| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 21 

“Oh, come on Dovid.” Yitzchok made a face. “You’re the one who keeps telling me we need action! A plan! Now we have one”




erosene?” I whispered, staring at the familiar bottle in Yitzchok’s hand. We had a kerosene stove in our apartment.

He nodded.

“And what do you plan to do with it? Cook?” This wasn’t making any sense. And what was with all the secrecy?

YItzchok gave me a long look before answering. “No,” he finally said. “Dovid, don’t you see? We can douse a rope in kerosene, attach it to the gasoline tank of one of their cars, and BOOM!” he clapped his hands to emphasize his point.

I got it. An explosion. Yitzchok wanted to blow up a British car. I looked over at Yitzchok, suddenly unsure. I mean, talking about it all was one thing, but this plan? Suddenly I felt very unsettled.

“Oh, come on Dovid.” Yitzchok made a face. “You’re the one who keeps telling me we need action! A plan! Now we have one.”

I looked from Yitzchok to his kerosene bottle. “Okay,” I finally said, slowly. “Okay. But if I don’t get to my chavrusa right now Mama will find out and then our plan will be bust. Let’s meet tomorrow. Same time, same place. And we’ll figure out the details then.”

Yitzchok nodded, a gleam in his eyes. “This week, Dovid. This week we’ll get them back for what they did.” And with that, he stuffed the bottle back under his shirt and was gone.

I walked to the yeshivah building slowly after that. What was wrong with me? I had been so sure. So excited. But now that Yitzchok had faced me with a real plan, the fire that burned inside of me seemed to have quieted down, even gone out altogether. It wasn’t that I was scared. So what was it then?

The image of a burning car rose up in my mind, and suddenly, I knew. What good would it do anyone if we blew up a car?  So the British would have one car fewer? For them, I knew, that was no big deal. Maybe for us it would be, but the British army had so many cars and so much money to waste, they would barely notice it. And it would definitely not teach them a lesson. What could we do that would teach them? Hurt them? Kill them? Those were things I didn’t think I could ever do even if we did figure out a plan to do them.

My feet brought me to the bais medrash almost on their own, and before I knew it, I was standing there staring up at the door that led inside. With a hurried apology to Shimon, my chavrusa, I sat down to learn.

The words of Torah filled the air as we started to work out the sugya, but my mind kept wandering. Images of Papa swam through my mind as I tried to work myself up again, get myself angry. I looked over at Shimon. He shouldn’t be here learning with me — Papa should. But despite all my efforts, my anger seemed to have evaporated and in its place I just felt tired. So tired of living without Papa. So tired of trying to please Mama. So tired of trying to pay back the terrible people who had hurt my family. And it wasn’t what Papa would have wanted anyway.

I closed my Gemara gently and stood up. Our half-hour session was over. And besides, I couldn’t concentrate anyway.



“How did you do on the Chumash test?” Rivi asked. It was recess and we were waiting for our turn to jump rope.

I smiled modestly. Or at least, I hope it was modestly.

“Come on,” Rivi insisted, “tell me.”

“I got a hundred,” I replied, my face breaking into a smile. I couldn’t help it. After all the work I had done to catch up with the rest of the class, doing so well was a pretty big deal.

“Don’t look so smug about it,” said Faiga, who was standing right ahead of me in line. But before I could respond, she’d jumped into the rope, running out a moment later. Quickly, I jumped in after her, my dress flying as I jumped, one, two, and ran out the other side.

“What did you mean by that?” I demanded as we watched Rivi jump.

“Just what I said. Don’t think you’re so special because you did so well.”

“I don’t think I’m special,” I retorted. What was with Faiga today?

“Whatever.” Faiga shrugged.


We walked home from school together as usual. I’m not sure what I expected, but after her comment about the Chumash test, I was surprised she wanted to walk with me.

“So, your house or mine?” Faiga asked.

“Yours,” I answered, “we went to mine yesterday.”

We parted at my house and I went to pick up Yisroel while Miriam served lunch. When we were done, we would walk over to Faiga’s house for the rest of the afternoon.

I came home with Yisroel, exhausted, and more than ready for lunch. Mama had left a pot of meatballs for us to eat and Miriam had doled out portions for her and Leiba. Depositing Yisroel on a chair in the kitchen, I spooned out portions of meatballs and rice for the two of us, and sat down to eat.

The food was good. Filling. I ate quickly, making sure to leave some for Dovid to eat when he came home for lunch.

“Let’s go,” I said to Miriam, grabbing my schoolbooks and standing up to leave.

Miriam grinned. “Come.” She took her own books and headed towards the door, Leiba following close behind.


The afternoon was filled with laughter and fun and schoolwork, and before I knew it, it was time to go home and get the little kids ready for bed. Mama would be home soon. We were walking the two blocks to our house when Miriam opened her mouth.

“What’s going on with you and Faiga?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know,” Miriam shrugged, “things just seem different than they were.”

“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But I did know. There was something. Something between us. Almost as if Faiga was bothered by something, even though we were friends. One minute, we’d be laughing together and the next, Faiga would say something really mean and I wouldn’t want to be her friend.

“Mama?” I asked later that night, as she stood in the kitchen frying onions for tomorrow’s lunch.

“Hmm?” Mama turned a little to show she was listening.

“I think Faiga doesn’t like me anymore.”

“Why do you think that?” Mama asked, putting down the spoon and coming to sit next to me at the table. We could hear the bochurim coming home, the door of their room closing loudly behind them.

“I don’t know. She’s just always getting upset at me or saying mean things to me.”

Mama nodded, thinking. “You know what? How about I watch what’s going on when we go for the Shabbos seudah this week? Then I’ll see what’s going on for myself.”

“We’re going to them for the seudah?” I asked, my heart sinking. Rosh Hashanah was bad enough. I really didn’t want to go back.

To be continued…

“Dovid, don’t you see? We can douse a rope in kerosene, attach it to the gasoline tank of one of their cars, and BOOM!”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 919)

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