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For Granted: Chapter 31

Dini smiled to herself as she hung up the phone. Wonder of wonders! Ayala had come to realize the value of fundraising after all! 


“Absolutely no Chesed Tzirel talk,” Dini said, as she placed the box of chocolate pralines on the coffee table and sat down on the couch next to Ayala.

Chaviva had cleared out of the living room long ago, utterly mortified by the sight of her mother dancing with her friend like a giggly teenager.

Ayala smiled. “Okay. So then, I came over because, uh, I was in the mood for some really good chocolate.” She took a praline from the box.

Dini laughed. “You got here just in time. I almost devoured the entire thing before you came.”

Ayala snorted. “Right. I’ll believe that when I see it.” She looked down at the chocolate in her hand for a moment. Clearing her throat, she said, “I’m sorry for — er — causing you to want to eat an entire box of chocolates.” She looked sideways at Dini, whose mouth twitched.

“You’d better believe you need to ask mechilah for that. Lucky for you, I kept my self-control.”

“Phew.” Ayala grinned. “You know, my Tziri is like you. Thin as a stick, and insists on making herself salads when dinner is hot dogs.” She shook her head. “Where did I go wrong, huh?” Her face turned serious. “Of course, it could be because of all her heart issues that she’s motivated to keep herself healthy.”

Dini wasn’t interested in having the conversation turn heavy; they’d had too many of those recently. “Or it could be because she’s a teenager and obsessed with the way she looks. Not everyone can have your self-confidence, Ayala,” she teased.

Ayala’s eyes widened. “Self-confidence? Ha! You mean stubbornness. I prided myself on being totally above superficial things like weight and diets.” She smiled ruefully. “And that’s why you look like you do and I look like I do, huh?”

Dini waved her hand. “Oh, right, you’re totally overweight.” She laughed. “You don’t need salads and self-control. You’re too busy running around helping the world to have time to eat.” Her eyes twinkled. “But we’re not going to talk about that.” She leaned back on the couch. “The twins’ bas mitzvah is coming up, isn’t it?  What are your plans?”

Ayala smiled. “Good question! You’ll laugh, but there’s a side of me that wants to do something big and splashy because, I mean, twins! You remember all the sleepless nights I went through when they were babies. I feel like I deserve a celebration!”

Dini grinned. “You do, my friend, you definitely do!”

Dini couldn’t remember the last time she and Ayala had had such a normal, fun conversation.  By the time Ayala got up to leave — giving a little gasp when she looked at her watch and realized the time — Dini felt about a million pounds lighter. As she walked Ayala to the door, she broke her own rule and said, “I think it’s a good move that you brought Bracha into Chesed Tzirel. It was too much for you to handle on your own.” She smiled as she realized that her words were utterly sincere.

Ayala flashed her a grateful smile. “And I hope you realize that I completely meant what I said earlier. When you first started talking about all this fundraising stuff, I was a bit skeptical… but so far, Dini, you’ve been—”She waved her hand in the air, as if searching for the right word.

“Killing it,” Shuki supplied, suddenly appearing in the doorway. He waved at Dini and gave a nod to Ayala as he walked past them.

Ayala’s lips curled. “Yes, that. You seem to have a real knack for this marketing business.”

Dini shot a swift look at Shuki; the compliment really belonged to him, though she wouldn’t admit it to Ayala, not now that her role in the organization was finally being appreciated. Shuki, who’d made a beeline for the couch, caught her look and winked. She smiled, but her eyebrows contracted as she watched him lean his head back on the couch; he looked exhausted. He was probably just waiting for Ayala to leave, so he could stretch out and take a nap.

She remembered the way he’d brushed her off this morning, how uptight he’d sounded. What was going on?

After hugging Ayala goodbye, she walked over to Shuki.

“How was your day?”

He opened one eye. “A lot less interesting than yours, apparently. What was that about?”

Dini realized she no longer had a need to vent about the Bracha bombshell; instead, she sat down opposite him and said lightly, “She came to apologize about something and, baruch Hashem, all’s forgiven now.”

Shuki opened his second eye. “Wow, that’s some story. Thanks for sharing.”

Dini laughed. “Okay, there was more, but I’m over it now.” She hesitated over those words, wondering if she was truly over it. How would she feel when Bracha started becoming an active member of the organization? When she started performing Ayala’s job and knew more about Chesed Tzirel’s medical assistance than Dini did?

She frowned briefly, then pushed the thought aside. She’d deal with those feelings when she came to them.

Shuki was raising an eyebrow at her, but she said firmly, “Your turn to share. No offense, but you look awful.”

Shuki perked up at that. Giving an exaggerated wince, he said, “Ouch. This is what I deserve when I come home after a long, hard day of work?”

Dini giggled, but persisted. “Why was it so long and hard?”

