| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 20    

Faiga looked at me, a glint in her eye. “You need to pay attention. I can’t always be working your life out for you”




I looked up, startled to hear my name being called. I knew I was supposed to be listening to the teacher, but my mind kept bringing me back to Simchas Torah, to the happiness and sadness that I felt at the same time in the Yeshivah. I kept remembering Mama’s face, with the same mix of joy and sorrow. Now the teacher was calling my name, and I didn’t know what she wanted. Frantically, I looked over at Faiga, who shared the desk with me, in the hope that she would clue me in. But she just stared straight ahead, ignoring me. What had Morah asked? Rivi, who sat on the other side of me at our desk, pointed to the pasuk, and with a gentle sigh of relief, I began to read.

As soon as Morah moved on, I breathed more easily and tried to concentrate again. But it was really hard. The scene of all the bochurim trying, and failing, to dance joyfully with the Torah they had worked so hard to learn all through the year kept replaying in my mind. It was exactly how I felt. Trying to move on. Trying to continue. And failing.

“Why didn’t you help me?” I asked Faiga as we trudged home together. The heat of the summer had finally broken and the rains had not started yet, so the walk home was actually pleasant, even in the middle of the day. “When Morah called on me, why didn’t you show me where we were?”

Faiga looked at me, a glint in her eye. “You need to pay attention. I can’t always be working your life out for you.”

“Working out my life for me?”

“Yeah. I mean, I help you with your siblings every day, I introduced you to all the kids at school, and even helped you catch up in Dikduk because your school in Chevron was so behind. You need to start doing things yourself.”

I looked at her, shocked. “But — we both help each other.” It was all I could manage to stammer, because, put that way, Faiga had a point. I needed a lot of help just to settle in here. But so would she if she had moved to Chevron, and I was sure I would have done everything I could to help her. Besides, she never seemed to care that much. She was always so okay with helping me.

“I don’t really mind helping you out,” Faiga said, “but you can’t expect me to always bail you out. Like today — just because you moved and everything, doesn’t mean you can’t pay attention in class. That was your fault. You should have been listening, and I don’t have to fix all your problems for you.”

It was true. I should have been listening. But she also didn’t know about the thoughts that were running through my head all day. About Simchas Torah. And about sadness, and loss. And I couldn’t explain it to her. Suddenly, I wished we lived closer to my friend Batya from Chevron. She would have understood. She had lived through the same things I had. She probably also had the screams of the neighbors running through her mind any time there was a quiet moment. But she wasn’t here right now, and we didn’t even go to the same school. It seemed there was no one who would understand. Even Faiga. Even after all I had shared with her.

I tugged at Leiba’s hand. “Come,” I said, “let’s go this way.” I steered her towards a side street that led to our house a different way.

“Where are you going?” Faiga asked.

“You said you don’t like helping me watch my siblings,” I said, shortly. I didn’t need her. Miriam and I could watch them ourselves.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Faiga said. “I’m also watching my siblings. It’s fun to do it together. I just meant — oh, forget it!” She sounded frustrated. Annoyed. As if she wasn’t the one who just said she didn’t want to spend the afternoon together.

I turned back toward her. Even if she couldn’t understand, I didn’t want to fight with her. She was my best friend right now. My only friend. But it didn’t help. Throughout the long afternoon, we barely said a word to each other. The kids played outside in the courtyard of my building, and Miriam, Faiga, and I took turns going inside to do our homework. But when it was just Faiga and me, silence hung between us. We didn’t test each other on multiplication, or laugh about the things that had happened that day. We were just quiet. And it wasn’t a companionable silence, either.




you think anyone will ever understand us?” Elka asked me after I finished eating supper that evening.

“Understand us?” I had no idea where she was going with this and was in a rush to get out of the house. Yitzchok had said he would meet me at our usual corner tonight and I didn’t want to be late.

“Yeah. Get what we went through. What we saw. Understand why I hate it here.”

Something must have happened to her. I thought she loved it here in Yerushalayim, with Faiga only a block away and a whole bunch of friends in school instead of just the few she had in her class in Chevron. “I don’t know,” I shrugged. I really needed to leave.

“Oh, you’re no help,” she muttered, and turned around as though to go help Mama in the kitchen.

Whatever was bothering Elka, Mama would have to take care of it. I needed to get out of here fast. Especially since Mama was coming out of the kitchen. I needed to leave before she could ask me where I was going. Mama would never approve of the plans Yitzchok and I were making. Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure she would approve of Yitzchok as a friend altogether.

“Bye,” I called out behind me as I slipped out the door. It closed behind me and Mama’s “Learn well!” just made it to me through the crack. I felt a pang of guilt but continued down the steps without looking back.

“Dovid.” The sound of my name, whispered loudly into the night, startled me. I was surprised to find Yitzchok already leaning against a wall at the corner of the block.

“Yitzchok.” I nodded at him. “This is a first. How did you manage to get here before me?”

“Your fault,” Yitzchok said, stepping out of the shadows. “You were late.”

“So what’s the plan?” I countered. We didn’t have much time. The bochur Mama had hired to learn with me was waiting for me and Mama would find out if I missed learning together too often.

“You’ll never believe it,” Yitzchok replied.

“Spit it out, Yitz, I haven’t got all night.”

“Come here,” he whispered. “Look what I managed to get hold of. But come close, I don’t want anyone seeing it.”

I moved in, noticing the bulge under Yitzchok’s shirt for the first time.



To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 918)

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