| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 40  

Yitzchok just stared at me, his hand on the doorknob. “Are you crazy?” he whispered



ome into the kitchen,” Mama said, and we followed her dumbly, sitting down in the chairs she guided us to. Mama busied herself by the stove while I calmed down and stopped crying. I looked over at Yitzchok, embarrassed, but his face was white and he looked just as upset as I was. (True, he wasn’t crying, but he also wasn’t in his own house.)

“Here,” Mama said finally, pushing a cup of tea into each of our hands.

The tea was warm and steamy and even though we were hot and sweaty from our run, it was comforting. The room was silent, save for the sounds of sipping and the clatter of our spoons against our cups.

“What happened, Dovid?” Mama finally asked.

I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell her. Mama couldn’t know. Ever.

I looked at Yitzchok, trying to send him a message with my eyes, not sure what I wanted him to say. Or not say. Because Mama couldn’t know. She just couldn’t.

“It’s – it’s nothing, Mama,” I sputtered.

Mama was silent. She knew I wouldn’t cry over “nothing,” but she didn’t say anything.

After a long while of just sitting there in silence, none of us saying anything, Yitzchok cleared his throat. “Um. I think I need to get home. My mother’s going to worry.” And he stood up.

I stood up, too, and walked him to the door.

“Same place, tomorrow night?” I asked him in an undertone even though Mama had stayed behind in the kitchen.

Yitzchok just stared at me, his hand on the doorknob. “Are you crazy?” he whispered.

I nodded. “Just a little bit,” I said, and laughed hollowly. “So… I guess I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah,” he said. And was gone.

I stood there for a little longer, staring at the closed door and realizing that I’d never be able to fight the British like I wanted to. I was too young. Too cowardly. And the thought made my mood plummet even further because I wanted to get back at them. I wanted to do it for Papa. It would be his yahrtzeit soon and I still had not avenged his blood.

A hand on my shoulder startled me out of my thoughts and I jumped. “Zalman!” I yelped, twisting my head to look at him.

“Wanna come sit down in the kitchen with me? I could use a tea.” Zalman said. His hand was still on my shoulder and he used it to steer me in the direction of the kitchen.

“I’ll just dump these and get you a fresh one,” Zalman said, picking up the cups of tea that Yitzchok and I had left behind. Mama wasn’t in the kitchen anymore and part of me wondered why. Where did she go?

“Here, sit,” Zalman said, putting pressure on my shoulder until I sat down in the chair beside me.

He sat across from me in the chair Yitzchok had just vacated.

“You know, Dovid,” he began, “I was thinking. One of the older bochurim in the yeshivah just got engaged. He was very close to your father, you know. They would learn together in Chevron. Maybe you heard?”

No, I hadn’t heard that anyone got engaged. But then again, I hadn’t been in yeshivah for weeks now. Mama was away during the day. Elka was gone. And Miriam and the little kids — well, they’d never say anything to Mama, so I was safe. I had spent my days practicing safrus and plotting revenge.

“I was thinking maybe you want to make him a wedding present.”

I stared at Zalman. What on earth was he saying?

“No, really. I’ve seen your safrus. You got really good while I was away. You must have been practicing.”

I nodded.

“So you can write a kesubah for him. Right now, you’re not yet a bar mitzvah so there are a lot of things you can’t write, but you can write a kesubah.”

“But I don’t even know the guy,” I protested, even though the idea was exciting. My first chance to use the safrus I had learned for something real!

“But your father did,” Zalman said softly, “and this way, you can give the bochur a present from him.”

I swallowed. Give something for my father? Could I?


A few days after we went to visit Chava, Bubbe woke me up with another full day planned.

When I had finished davening, I joined Bubbe in the kitchen.

“What are you making?” I asked, noticing her hands twisting around inside the big blue bowl in front of her. Mixing. Mixing.

“Mandelbrot,” Bubbe said, her hands moving quickly without pausing for a moment. “And we need to hurry because I promised Mrs. Dovidovitz and Mrs. Abramkin that we’d be there at ten and these cookies still need to bake.”

When the cookie loaves came out of the oven, I helped Bubbe slice them. We placed them back into the oven for ten minutes until we were ready to leave.

“Here,” Bubbe said, handing one to me before packaging up the rest and sliding them into a bag.

“Why are we bringing these cookies?” I asked, as we stepped out into the sunny street and made our way to Mrs. Abramkin’s house.

“Every two weeks, a group of women here get together and make food for families that need it. People who are sick, or had a baby, some refugee families like Chava who came here after pogroms and still need help.”

I thought about that as we entered Mrs. Abramkin’s sunny living room. The room was full of people busily packaging foods and sorting them into piles.

“Over here,” a woman in a colorfully embroidered sweater waved us over, and Bubbe handed her the cookies.

“We’re staying to help pack this time,” Bubbe said.

“Excellent, we can always use more help,” the lady grinned at me. “There are two empty chairs over there next to the Stein sisters.”

I followed Bubbe over to where two older girls were sitting and Bubbe showed me what to do.

“You live in Palestine?” one of the girls asked me, wonder in her voice. I nodded. By this point, I had gotten used to the excitement everyone here had when they heard I lived in Eretz Yisrael.

“So you speak Hebrew?” the other sister joined in excitedly.

I nodded again, and tried to keep myself from laughing. These girls were just way too excited.

“Can you say something?” the second sister asked. This time, I let myself laugh.

“Oh, don’t bother her,” the first sister said. There was quiet for a minute or so and then she added, “Do you do anything like this in Eretz Yisrael?” She waved around the room to indicate the women and girls busy making packages for needy families.

“I don’t,” I answered. “I don’t know if there’s someone else who does, though.”

“Well, maybe you can start.”

“I’m not sure about needy families,” I said slowly, “but my family is there for the yeshivah. Maybe the bochurim could use something like this?”

We were silent, but the idea kept running circles in my head. I could do this! Mama, Dovid — they already had a place in the yeshivah. But here was something that I could do! Maybe Faiga and Miriam would help me. Suddenly, I desperately wanted to get home so I could start planning.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 938)

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