| Family Tempo |

Crash Course in Emunah

Hashem doesn’t need bargain basements and secondhand deals. He has all the money and all the furniture in the world

Episode One: Home Sweet Home

IS this actually happening? I look in the mirror. I don’t look like a total adult. I look young and happy, my gray beanie and crimpy fall look on point, and my husband, Binyamin, looks even younger, a perpetual bar mitzvah boy. But here we are, heading to the lawyer’s office to sign on our very own apartment.

The lawyers are jolly and jovial and I’m all out of ‘j’ words, but they’re having a great time. Binyamin and I initial and sign and initial and sign, and then they pull out the l’chayims, and everyone’s smiling. This is huge. We are actual homeowners. I’m going to throw up. Oh, I’m actually going to throw up.

“We need to go,” I hiss at my husband. I make it to the restroom. Shaking, we head home.

Several hours later, we sit, stunned. I guess Hashem wanted to let us know that the third bedroom in our new apartment would be put to good use.

“Babies are born with bread in their hand, right?” I say to my husband weakly. Because our brand-new mortgage is big like the size of New Jersey.

He nods quickly. “Right,” he says.


I start saving up a bit of my — uh, sparse — paycheck every month into an unofficial “furniture fund.” Our current apartment came furnished, so the only thing we actually own is two of our seven beds. We’re starting from scratch on everything else. It’s like being a kallah all over again, except a kallah shops for two and I’m shopping for furniture for seven people. Slight technicality.

But I’m excited. I have a penchant for interior design; I’ve indulged in tablescapes and Purim costumes to quench my thirst. But here’s where I’m going to let it all out: my very own home in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh.

Pinterest boards, here I come.

Well, I got the boards. I mean, I have enough “inspiration” folders to fill up a first-grader’s backpack. What I no longer have — thanks to one very fancy arnona lawyer who informed us we owe him all our money plus a kidney (fine, 8,000 shekels) — is money.

There was my husband’s wisdom teeth surgery. Which in hindsight should have taken been care of around 12 years ago. And then that super fun fender bender. Either way, by the time Moving Day is two months away, my Furniture Fund has a total of five dollars and seventy-four cents in it.

This is going to be fun.

“Well, we have two beds,” I say brightly to my husband. “So on Shabbos, we’ll bring one bed out, put a tablecloth on it, and it’ll be our table. I have great tablecloths. Same for a couch. Hey, I even have that velvet green couch cover from Ali. It’ll fit a bed, right? So chilled, no?”

Actually, no.

Episode Two: Hamster Wheel

I’m on a hamster wheel. And I can’t get off. It goes something like this: We have no natural means to buy one couch, let alone furnish an entire apartment. So do we spring into action? Do we sell organs on the black market? Take out bank loans? Or do I tap into my reservoirs of emunah, find out if they run as deep as I’d like, and sit back, the only hishtadlus being my outstretched hand? Is that crazy?

There’s obviously a middle path, but what is it? Where is it? I sit and think, swollen feet propped up on a broken black ottoman that will definitely not be coming with us to the new apartment.

I’m checking my work emails when an email from Oorah pops into my inbox: only five dollars a prize. I scan the list: cash, jackpot, furniture, home makeover. Yes, yes, yes. I spend money I don’t have on tickets, and then I buy a few more.

My mother calls and casually asks if we’ve begun buying furniture. I dodge the question; distract her with the brilliance of her grandchildren. Neighbors ask, and I make self-deprecating remarks about being clueless about moving. One friend who has been scouring secondhand websites sends me a link to a bunkbed. It’s fine, but it’s not… wow.

I want wow. I want Pinterest. I want my vision. And I know, deep down, that Hashem can give me anything. He doesn’t need bargain basements and secondhand deals. He has all the money and all the furniture in the world.

“I’m giving Hashem the perfect b’derech hateva way to provide us with everything,” I tell my husband. Oorah’s auction is two weeks away. I dodge all questions and keep my eye on the prize. Literally. I wake up in the middle of the night to check if the winners have been drawn but they haven’t. I’m shaking, but I manage to fall back asleep. I wake up later; check again.

We didn’t win.

I didn’t expect the deep sense of despair that creeps over me. We didn’t win. We have no way to buy furniture. I’d given Hashem an easy path, and we didn’t win. I blink back my tears, take deep steadying breaths.

