Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Man From the Synagogue: The Story of Coral Graf and a Lesson in Manna and Mitzvahs

“Dad, I’m going over to the Synagogue to talk to Rabbi Hillel about the power of small miracles,” Coral said.

“I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you,” Mr. Graf said, heading out to his deli. “I sent him a box of bagels the other day.”

He grabbed his spring sweater as Coral gathered her tin can with overflowing pennies from The Man Upstairs.

Before Coral put the can in her backpack, The Man Upstairs dropped another handful of coins through the heating vent. 

“Don’t forget these pennies!” Mr. Graf said, scooping up the coins from the floor and handing them to Coral. 

“If he asks you to meet The Man Upstairs, it might be better that the Rabbi just say a prayer for him . . .”

“Since he’s the Rabbi, I thought I’d tell him about the miracles that have been happening with the pennies,” she said.

“I’m sure you’ll have a nice talk, but don’t be disappointed if he doesn’t understand,” Mr. Graf said. “Not everyone gets pennies from The Man Upstairs, because not everyone would give them away to see miracles, Coral.”

“I’ve never kept one single penny, Dad,” Coral said. “I’ve been giving everything away. It’s the only way to do good!”

As Mr. Graf locked the door of the New York City apartment behind them, he stared at his daughter with awe.

“Not everyone has enough faith for miracles to happen,” Mr. Graf said. “I personally think you are a miracle, Coral!”

“Thanks, Dad, I love you and Mom,” Coral said, marching down the stairs to the New York City street.

“You should stop by and say hello to your mom at the Empire State Building during lunch,” Mr. Graf said. 

“I’ll try to stop by after talking to the Rabbi. I could ride the elevators up and down for hours,” Coral said. 

When Coral arrived at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, she swung open the doors and tiptoed into the Rabbi’s office. 

“My name is Coral Graf. I’m here to see Rabbi Hillel,” Coral said to his assistant, placing her pennies on his oak desk. 

“Do you have an appointment?” the secretary said, pushing her glasses back on her wrinkled face. 

“Why do I need an appointment?” Coral said. “The Rabbi talks to God, and I want to talk to the man who talks to God.”

“Usually, you have to get on the calendar, but I’ll see what I can do to make an exception,” the secretary said. 

She walked into the Rabbi’s office with a yellow pad of paper, returning minutes later with a tired smile. 

“The Rabbi has five minutes to see you,” the secretary said, sitting down at her squeaky, rolling chair. 

“God must have a lot to say to the Rabbi if he only has five minutes to talk to me. I might need ten,” Coral said. 

As Coral walked in the Rabbi’s office, he breathed deep and exhaled long and hard, as though he needed a nap. 

“Now what can I do for you, Coral? Your father sends such nice desserts from his deli,” the Rabbi said. 

“I wanted to tell you about the pennies that I’ve been getting from The Man Upstairs,” Coral said, sitting on a chair.

“Oh, well, what is it that you wanted to tell me about them?” the Rabbi said, shuffling a stack of paper on his desk. 

“Well, they come through the heating vent, clickety clank, and drop into my tin can, and they keep coming as long as I give them away to do good in the world. If I don’t give them away, then I don’t get any more pennies,” Coral said. 

She dumped her tin can of pennies on the Rabbi’s desk. “These pennies are for you and the Synagogue,” she said. 

“It’s just enough to start a chain reaction of small miracles that create bigger miracles!” Coral explained. 

“Why, thank you!” the Rabbi said. “Please tell The Man Upstairs thank you as well. What is his name?”

“The Man Upstairs! His name is The Man Upstairs,” Coral said, stacking the pennies for the Rabbi. 

“My, my, my, you have quite an imagination, don’t you? Although I’m still unsure as to who The Man Upstairs is exactly, I’m sure we can put your pennies to good use around here,” the Rabbi said. “It’s almost like when the Israelites received manna from God in the desert. They only ate the manna that they gathered that day. If they kept it for more than a day, worms crawled all over it, except on the Sabbath. Then it lasted two days.”

“What an interesting story!” Coral said. “I wonder what manna tasted like. The food at my dad’s deli is probably better.”

“Yes, that’s true. It tasted like wafers with honey” the Rabbi said. “So, you’re giving your pennies away to do mitzvahs?”

“Mitzvahs? What is a mitzvah?” Coral said, eyeing the open Torah that sat on the Rabbi’s desk. 

“A good deed, like feeding the poor, acting kindly to a stranger,” the Rabbi said. “Your actions show what you believe.”

“Maybe you could talk to God about this for me?” Coral said. “I’ve been trying to give my pennies to the right people.”

“I’m sure you’re doing a good job. Your imagination is just wonderful,” the Rabbi said, looking at his watch. 

“My imagination is wonderful, but so is The Man Upstairs,” Coral said. “He gave me enough pennies to make small changes in the world, even if no one notices them at first.”

“I’m so glad to hear that has been happening,” the Rabbi said. “Now remember to keep the Sabbath. I really have a lot of work to do today.”

“Sure, I understand,” Coral said. “Let me know what you do with the pennies . . . it’s just like they came from heaven.”


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Sequel to "The Man Upstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Pennies from a Tin Can" (1/3/15), "The Man Downstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Her Missing Pennies" (7/13/15), "The Man Next Door: The Story of Coral Graf and the Neighborhood Pennies" (8/5/15), "The Man Across the Street: The Story of Coral Graf, a Hanukkah Miracle, and the Landlord with a Cigar" (9/10/15), "The Man Around the Corner: The Story of Coral Graf and a Homeless Cardboard Box" (9/10/15), and "The Man from Central Park: The Story of Coral Graf and a Bike Ride on a Spring Day" (10/4/15).

Dedicated to my grandmother, Augusta Renner Graf Waters. 

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