| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 19    

A normal seudah. A seudah where Mama’s cousin made Kiddush and passed out the wine 



The mood this year on Rosh Hashanah seemed even more intense than usual, if that’s even possible. Or maybe it just felt that way because of everything that happened this year. But I felt it. I felt it in the silence and in the chazzan’s davening, and it made me walk home quietly, Elka at my side. We could hear our footsteps clattering against the street, and we hardly said a word the whole walk home.

“How was davening?” Mama asked, handing Miriam the baby when we walked through the door.

“Good,” I said.

Mama nodded. She knew what it was like, I didn’t have to tell her. “We’re almost ready to go.”

I nodded and watched Elka help Leiba get ready. We were going to eat the Yom Tov seudah with Mama’s cousin. I couldn’t say I was looking forward to it; they don’t have any boys besides their baby, and at two years old, he wasn’t much company. But it would be better than staying home and taking Papa’s place as the one leading the seudah. A lump began to form in my throat at the thought of it, and I swallowed hard a few times. We’d be at a regular seudah. A normal seudah. A seudah where Mama’s cousin made kiddush and passed out the wine and would ask me what I was learning. I didn’t have to focus on what we wouldn’t have.

Finally, we were all ready. Everyone had found their missing shoes or lost hair ribbons, and we headed out the door. I carried Yisroel, Elka held Leiba’s hand, and Mama and Miriam led the way down the few short blocks.

Kesivah v’chasimah tovah,” our cousin Baruch greeted us as we walked in the door.

I smiled and returned the greeting while Elka, Miriam, and Leiba headed straight to their friends, chatting about their clothing or whatever else it is girls chat about. I might have sisters, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever really understand girls.

Yisroel was getting heavy, so I put him down on the floor, and he found his way to the toys. The girls bring him here often enough that he’s pretty familiar with the house.

“Come,” Mama’s cousin Yocheved said, gesturing towards the table. “Let’s sit down and make kiddush now that we’re all here.”

“I want to sit next to Bracha!” Leiba began to complain. I knew where this was going.

“Come,” Baruch said as he took his place at the head of the table. “You’re sitting next to me, Dovid. What are you learning in yeshivah these days?”

I tuned out the squabbling at the other end and schmoozed with Baruch until it quieted down and we were able to start kiddush.

“So,” Baruch continued after we had all settled back down at the table and started on our gefilte fish, “how’s it going? I hear you’re learning in the yeshivah and not a Talmud Torah?”

“Yeah.” I nodded. It was strange, I knew, for a boy my age. The rest of the boys — even the young ones — were at least bar mitzvah.

“And you like it?” Baruch asked the question so casually.

“My father wanted me to learn there.” That was that. If my father chose something, there was no arguing. Especially now.

“I hear. Leiba!” he called across the table, “Watch your cup—” But it was too late. Leiba’s cup smashed to the floor, splashing water on anyone nearby. “Elka,” Baruch addressed my sister while his daughter Faiga got some shmattehs to wipe up the mess, “try to notice if her cup is at the edge next time. It will save us from another mess.” He turned back to me. “How was davening in the yeshivah? I’ve heard that in the past the davening in Chevron was inspirational.”

I nodded and described what it was like. With all the talk, I didn’t even notice Papa’s absence. Much. Describing davening at the yeshivah brought the memories all back, but I tried to focus only on the now. On this year. Besides, if I thought about Papa, I might start making plans, and I had promised myself that this time would be for Papa. I didn’t want to back out on that. After Yom Tov there would be enough time for revenge.



Davening this year was pretty interesting. Mama went to shul while I watched the little ones, and when she came back, I went. Last year I only went for a little bit, but I guess Mama realized I’m older this year. And I am. I may only be a year older in age, but I feel so much older than that. The shul near our house where Faiga’s family davened was nice, and I slipped in next to Faiga. Of course, we didn’t speak, but it was comforting to be there with someone I knew. Besides, Faiga showed me the place, and we kept each other from losing the place during davening. When davening was over, I waited near the yeshivah for Dovid, and we walked home together.

The meal at Faiga’s house was every bit as exciting as I hoped it would be — at first. After the usual squabbling over seats, we finally settled ourselves with Leiba and Bracha sitting between Faiga and me. They were short enough that we could talk over them, and this way I could help Leiba during the meal. Mama sat next to her cousin Yocheved, feeding Yisroel, who sat on her lap.

“So,” Faiga asked me after we had piled our plates with food and made sure Bracha and Leiba had food on theirs, “what do you think of the shul here?”

“It’s nice,” I said. “Different. You know, Chevron was just different. But this was nice, too.”

Faiga nodded, as if she understood. And then Leiba’s cup tipped over.

Suddenly, while Faiga had jumped up to bring some shmattehs, Baruch’s voice boomed at me from across the table. “Elka!” he yelled. “Try to notice if her cup is at the edge next time!”

I blushed and looked away. Who did he think he was, to yell at me like that? What had I done? Nothing. I was being nice, taking care of Leiba the whole seudah. So I didn’t notice that her cup was at the edge of the table, was that a crime? My father may have been killed, but I didn’t think anyone had appointed Baruch in his place. And besides, Papa would never have yelled at me like that. Papa never yelled. He knew how hard I tried. And he loved me.

When I asked Dovid about it later, he didn’t know what I was talking about. “I don’t think you need to take it so hard, Elka,” Dovid said, when we were back home later that day. “He wasn’t trying to yell at you, he just wanted you to be careful.”

“Easy for you to say,” I shot back. “You weren’t yelled at. And besides — it looks like you’re happy with how he treated you. Almost like you found a new father.”

Dovid looked at me. “Never,” he said, his eyes dark, his face cloudy. “You didn’t see it, but I will never forget what those Brits did to Papa. I’ll get them back for it someday.”

“The Arabs,” I corrected him.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. And then his face shuttered and I was left to figure out what on earth he meant.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 917)

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