, which was right above his left hand, which was right above Aaron’s right hand.  The brothers made a living ladder of their hands, so Honey could tumble down from palm to palm, climb back up and jump or tumble down again to her heart’s content.  When she tumbled down for the last time, it was King David who scooped her up.

Then the most surprising thing of all happened.  “Listen,” he said kindly to Malkah, setting her kitten upright on his knee. 

With one finger, he tapped gently at Honey’s front legs.  Jingle, jingle sounded the legs.  Jingle, jingle.  Ready to play, she batted his finger with her paw.  Again, there rang out jingle, jingle.  Every time he tapped her leg or she batted his finger, Malkah heard the joyous tinkling of a tiny tambourine.  The tinkling was so funny and unexpected, it made her laugh out loud, and it continued until King David changed the game.  

When he began stroking Honey’s whiskers, a melody of heavenly sweetness filled the air.  Every time he bent and released the whiskers, Malkah heard harp-like notes of great beauty that went straight to her soul.  She was ready to overflow into tears when, suddenly, the king stopped and put his hand down behind Honey.  As her happy tail, whipping back and forth, brushed against his hand, Malkah heard the soft clashing of little cymbals.

“Honey, you’re full of music,” cried Malkah.

“All God’s children are full of music,” winked King David.  “You just have to know how to draw it out of them.”   

Taking her little sister back and cradling her against her chest, Malkah looked up to smile at all the fathers.  But instead of a smile, she gave a great big yawn.  She closed her eyes, a strong desire for a nap came over her, and she felt herself floating down. 

When she woke up, she was sitting on her bed with Honey purring by her side.  Unable to see, she felt frantically around with her hands.  Had she lost the rabbi’s Bible?  But Honey took Malkah’s thumb in her teeth and put it right on top of the book.

Just at that moment, Hannah and Rachel came bursting in.  “Where were you?” they wanted to know.  “We missed you!”

When Malkah told them where she and Honey had been, she heard them breathe in sharply.  “You saw all that?  You actually saw it?” they asked her.  Hannah opened the Bible to the first page.  She showed Rachel where the line “God said, ‘Let there be light,’” was slightly wrinkled, from being wetted and rubbed by Honey’s tongue.  “That’s what started it all,” concluded Rachel.  “And you got to see all the Fathers!”

“They came to earth for Sukkot,” said Hannah, meaning the holiday that follows Rosh Hashanah.  “And they stayed for Joy of the Torah, so they could watch us all having a good time.”

“The world is so beautiful,” sighed Malkah, “and you get to see it everyday!  You can look at the trees and the sky and the clouds for hours and hours!”

“It will be even better in heaven,” said Rachel.  “But you know what will be the best part of heaven?” 

"Seeing the angels?” guessed Malkah, stroking Honey.  She added in a low voice, “Seeing God?” 

Rachel nudged Hannah, and both girls took off their scarves, combing their long hair with their fingers and lifting their chins proudly.   “Watching your eyes light up when you can see how gorgeous we are!” said Hannah.

© Lynn Butler Schiffhorst 2007

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