| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 44 

“So secretive,” she said. “Is this what you’ve been doing while I was away?”





I quickly covered up my klaf and turned around to see Elka standing at the door of Zalman’s room. He said I could work here whenever the bochurim are out. I’m not doing anything wrong.

“What are you doing?” Elka asked, coming to look over my shoulder at my work on the desk.

I pushed the klaf further under the shirt I had used to cover it. “It’s nothing,” I muttered.

“So secretive,” she said. “Is this what you’ve been doing while I was away?”

“Fine,” I spat, “I’ll show you.” I hadn’t wanted to show her, but something was pushing me to, so I lifted the shirt a little bit so Elka could peek at it.

“What is it?” Elka asked, peering at the bit of safrus she could see from under the shirt. “Are you still practicing letters?”

“No,” I shook my head. “I’m writing a kesubah. One of the bochurim in yeshivah is getting married.”

As I watched her study the klaf, I wasn’t sure she would understand it at all. What did she know of hours of practice perfecting each letter?

“It looks like a lot of work,” Elka said, finally. “Why are you doing it? Is he your friend, this bochur?”

My heart contorted as I thought about it. “No,” I finally said, “he’s not my friend. But he was Papa’s.”

And then, somehow, Elka understood. “Oh,” she nodded. And that’s all she said, but I could see in her face that she knew how much I needed to do this. How much this meant to me. “I’ll — I’ll let you work, then,” she whispered, turning to leave the room.

“It’s okay,” I said, “I’m done for now. Gotta get back to yeshivah.” The kesubah was almost finished, anyway, and I would be giving it to the bochur any day now.

I pushed out my chair and followed my sister out of the room. Yeshivah. Zalman often came to pick me up after lunch and bring me to the yeshivah building. Today, though, he wasn’t here yet and I needed to get back. My chavrusa would be waiting for me.

Picking my way down the steps, I headed toward the yeshivah.

“Dovid!” Zalman slapped me on the shoulder when he saw me come through the door of the building. “I was about to come get you.”

I smiled, suddenly a little shy. “I came myself today,” I mumbled. “Couldn’t be late, and you weren’t there.”

He grinned at me and we walked together toward the beis medrash.

The Yeshivah was silent as we all waited with anticipation. Tekiah. Shevarim. Teruah. Blast. Blast. Blast. Another year. Another new start. I looked over at Zalman, who had reserved a seat for me right next to his own. He was focused on the shofar now and not looking in my direction, but just having him next to me made me stand a little straighter and think about my tefillos a little more.

Mama was going to switch me to the Talmud Torah this year. It would be good for me, she said, to be with kids my own age. With a teacher. Zalman thought it was a good idea, too, but it meant that I wouldn’t be seeing him all the time anymore.

I looked up at him again, and he put his hand on my shoulder as if to say, daven, Dovid. Daven for a good year. Daven for help and hatzlachah in your new school. I looked down at my siddur. I could do this.



“GO,”Mama had urged us, so Miriam and I left to shul leaving her with Leiba and Yisroel. Leiba begged to come, but Mama didn’t let. “She can’t sit still yet,” she said, and shooed us off.

Miriam and I walked down the block to the shul we usually davened in. As Miriam began to slow down to enter the building, I suddenly stopped.

“You go,” I said, motioning her to continue on, “I want to go daven in the yeshivah.”

Miriam faltered. “Should I come with you?” she asked. But I could tell she really wanted to daven here. In our shul. Where she was comfortable and where Yocheved could help her if she lost the place.

“No,” I shook my head. “You stay here. It’s fine. I’ll go to the yeshivah myself and walk back with Dovid and Zalman after.”

“Are you sure?” I could see Miriam hesitate, not wanting to leave me alone.

“Positive,” I nodded. So we parted ways. Miriam up the steps and into the ezras nashim, and me down the block toward the Yeshivah.

The small ezras nashim in the Yeshivah was packed, and I slipped in between the women and found myself a place right up in the front. I peeked at the siddur of the woman next to me and opened mine to the place, listening to the chazzan’s voice soaring through the crowd. The past few days had been so hectic with everyone rushing to prepare for Yom Tov. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, and Mama making Yom Tov meals for some of the bochurim as well. And then Mama bentshed licht and the whole city seemed to be waiting, anticipating the Yom HaDin. I thought of Bubbe and Zeide, also preparing for Yom Tov in Riga. I thought of Mama here, alone, living with a connection to the Yeshivah. I searched the crowd of men and spotted Dovid, Zalman’s hand on his shoulder. Something had happened between them while I was away, and while no one could tell me what, I could see that Dovid was so much happier. I looked around the Yeshivah, the women all familiar to me. I even recognized most of the bochurim.

No matter what happened, I thought, settling myself back in my seat and flipping the page as we moved onto the next thing, this was my place. This was where I belonged. And as I thought about the coming year and what it would bring, I realized that this land was where all my dreams lay, too.


The End


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 942)

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