| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 23   

“What does it say about me?” I demanded. What did Bubbe know about me anyway?




e got a letter!” I announced as I walked in the door together with Mama.

“A letter?” Miriam asked excitedly from the corner of the room where she was doing her homework. She stopped what she was doing. “From Bubbe?”

Mama nodded, and we all gathered around her to hear what the letter said. Bubbe wrote every month and Mama always sent a letter back, but since we left Chevron, Mama had started sharing the letters with us.

Dear Rivka,” Mama read, “I hope this letter finds you well. How is your job? How are the children settling into their schools in Yerushalayim? Things are fine over here, though we miss you and the children a lot. Your sister Raizel and her family came to stay with us for a week. Her little Yankele is so adorable, but so wild, too. It is going to take me a month to put the house back together after their visit. Chaya’s son, Shmuel, had a new baby a few weeks ago, as you’ve probably already heard from Yocheved and Baruch. And about Dovid—”


Mama stopped suddenly and folded the letter up quickly.

“What does it say about me?” I demanded. What did Bubbe know about me anyway?

“It doesn’t matter,” Mama said, standing up quickly.

“What does it say?” I insisted. I knew that I shouldn’t. I knew I should leave Mama alone. If she said it didn’t matter, I should let it be, but I couldn’t. What could Mama have asked Bubbe? What did Bubbe write about me?

“It’s nothing, Dovid,” Mama said, hurrying off to the kitchen. After a few seconds, though, I followed her. Peering into the kitchen, I saw Mama sitting at the little table. Her brow was furrowed, and she studied the letter as though it held the key to… something. Whatever it said, Mama was worried. I could tell. Had Mama found out about my meetings with Yitzchok? Suddenly, I felt nervous. What did Mama know? And if Mama told me to stop, would I be able to? I needed to do this. I could feel the quiet fury building up inside me and I knew that, for me, there was no choice. The British had to go and I had to be a part of making sure it happened — no matter what Bubbe, or Mama, or anyone else said about it.



The week was passing quickly, and even though I didn’t really want to spend Shabbos at Faiga’s house, I was looking forward to figuring out what was bothering her.

“Mama,” I called across the room, struggling to tie the bow in the back of my dress, “can you help me?”

Mama handed Yisroel to Miriam and came to where I was standing. Deftly, she tied the ribbon on the back of my dress into a perfect bow.

“Here,” she said, handing Yisroel to me and turning to help Lieba finish getting dressed. “You go ahead with Yisroel.”

I nodded. “And what about…?” I pointed toward the kitchen with my head.

“The kugel?”

Another nod.

“Miriam and I will carry it when I come,” Mama replied. “It won’t be so heavy. I’m not taking the whole thing. I’m putting some in the bochrim’s room so they can have a snack in the afternoon. So they’ll feel comfortable.”

“Yeah,” Miriam agreed, “I noticed them eyeing it last week. They really wanted a piece.”

“Okay.” I smiled a small smile and went to pick Yisroel up from the floor where he was playing.

The air was cold outside, but for once it wasn’t raining, and Yisroel and I made it to Faiga’s house pretty quickly.

Gut Shabbos, Elka,” Cousin Yocheved , Faiga’s mother, greeted me.

Gut Shabbos,” I replied, setting Yisroel down and watching him scamper off to play.

“Can you help me, Elka?” Yocheved asked, holding out a fistful of silverware. “The table’s not set yet, and I still need to make some of the salads.”

“Sure,” I agreed, happy to make myself useful. I took the silverware from her and headed over to the table.

I was already almost done when Mama and Miriam walked in, dragging Leiba behind them.

Gut Shabbos,” they greeted us, and Mama headed to the kitchen to talk to Yocheved, while Miriam came over to help me with the table.

“Where’s Faiga?” she asked me. I shrugged. It was pretty strange, but Faiga still hadn’t come out of her room. Then again, maybe she was mad at me again for some reason or another. I could never tell.

Gut Shabbos!” Cousin  Baruch and Dovid walked through the door, their coats dripping. It must have started raining while I was here. Faiga came out of her room at the sound of her father’s voice, and we all took our places around the table.

I looked at Mama and caught her eye. She gave me a small little smile and nodded her head. She would watch, and maybe, just maybe, after this seudah I’d have a clearer understanding of what Faiga thought.

Kiddush, challah, then the room erupted in noise as the kids clamored for food, and everyone else talked loudly, as well.

Faiga turned to me with a friendly smile. “Sorry I didn’t come out of my room before,” she said, scooping up some egg salad onto her challah. I waited, but she offered no excuse.

“How’d you do on the dikduk test?” I asked, taking a bite of my own challah, and then spooning some salad onto my plate.

“Pretty good. You? Actually, knowing you, you probably got a hundred.” The last part was said lightly — almost too lightly — and I could hear a tinge of bitterness peeking through. Could Faiga be jealous? I looked over at Mama, hoping she was listening, but she was busy talking to Yocheved.

The room quieted down a little then, as the little ones went to the bedroom to play. Even from the other the end of the table, I could hear Baruch and Dovid.

“How’s yeshivah lately?” Baruch was saying.

“Fine,” Dovid shrugged.

“No, really,” Baruch insisted. “I’ve seen you outside a lot lately when I’m supposed to be working and you’re supposed to be in school. Is something wrong? Are you unhappy?”

I watched Dovid’s face close up, his eyes tense. “I’m fine,” he said tersely.

“I know you’re fine,” Baruch replied, “but I want to help you. Do you need someone to learn with? Someone to talk to?”

“No,” Dovid insisted, “I’m fine.” His face was flushed now, and he was upset. I could tell. Baruch shouldn’t have pushed on, and if he had known Dovid even a little bit he would have backed off a long time ago. But he didn’t — because as much as he thought he could be our father, he wasn’t. And he couldn’t.

Disgusted, I pushed my chair back and stood up. I just wanted to leave. To get out of this house with people who thought they could help us when they couldn’t. Instead, I quietly gathered the plates and brought them into the kitchen. At least that got me away from the table.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 921)

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