Where are my deep reservoirs of emunah now?


Episode Three: Options

“WE can take out a bank loan,” Binyamin says. A bank loan. How are we paying back a bank loan? I’m still paying off my last sheitel purchase, and trust me, that was an emergency.

I shake my head.

I’d posted two pieces of furniture to sell, neither one had. I decide to sell an older sheitel that I’d never been comfortable with; I figure I can get 2,000 shekel for it. Even that, though, feels like a sellout. Like I’m doing too much hishtadlus. Hashem doesn’t need me scrounging and hustling. I take a last-minute graphics job and make $500. A pittance but also $500 more than I had before.

I spend hours on secondhand websites, marveling over the deals, but also wondering how exactly we’re getting a beechwood dining room table from Haifa.

We spend Shabbos at my brother in Modiin; my nephew tells me about a man he knows who goes to the grocery every Thursday, fills up two wagons of the best and choicest products for Shabbos, and just waits patiently for Hashem to pay for them. “He literally just stands there, and every week there’s a different story,” my nephew says, grinning.

I love that. I want that. I want to see Yad Hashem. I want to be confident enough in my emunah to wait for Hashem.

But I’m getting impatient. The girl looking at my sheitel says she’ll get back to me on Tuesday. If she says yes, I’ll have 2,000 shekel. That’s half a couch. Or that’s two couches, if I go secondhand. And I only need one.

“Should I buy secondhand?” I ask my husband, my finger hovering over the mouse. “Or should we get a brand-new one because I’ve had my eye on one in Furniture Dreams for the past four years, plus Hashem doesn’t need us to settle. But this secondhand one is really nice and it’s a crazy price. What should we do? Is it like emunah, or hishtadlus or—” Omigosh, someone stop me, please.

My husband looks at me pityingly. “Should we call a rav?”

I breathe out. “Won’t a rav tell us it’s based on our own level of emunah? Binyomin, I have no idea what my emunah level is.”

I shut the laptop, out of breath and panting. My husband has pity on me and pulls out a notebook.

“Let’s make a list. Are you ready?”

I nod, laying my head down on the table. The wood feels nice and cool against my feverish mind.

“Option one,” Binyamin says, “We go big. We genuinely believe that Hashem will send us everything we need. We buy a new fridge, stainless steel, with a freezer on the bottom, like you’ve always dreamed. We splurge on the couch you want, the chairs you want. Because Hashem will pay us back.”

I nod. Option one sounds amazing and also terrifying.

“Option two: We hustle. We find deals on things we like, but maybe don’t love. We hire a moving truck and run around picking up secondhand furniture from posts and moving sales. We furnish our home beautifully, but maybe not to our exact tastes?”

Option Two sounds nice, but exhausting. It also makes me sad that I won’t have my dream couch.

“Option Three: We compensate. We go all out on things we feel we need and settle or hustle on other items.”

We look at each other. It’s obviously option three. The only thing is that $5.74 isn’t going to be much help anywhere.

But again, I feel conflicted. I want to be a conduit for Hashem’s abundance. I’m so ready to open my arms wide and catch everything He’s going to pour down on me. So why do I feel… empty? Worse, why am I lacking clarity?

I go around, from source to source, seeking inspiration. Older sisters, older brothers, seminary nieces bursting with inspiration, my husband, my friend, back to my husband.

I dream of couches and rugs and in one horrible nightmare, we are lounging on a hot-pink velvet sectional.

Shake that one off.

One day I wake up to pigeon eggs on my windowsill, the proud mama and papa sitting there, feathers puffed up.

We can do shiluach hakein, the segulah for so many wonderful things.

We wait for shkiah, and as the sun sets, I become increasingly snappish. I don’t want to send a mother away from her babies. I put a hand on my stomach, feel the fluttering kicks of the life I’m growing.

But we don’t need to understand everything, right?

My eight-year-old Israeli son says, in Hebrew, “When the mother cries for her babies, it’s an eis ratzon to cry for what we need.”

Thank youuuuu, Israeli education system. I hug him, and then we head to the window.

I watch my husband lift the egg, and I daven that we should all be zocheh to a life of happiness and health in our new apartment, we should be zocheh to live in Eretz Yisrael all our days, and I should be able to furnish the apartment, b’menuchah, with beautiful things.

I look at the eggs, lying alone and cold on the windowsill, and blink away a tear.


