Falafel Nachum

Friday, 26 May, 2017 - 2:53 am


Dear Friends,

“Falafel Nachum” was an important part of my childhood. When we children would travel from Kfar Chabad to Bnei Brak, we would know that the trip was worth it – even walking down the especially hot and sticky Rabbi Akiva St. in Bnei Brak – because in the middle of it, right at the peak of the hill, was Falafel Nachum.

Yesterday I searched for that Falafel store in Bnei Brak. Not because I was hungry, but simply for tradition’s sake. But it doesn’t exist anymore. It closed a while ago. So why am I bothering you with my childhood recollections?

Well, a number of years ago Devorah and I went to Nachum’s. It was early evening. There were a number of quiet moments, during which only the bubbling sounds of frying could be heard. Nachum stopped his automatic stirring movements and said, “That’s it. I can now close the falafel store.” And without waiting for our response, he continued: “For forty years I have been here morning to night. For forty years I have been in this roasting heat between the falafel and the Sechug (hot red sauce) and the garlic sauce (Nachum did not serve French fries – only falafel), and I had only one prayer in my heart: ‘Ribbono Shel Olam, allow me to raise children and grandchildren who are involved in Torah and mitzvahs, fine, decent people, who possess fear of Heaven.’ Do you understand what I am saying? Falafel did not interest me – all I wanted was children with ‘Simanim’ (Pe’ot/sidelocks).

“For forty years I have been putting six falafel balls into the pita together with humus, so that I will be able to make a decent living for my family, so that my children will be able to follow the ways of their forefathers.”

We watched Nachum wipe the sweat off his brow, and we listened to his heart. And then I asked: “So why close the store, Nachum?”

“Because last week my youngest daughter, number seven, got engaged. Like her brothers and sisters, she will be starting a fine Jewish family that is proud of its traditions. Today I bought all she needs to set up a household: a refrigerator and a stove, a dining room table and washing machine – all from this falafel. Ribbono Shel Olam, in His great goodness, has fulfilled all my desires and answered all my prayers. So now I can close the falafel store.”

We were silent as we listened to this simple, true Jewish soul. The other people there were silent as well.

We were silent and listened to Nachum’s living interpretation of the verse, “And you shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul and all your resources.”


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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