| Family First Serial |

For Granted: Chapter 28

“I always knew you were incredible,” Bracha said. “But until I saw it today, I didn’t quite understand how incredible you are”


Dini stared at the WhatsApp message for a moment, then let out a triumphant, “Hah!”

“What happened?” Chaviva asked, looking up from her salmon salad. (After all the work Dini had put into today’s event, she’d figured she deserved to serve the leftovers for dinner. Even if Shuki did mutter about women’s food and threaten to go buy himself a burger.)

Face pink, she quickly closed her tablet. They’d never actually made a “no screens at dinner” rule because, face it, she was the only one in the family who even had that issue, but still, she hated feeling like a businesswoman who was too busy to put down her device while eating supper with her family. In her mind, she associated that persona with her sister, though, to be fair, Eliana probably turned her phone off during dinner. It was the type of value she could picture Eliana smugly asserting as nonnegotiable in her household: “I’d never check my phone during dinner. Family time is sacred.” Noble, from a lady who walked through the door five minutes beforehand and sat down to a meal prepared by her housekeeper.

Dini frowned at herself. Stop being catty. Would she ever get over feeling inferior to her sister?

Shuki, who despite his grumbling was already on his fourth avocado wrap, shot Dini a questioning glance. “What’s the good news?”

Dini hesitated for a moment, but the whole family was staring at her expectantly. “Not such a big deal,” she waved her hand. “I got a WhatsApp from Eliana. Zeesie Stark posted on Instagram about her Chesed Tzirel cooking demo. Eliana wanted to let me know she’d seen it.”

What she’d actually written was, Zeesie Stark? Nice one, Dini with an emoji of clapping hands. But Dini would just sound stupid if she tried to express how much that tiny compliment had boosted her ego.

“Cool!” Tamar said.

“I still can’t believe you didn’t let me go,” Chaviva pouted.

Dini rolled her eyes. “We are not getting into this discussion again.”

“Even though Tatty said he would’ve let me take off from school,” Chaviva continued.

Dini shot an exasperated look at Shuki, who immediately turned to Chaviva and said in a deep voice, “Now, now, daughter. You know there’s nothing more important to your mother and me than your education.”

Chaviva giggled as Shuki patted her head. “Next time you get a hundred on a test, we’ll bring Zeesie Stark over to do a cooking demo.” He paused. “As long as she knows how to cook fleishigs.”

Now Dini was laughing, too, as Shuki deftly changed the subject of conversation.

But he’d clearly understood the significance of Eliana’s WhatsApp, because later, when he came home from shul and found her scrolling through pictures from the day’s event, Shuki sat down and said, “So you managed to impress big sis, huh?”

Dini considered playing it cool, but decided it was pointless. He knew her too well. “Yup. Would you believe it?” She grinned.

“It was worth every shekel of the eighteen thousand you spent on the event, huh?”

Dini squinted in surprise. Was he being sarcastic? “Yeah, it was,” she said. “Not because I impressed Eliana, but because it was a huge success. You should’ve heard the way the women were talking. They couldn’t wait to sign up as volunteers.” She paused. “You sound like Ayala, harping about the money.”

Shuki raised an eyebrow. “I have never in my life ‘harped about money.’” He folded his hands behind his head. “I’m just amused.”

Dini waited to hear what he was amused about, but, clearing his throat, he went on. “So what’s next? Now that you have all these ready and eager Tzirelettes, what’re you going to do with them?”

“CT volunteers,” she said, pursing her lips. “And yeah, Ayala and I were actually discussing that.”

Ayala had stayed after the event was over, to help her clean up.

“Amazing speech,” Dini had told her sincerely. She’d badly wanted to ask Ayala why she’d hesitated before ascribing to Dini the same selfless “burning desire to help” that she’d ascribed to herself. Did she think Dini had something to gain from working for Chesed Tzirel? But Ayala had beamed at Dini’s compliment, and Dini hadn’t felt like making things awkward between them at that moment. Especially since Ayala had seemed so delighted by the outcome of the event that she hadn’t brought up the money issue again.

She looked down at the pictures on her screen, smiling again at the sight of the women in the audience laughing at Dini’s introduction, leaning in wide-eyed as they listened to Ayala’s speech, gathered around Zeesie Stark. Yes, by every measure it had been a successful event.

She looked up at Shuki. “We were talking about how to utilize this fabulous new volunteer network. I thought it’s a great opportunity to expand our activities, but Ayala wants to just keep doing what we’ve been doing until now, only more of it.” She made a face. “Not that I was surprised. I mean, why expand when you can stay exactly where you are?”

“I don’t know,” Shuki said slowly. “Niching certainly has its merits.”

Dini glared. Was he going to take Ayala’s side?

He scratched the back of his neck. “Still, it seems a shame not to at least consider expanding. I mean, since you’ve clearly nailed this volunteer recruiting thing.”

Dini flashed him a grateful smile. “Well, I can’t take all the credit. It was your idea.”

He grinned. “You can still take all the credit if you’d like. I won’t tell.”

Dini gave him a thumbs-up. But looking at her screen once again, she frowned.

“Do you think I’m really doing this for the credit?” she asked slowly.