Episode Four: DIY

She came back. The mother bird came back!

I feel giddy, until my husband says, “Well, I declared the eggs hefker, so let’s invite others to do the special mitzvah.”

We have five other neighbors partake in shiluach hakein. Each time, the mother bird came back with a rush of feathers and settled herself on her eggs. Each time, I feel this sagging sense of relief.

She didn’t leave them. A parent doesn’t leave.

“Hashem,” I say, staring at the tiny, fragile eggs on my windowsill, “don’t leave me. Show me what to do, because I’m panicking slightly.”

In other news, my husband comes home with a chair.

It’s a great chair, wide with a cut-out back and wooden legs.

“It’s white,” I say.

Our new kitchen is gray and wood. There is no place for a white chair in my gray-and-wood kitchen.

Binyamin grins and pulls out three cans of gray spray paint. Ohhh, boy. I back away.

“NOT good for the baby,” I say. “But yes! Do it!”

We wait until the littles are all sleeping.

I put on two Covid masks and stay in the kitchen; Binyamin moves our old couch and spreads garbage bags on the floor.

Aiming the cans like machine guns, he fires away. Oh, it looks amazing!

I can see our new kitchen already, glass kitchen table with wooden legs, and these gray and wooden chairs, filled with happy laughing kids, a platter of fresh waffles on the table.

“Waffles,” I say, suddenly ravenous.

We make midnight waffles and try not to breathe in spray paint fumes.

We did it! We turned a cheap white chair into something beautiful. Maybe this is how we’re going to do it all: half with bargains, half with raw creativity?

We dream maple-scented dreams.

Morning dawns with disappointment: We didn’t do it. The spray paint cracks off the first time the kids sit on the chair.

My husband hands out old library cards and expired licenses and tells the kids to have it. They scrape off the paint enthusiastically; the chair is left looking around 100 years old, white with gray scratches all over it.

I feel scratched.

I’m tired. I’m big. I’m sad.

Hashem, I say silently. I’m trying. I’m trying to build a bayis ne’eman. To build a home overflowing with Shabbos seudos and song and the sweet sounds of children chanting Krias Shema before they fall asleep. Can’t it also be filled with beautiful furniture? Please?

Dinnertime, my husband calls me on the way home to say he went back to the same hardware store.

“I found the perfect chair for the perfect price,” he says.

“Buy them.”

He was right. They’re perfect. Gray, rounded, with wooden legs. I’m obsessed.

The girl who was looking at my sheitel gets back to me: I’ve inspired her to splurge on a brand-new sheitel. Yay.

I wish her mazel tov weakly, and mentally cancel the 2,000 shekel from my bank account. Back to square zero.

I go back to my secondhand website and find a fridge, a nice big fridge. We call the number; the seller is an oleh from New York. He and my husband become fast friends on the phone; he promises to deliver the fridge on Moving Day.

“Seven chairs, two beds, one fridge,” I say brightly. “It’s like a children’s counting exercise. We’re just missing five beds, one dining room table, seven dining room chairs, one couch, two closets.”

“Chad gadya, chad gadyaaaaaa,” my husband sings.

I laugh. Then I tell my husband it’s time to go to the hospital.


Episode Five: We Need a Crib


“He’s so dark,” I keep saying. None of my kids are light like me, but this guy is dark.

“He’s so chubby,” my husband says, nuzzling the black fuzz covering his very large head.

He is. He’s a big baby. I’m exhausted but flying high.

“We don’t have a crib,” I tell my husband conversationally, and then I fall asleep.

Well, we have a crib. But in a month and a half, we will be leaving said crib behind in our old apartment. Which is fine, although it does hold wonderful memories of my other sleeping babies. But I’m ready for new. I’m ready for wood. I’m ready for something steady and sturdy and pretty.

What I get is a secondhand crib. The man who brings it over tells me that it used to be his grandmother’s. I’m unclear if his grandmother slept in it as a baby or if she put her own babies in it.

Either way, it looks great for its age, but is otherwise not that great looking. But it is sturdy.

“Wow, they don’t make wood like this anymore,” my husband says admiringly.

The man showers us with brachos and heads out into the Jerusalem night.

I start to cry. “I hate it,” I say.

But baby Aharon loves it.

The weeks pass in a blur of shalom zachar and bris and visiting parents and sleepless nights and morning cuddles.

