Gershom stood at the back of the small sanctuary, in the shadow of the drawn curtain over the window. He often stood here on Friday nights and sometimes on Saturday mornings to keep shabbat. It was one of his few indulgences. The sanctuary was run down, as the old building housing it was run down. The Sunday School had only 3 teachers, all volunteers and passionate, although tired and pressed.
Today, Gershom didn't leave 10 minutes before the service concluded as he usually did. The congregation was small, although always made minyan, and he did not usually wish to be noticed. On this particular Saturday, however, a feeling had overcome him, something akin to loneliness or nostalgia or regret, he didn't know which, and so he stood shrouded in the shadow and watched as the members of the congregation greeted each other warmly and slowly moved towards the back door, passing him and averting their eyes, as though (he felt) they knew he did not belong.
He looked out of place in many ways. He had become good at minimizing his bulky frame, hunching his wide, square shoulders and standing very still—as living things cannot—so that a passerby might not notice him at all, taking him for a fixture of the room. Still, those that glanced at him saw an unfamiliar figure, poorly dressed in an old motorcycle jacket, ill-fitting pants, leather gloves, and a wide brimmed dark hat concealing the top half of his beardless stony face.
As the sanctuary emptied, the Rabbi made his way to the back and stopped at the door. He turned to Gershom. "I see you've stayed to the end of the service today." His accent was slight but noticable, with the lilt and intonation of someone who perhaps had a parent who spoke yiddish often in their youth.
"You noticed me before." Gershom's voice was deep and gravelly with a quality of stone sliding against stone.
"You aren't exactly a discrete figure, my friend." There was the hint of a smile in the corner of the old Rabbi's eyes. "What do they call you?"
"I am called Gershom. In another time, I was called Tzadok."
"Justice, now a Stranger. Where do you come from?"
"Across the water, in the east."
"It must have been a trying journey."
Gershom was considerably taller than the old man, and bowed his blocky head in respect. "Do you know my kind?"
"Never personally, but I know the stories, if I'm not mistaken in who you are" The Rabbi bowed his head briefly as well, but continued without hesitation or shame, "What is your intention, coming to this place?"
Gershom had learned humility as perhaps one of the first things he had ever learned in his life, and did not hope that the Rabbi would be sympathetic or permis him to continue, but he was honest if nothing else. "I come here to remember, and to pray."
The Rabbi raised his unkempt eyebrows. "I did not know your kind was pious."
Gershom stood very still. "I cannot speak for my kind, as I have not known any other. Only myself."
"Well," said the Rabbi, "you are welcome to return so long as you are respectful and behaved—as you have proven yourself to be."
Gershom bent stiffly at the waist, a small bow of thanks. "Ani modeh."
The Rabbi nodded once, turned, and walked out the door. Gershom stood in the shadows for several moments more, both considering his good fortune and allowing the Rabbi to leave ahead of him, unwilling to be seen in greater detail, as he knew the Rabbi didn't wear AR in his round glasses and would see him clearly in all his roughly hewn features.