Shuki’s eyes widened in surprise. “Gosh, a guy can’t even make a dumb joke around here.”

She looked up. “I know you were joking. But Ayala wasn’t.” She told him about Ayala’s speech, and that brief but painful hesitation at the end. “Do you think I’m doing this for the wrong reasons?”

He gave her a curious look. “What are the wrong reasons?”

“You know… um, for, like, kavod. To feel good about myself. To, uh—” She stared at her screen. “To prove myself to my family.”

He leaned forward. “And what’s the right reason?”

Dini stared at him. “To help others, of course.”

“Are you helping others one iota less if you’re also feeling good and proving yourself and all those other things you mentioned?”

Dini tilted her head as she thought about that. Yes, she got a thrill from filling the role of goodhearted hero who brought meals and cheer to suffering families. But did that make her assistance any less impactful?

She smiled hesitantly. “Um… no?”

Shuki snorted. “Newsflash, Din. You’re human. There are very few people in the world who can spend every single day for years on end doing chesed for others without getting some kind of emotional benefit in return. I’ll bet even Mrs. Wexler has some deep, dark selfish spot that gets fulfilled by her organization.”

Dini shook her head. “Not Ayala. She’s as superhuman as they come.” She grinned at his exasperated look. “Can’t a girl make a dumb joke around here?” she said, eyes twinkling.

“You got me,” Shuki said, laughing. He stood up and stretched. “About your volunteer question? Why don’t you poll the families you’ve helped? Aren’t they the ones who could give you the best sense of what other services they’d like you to offer?”


Ayala hesitated for a moment before dialing Bracha’s number. What she was about to do felt underhanded; then again, how underhanded could it be when Bracha was guaranteed to see through her in a second?

“Hi,” she said quickly when her friend picked up. “I need to ask you a giant favor. I just got a phone call from a young mother in Yerushalayim. Her toddler has been running a high fever and now she isn’t able to wake him from his nap. She called a doctor, who said to bring him to the emergency room immediately. She was absolutely hysterical.”

“That’s terrible. But, um, do people think you’re Hatzalah?”

“Sometimes people panic,” Ayala explained softly. “Especially new olim who don’t know who to call, or worry they won’t be able to explain themselves in Hebrew. I gave her Hatzalah’s number and told her what to say. And I told her to call me back after she speaks with them.”

“Sound advice,” Bracha said.

“I’m glad you approve. Anyway, she called me back and is begging me to go with her to the hospital. Her husband’s in the States right now, and she sounds pretty helpless.”

“And you called to ask my permission?”

“Nooo.” She took a breath. “I called to ask you to drive me.”

There was a pause. “We’ve been friends for, what? Over four years now? And you’ve never once asked me to drive you to a Chesed Tzirel assignment. Sounds fishy, Ayala.”

Ayala grinned, though she kept her voice innocent as she replied, “Maybe I was too shy until now. Aren’t you grateful that our friendship has reached a new level?”

Bracha let out her breath loudly.

Ayala pressed her advantage. “Unless you’re saying I should just leave this poor hysterical lady to fend for herself…”

More silence. Then, “What about my kids?”

Ayala laughed exultantly. “Tziri’s on her way over.”


Despite threatening to simply drop Ayala off at the hospital and turn right around and head home, Bracha did, in the end, agree to come in and see for herself what was involved in assisting patients.

“We serve as liaisons between the patient and the medical staff,” Ayala explained as they walked rapidly into Shaare Zedek’s emergency room. She waved at several of the medical personnel she passed.

“By ‘we,’ you mean ‘you,’” Bracha said.

“For now.” Ayala shot her a smile.

Bracha shook her head.

Yet Ayala couldn’t help noticing how curiously Bracha observed the ER environment, as Ayala located the young mother and her son, already in with the doctor. And Bracha undoubtedly noticed the way the woman’s eyes lit up when Ayala introduced herself, the way her shoulders sagged in relief as Ayala gave her a hug. Bracha certainly appeared to listen attentively as Ayala immediately jumped in, speaking to the doctor and then informing the mother that they were going to perform a spinal tap to test for meningitis, explaining what that entailed.

The mother paled. “Meningitis?” she squeaked, holding her toddler close on her lap.

Bracha stayed the entire time, watching Ayala squeeze the mother’s hand as her son was sedated for the procedure. Finally, after things had stabilized and Ayala had given the woman one more hug and told her she’d be in touch later that day to find out the results, she nodded at Bracha and indicated it was time to leave. Wiping her forehead, she cast a sidelong glance at her friend as they walked through the hall.

“Well?” she asked.

“I always knew you were incredible,” Bracha said. “But until I saw it today, I didn’t quite understand how incredible you are.”

Ayala pursed her lips. “I wasn’t asking for a compliment.”

Bracha walked a few more paces before responding. “I don’t have the same medical knowledge you do.”

“Obviously not. That’s what the training is for.”

“And I’m not sure if my Hebrew is good enough.”

Ayala waved her hand. “It’s good enough. And it will get better.”

They continued walking in silence, as Ayala waited.

They were almost in the parking lot when Bracha finally said, “I’ll talk to my husband about it.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 880)

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