Shuki folded his arms behind his head. “For one thing, Burgers Bar was out of their beef-lamb spicy burger, and you know how it is when you’ve got your heart set on a certain lunch, and instead you have to settle for corned beef?”

Dini pressed her lips together. For some reason, this was hurting her even more than this morning’s discovery about Bracha. Something was clearly up; why couldn’t Shuki confide in her?

She stood up, blinking hard. “Fine, don’t tell me.”

Shuki stared at her. “Sometimes work gets stressful. It’s really not a big deal.”

She narrowed her eyes. Could that really be all? “But I’ve never seen you stressed before about work.” She tilted her head. “Annoyed, yeah. And bored out of your mind. But not stressed.”

Shuki scratched the back of his head. At last, he sighed. “It’s not that I want to be secretive, Din. But there are certain company things I can’t talk about, y’know?”

Dini’s eyes widened. No, she didn’t know. Company things?  He worked for his father, for heaven’s sake! What in the world did that mean?

Shuki gave her a twisted smile. “Or maybe it’s just Hashem’s sense of humor, sending me stress to remind me that bored isn’t so bad after all.”

Ayala ushered Bracha into Ziva’s office in Hadassah and made the introductions.

“Bracha, this is Ziva, one of the best social workers I know. She taught me everything I know about the Israeli medical system.”

Ziva laughed and waved off the compliment. “Oh, please,” she said, her English tinged with an Israeli accent. “Ayala, I think you know more than I do by now.”

Ayala turned to Bracha. “Ziva worked with us back when Tziri was a baby going through all her medical issues. I was hopelessly lost.” She smiled now at the memory, but really, it was nothing to smile about.  Even after all these years, she could still remember the sense of panic, of utter helplessness.

Blinking back to the present, she said, “Bracha is a very close friend of mine who’s also smart and friendly and a huge baalas chesed.  I want her to learn about the medical system so she can accompany Anglo patients like I do.”

Ayala didn’t have to look at Bracha to know she was rolling her eyes at the description. Well, let her squirm; it was true.

She continued, “Bracha will be following me around for the next few weeks to see what I do, but before we start, I thought you could give her a crash course. You know, how the social services system works, when patients are entitled to benefits, how they access them, etc., etc.”

Ayala stayed a few more minutes to see their meeting get started and then quietly walked out of the room, to pay a visit to the Schwartzes while she was in the hospital anyway. She smiled to herself as she walked down the hall toward the elevators. Bracha had asked Ziva’s permission to record the meeting, and Ayala had noted the long list of questions she’d written in her notepad. As Ayala had expected, once Bracha decided to take this job, she was jumping into it full-force.  Yes, bringing Bracha in had definitely been the right choice. Just think! Soon there would come a time when she wouldn’t have to choose between helping one patient or another. Or choose between responding to an emergency call and attending a PTA meeting. The luxury of having an assistant!

Of course, she realized as she pressed the elevator button for the oncology ward, she couldn’t really expect Bracha to dedicate as many hours of her day to Chesed Tzirel as Ayala herself did.  Certainly not as a volunteer.


Ayala’s eyes widened. Why not? Couldn’t she ask Dini to fundraise for a salary for Bracha as well? After all, she wasn’t asking Bracha to make a meal; this was a trained position that demanded many hours of work a week. How could she not get paid? Ayala’s cheeks reddened as she realized what a chutzpah it had been for her not to offer a salary from the start. Was that why Bracha had hesitated? She wasn’t independently wealthy like Dini; her husband worked in some computer job, and, as far as Ayala knew, they just got by each month, like every other family.

Ayala whipped out her phone, then wavered. The whole Bracha issue was still a sensitive topic; did she want to rub it in Dini’s face?

You promised you wouldn’t hide things from her anymore, she reminded herself as she stepped out of the elevator. Determinedly, she dialed.

Dini smiled to herself as she hung up the phone. Wonder of wonders! Ayala had come to realize the value of fundraising after all!

Poor Ayala had stammered her way through the question; it had been obvious how super-embarrassed she’d been. After she’d finally understood what Ayala was trying to say, Dini had taken pity.

“You want me to raise money to pay Bracha a salary?” she’d interrupted. “Of course!”

From Ayala’s pause, she clearly hadn’t expected the conversation to be so easy. Well, why not?  Did she think Dini was some vindictive ogre?

“Leave it to me. I would never expect someone to work a real, steady job for an organization without getting paid.”

It was only now, after hanging up, that the irony hit her: Wasn’t she herself doing just that? Not that Dini needed a salary… but she couldn’t help but wonder, did Ayala appreciate that point? Did she recognize that Dini was serving Chesed Tzirel in a highly valuable position for free?

Probably not, she thought wryly. It seemed the value of your work didn’t quite count as much when you didn’t need to earn your own living.

She sat down on the couch, and as she did, her thoughts turned to last night’s conversation with Shuki. For the first time, she wondered: Was that what was eating Shuki about his own work?

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 883)

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