And then it’s back to the grind. My husband walks in and sits down.

“I made an important phone call today,” he says.


Episode Six: An Important Phone Call

“Who’d you call?”

Binyamin jerks his head in the kids’ direction. I strap the baby into the swing and then follow him to the porch.

We look out onto the dusk of a Yerushalayim evening. Kids whizz down the road on bimbas, mothers hurry home from the makolet, husbands lope along, oblivious to the anxious wives waiting for their arrival to herald the end of duty.

I wave at Rivka Katzman from upstairs and lower my voice. “Who’d you call?” I ask again.

He bites his lip. “My cousin, Chezky.”

“Chezky.” Wow. Suddenly, I’m relieved. Binyamin called his wealthy cousin to ask for a loan.

“What’d he say?”

Binyamin rubs his stubble. “He said he doesn’t lend money to family.”

Oh. “Oh.” Well then.

Binyamin smiles. “But then he said he wants to help and that he’ll give the money to a gemach to lend us. So there’s a middle man. That’s it. We have a loan. Are you on board?”

I bite my lip. Am I on board? After months of Ferris wheeling around this big decision, Binyamin just went ahead and made a choice. A choice that leaves me feeling so relieved but also so bereft. I wanted to see Hashem’s Hand reach down and place the money on my nightstand. I was ready to be a conduit for His abundance. I looked inside myself and I found the emunah I needed. And still, He didn’t reveal Himself.

A loan? That’s so mundane. So everyday. So boring. So… steady. As steady as the 80-year-old crib in my living room.

The sun sets suddenly, and the sky is a cotton candy cake of colors.

From inside, Aharon begins to cry.

“I’m on board,” I say. “Thank you.”


Episode Seven: The Fun Begins

I’M in heaven. I think furniture stores are my happy place.

We shop until we drop, and then we shop some more. We arrange for everything to arrive after Moving Day and then we focus on getting our old apartment ready for the next renters.

I look around at all the boxes. “I can’t believe it,” I say.

Binyamin pulls his head in from the window. “Do the next renters know they’re inheriting baby birds?”

I wrinkle my nose. “Um, maybe don’t tell them.”

I trace a Sharpie mural on the living room wall, look around at the decade of scratches and marker marks that will be painted over tomorrow. “They’ll be inheriting a lot more than that,” I say softly.

Binyamin grins. “We had some good ol’ times in this here hut,” he says in a terrible Western accent.

I laugh kindly, because I’m a supportive wife. “That we did.”

The painters arrive bright and early, and we all hustle out the door.

A day at the zoo with Baby Aharon seems like the perfect way to escape the fumes. Also, the giant Arabs with big pokey paint rollers.

We arrive home to a gleaming apartment.

“Quick, hide any writing utensils,” I say.

Binyamin looks around. “Is it just me, or does the apartment seem emptier?”

He’s right. It is emptier….

“The crib!” I gasp. “It’s gone!”

Apparently, the painters really wanted our crib. So sorry, Grandma! But what is also apparent is that Hashem wants baby Aharon to have a brand-new crib. Steady. Sturdy. Pretty.

I order one that night.


Episode Eight: A Conduit

Everything is perfect. But like, perfect.

I’m in shock. The tiniest things that we could never have thought of work out, like the new seforim shrank lining up perfectly with the air vent, or the side table blending perfectly with the wood of the doors.

It’s not easy to pay a mortgage and a furniture loan back, but we’re doing it. Slowly, surely.

They weren’t kidding when they said space equals shalom bayis. My kids spread out, Binyamin has his own office.

And me and baby Aharon love his new crib.

Except Aharon hates it. I think he misses Savta’s. Funny little baby.

I love my new apartment. I love my furniture. Only sometimes, amid the unpacking and settling in, I wonder if I failed. Should I have held out for that Heavenly windfall? Did I take the easy way out?

If I had just waited….

No. I allowed Binyamin to make the big decision that I couldn’t, and this is what he wanted. I’d been lost, running on a treadmill of dreams that I had no clue how to turn into reality. And I’m seeing such brachah from this decision already.

One day, maybe, I’ll see Hashem more clearly, without the cloud and confusion of this galus. I’ll see Him in the terms of a big loan, and in the monthly mortgage rates.

And until then, I’ll be waiting right here, in my very own apartment in Yerushalayim.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 885)

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