It was the perfect apartment and the purchase was almost completed when, fueled by the deteriorating security situation, followed by the IDF incursion into Beit Jala, the shekel dropped steeply against the dollar. Aleksander Guravich – who had spent the better part of his week signing reams of paper at the bank, the mortgage broker, and a number of free loan societies – was suddenly obliged to come up with an additional forty thousand NIS. He didn't know where to turn.

Weaving his way through the narrow streets of Geulah on his way to the synagogue, he hardly glanced at the plastered notices glaring from the stone walls, proclaiming the names of the latest terrorism victims. His mind was elsewhere as he tossed a few coins into an outstretched palm. Numbers and figures spiraled and twisted around in his mind.

As he passed Stefansky's supermarket, a wave of wistfulness overcame him. The image of Simon rose in his mind, as he started reminiscing about his first years in the Holy Land, and how far he had come to date.

Upon his arrival to Israel from the Soviet Union, the employment agency had assigned him to care for Simon Stefansky. Aleksander had been surprised to learn that the elderly man – bent, frail and trembling; his stern old face like a withered pear – owned a veritable financial empire. That this wiry man with steel grey hair and suffering from dementia had once been a successful business tycoon was hard to imagine.

Simon's children, "You want to kill me. You're here to finish me off." immersed in the business, were relieved when the care of their father went over to Aleksander. Simon, however, wasn't shy to express his own estimation of the caretaker. "You want to kill me," he remarked rather frequently. "You're here to finish me off."

There were days, rare occasions, when Simon enjoyed some lucid moments, times when the two of them would sit together on a park bench and make small talk with little difficulty. Mostly though, Simon sat quietly, as though deep in thought, sometimes muttering softly, his eyes roving along the walls and ceilings. Aleksander cooked for him, managed his household affairs and took care of all his need with warmth and devotion.

As Aleksander turned left into a narrow side street, the synagogue with the domed rooftop and arched entranceway came into view. Its white stones were bathed in the golden light of the afternoon sun. Once, at precisely such a time of day, when the same golden shafts of sunlight poured into the open windows of Simon's kitchen, Aleksander found the old man standing beside the cutlery drawer, pointing a kitchen knife at him.

"You want to kill me, that's why you're here," said the erstwhile business man.

"I'm here to care for you," Aleksander said, keeping his voice low. "Do you want me to leave?"

The old man said nothing.

"All right, then. I'll leave."

Simon dropped the knife, it fell with a clang. Then he wept.

"Who are you?" he asked after he'd calmed down.

"I'm Aleksander, your caretaker. Try to keep that in your memory."

"Don't make me believe that lie," he said.

Aleksander gently led Simon to the couch, fed him his dinner and tenderly put him to sleep.

Aleksander sighed. Alzheimers, terrorists, financial crisis, it all merged together in his mind somehow. "You ought to be thankful for all the good in your life," he chastised himself as he skipped up the stairs, taking them two at a time. "You have a family, you have health, you have an income, be grateful."

In those days, on a caretaker's salary, his income wouldn't have sufficed for the purchase of a home. His current profession as a chiropractor – though by no means a wealth amassing machine – improved his lifestyle, he had to admit. But his real wealth had come not from aligning vertebrae.

Good fortune had shined on him Only a short while ago, this prayer book had felt heavy in his hands. when he'd discovered his Jewish roots. The return to his heritage had connected him to G‑d, to His Torah. In its holy tomes, Aleksander had unearthed luminous jewels the likes of which he hadn't encountered while traipsing through the quarries of Tibet-Indian and Chinese philosophy. For this newfound oasis, where truth and joy actually existed, he was profoundly thankful.

Aleksander fingered his prayer book. Only a short while ago – two or three years back – this prayer book had felt heavy in his hands. In fact the first time he'd entered this synagogue altogether was an experience that had engraved itself into his mind.

Standing behind Simon's wheelchair with his long dark hair caressing his shoulders, and the vibrant colors of his t-shirt screaming out from among the black-hatted, white-shirted congregants. He felt awkward and obtrusive and he wanted only to merge into the walls of the synagogue, to remain unnoticed.

And then a young man with laughing eyes with tefillin wrapped around his arm approached him.

"Why don't you come pray?"

The question was thrown at him with the nonchalance of a friend who wonders at his friend's hesitation before crossing the threshold of his home. The invitation pleased him; it was a gesture that made him feel welcome. Yet there was no denying the barricade that stood between him and the prayers.

"I don't know how…" he answered simply.

The lines on the man's forehead etched a little deeper. "So?" he said. His dancing, laughing eyes stood still for a moment, in thought. Then the corners of his mouth smiled again and he patted Aleksander on the back. "We'll teach you," he said.

And here he was, a few short years later. The synagogue was quickly filling up as more congregants unhooked themselves from their day's activities. The voice of the one leading the services rang out, "Ashrei…" Aleksander closed his eyes savoring the distinct tenor. He had been taught well. First the Shema, later the Amidah. These kind people had appreciated him, looked beneath his exterior. In this synagogue he wasn't defined then as the Russian caretaker, just like the chiropractor wasn't his identity now. Here he always was Mr. Aleksander Guravich—a respected person all his own, a valuable member of society.

The prayers now concluded, the congregants dispersed, the dim hues of twilight filtered in through the large oval windows. Only Aleksander, immersed in conversation with his Creator, lingered still. "G‑d," he murmured. "If you want me to buy the apartment so that my wife and I could have a place to live, so that we are able to raise our children…if this is Your will, help me, please. I have no one to turn to but You."

A feeling of peace settled over him like a winged dove. He'd handed his worries over to the Master Planner. It was time to go home, time to spend time with his family, time to wrap up the day in tranquility and harmony

When he entered his two-room apartment, the folding cots and cribs had already made their appearance across the dining room floor as it did every evening. The children freshly bathed and pajama clad clambered over him and giggled loudly as he tossed them playfully in the air. Elena, his wife, turned from the tiny kitchen sink and greeted her husband with a strange look.

"You didn't tell me you spoke to them..." she said.

"Spoke to whom?"

Elena wiped her hands in her apron and hastened to undo the strings. Aleksander, realizing that something was afoot, said not a word as he followed her movements with his eyes. Then, from the single kitchen cabinet, Elena removed a small envelope.

"A loan, likely?" she asked with an expression of mingled rapture and curiosity.

Aleksander cast a quick glance at the sender's address. "Family Stefansky," it read.

"This just came by a private messenger service. Maybe half an hour ago. You did talk to them, didn't you?" queried his wife.

"Not in a year, I haven't," replied Aleksander. "Not since Simon passed away."

He turned the envelope over in his hands. A check slipped out. Under "Pay To" the name Aleksander Guravich was written in a neat scrawl. Amount: 40,000 shekels.

"A loan?" asked Simon's son when Aleksander phoned him. "No, why should we send you a loan?... A mistake? No, nothing of the sort... 4,000 instead of 40,000? Not at all.

"The litigation attorney recently finished reviewing our father's will. Our father, of late memory, wanted 40,000 shekels to go to you."

(Some names and details have been changed to protect privacy)