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As Always

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Aharon Hildenseimer woke to the pearly light of the most beautiful sunrise, as always. He murmured a modeh ani as he rose from his bed, which made itself. "Thank you," he said to the angelic force that drew the covers up so tidily, as always.

His pajamas transformed themselves into trousers and silken bekishe, as always. There was no hunger in olam ha-ba, but the breakfast buffet was spread with an array of favorite foods, as always. Today he chose idli and sambar. One of the Indian rebbeim had introduced him to it, and the tanginess of the cakes pleased his tongue.

After bentsching he made his way to the study hall. He'd grown accustomed to the way it stretched all the way to the horizon, how the ceiling overhead oscillated between clouds and supernovas and every possible unearthly color of sky.

He'd also grown accustomed to the fact that there were learners here who didn't look like him: not only men with shaved faces, but also women, and beings who blurred gender boundaries in ways he had never encountered in life. Some studied gemara, some studied kabbalah, some studied volumes that hadn't yet been written on the earthly plane.

The singsong of learning rose and fell. It should have been an impossible din, but it wasn't. He spared a grateful thought for the angelic presences that kept the sound levels  comfortable for the formerly-human ear.

Yitzchak was at their usual table, studying Afikei Mayim, idly twisting a strand of hair around his thumb as he read. Aharon sat, and a few moments later Shmuel joined them.

"Countdown to the rav," Shmuel joked, "in five..."

Aharon joined. "Four... three..."

Yitzchak closed his book. "Two...one."

The rav arrived five seconds after the third seat at their table was filled, as always. Rav Eliezer was the only one of their foursome with smicha. They'd been learning together -- well, heaven only knew how long; time had quickly lost its meaning. Aharon liked him. He was soft-spoken and kind, and learning lit him up like a Shabbes candle.

Just then an angelic being glided on its single foot to their table. It tapped their silver samovar with a finger and the Hebrew incantations inscribed on its sides began to glow as the water heated. Then it placed four tea glasses beside the samovar and glided away.

Aharon reached for a glass and exclaimed with surprise: each glass bore the likeness of one of their foursome.

"Every table's getting them," the rav noted.

Sure enough, Aharon could hear exclamations of pleasure as each learner received a tea glass with their own face imprinted on its side. Aharon smiled to think of what Bruriah's must look like, and Miriam Luria's, and Regina Jonas's.

"Before we begin, a cup of something hot," the rav suggested.

The samovar dispensed mint tea for Aharon, café au lait for Yitzchak, Russian caravan tea for Shmuel, and spiced Turkish coffee for the rav.

"Shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro," Aharon said, and everyone answered "amen," as always.

New drinking glasses! Would wonders never cease. Probably not, Aharon reflected, and smiled. As always.