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For Granted: Chapter 39

Shuki shot her a curious look. “So how much did you tell her you charge?”


Sarale dug her fingers into the dough on Dini’s kitchen counter.

“This is so much fun, baking together! I feel like I’m back in seminary again.” She giggled.

Dini’s lips curled in amusement. When Sarale had called to ask if she could come over to schmooze, Dini had hesitated just long enough — running through her mental to-do list and wondering if she really wanted to give up yet another morning — for Sarale to add, “I know your time is precious. I’m happy to come, like, cook for Shabbos with you while we talk.”

Dini had barely restrained herself from laughing aloud. Who did Sarale think she was, a seminary teacher?

Apparently, she did.

So Dini had pulled out her cookbooks to look for a dessert recipe — because, honestly, Shuki usually picked up something at the bakery, but what was she going to make with Sarale, cholent? On a Wednesday, for Heaven’s sake?  (Did she lose her rebbetzin status if she revealed that she didn’t cook for Shabbos on Wednesdays?)

“I can’t believe you make your own rugelach,” Sarale said as she kneaded.

I don’t, Dini didn’t answer. And, seeing what a patchke it was, she couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would. But seriously, she answered the snide voice inside her, could she really have brought Sarale here to make brownies?

She cleared her throat. “Anyway. You were telling me that your in-laws are coming soon.”

Sarale’s fist clenched, squeezing the dough in her hand. “Yeah, and I’m, legit, ready to run away.  Do you know that they’re planning to stay with us the entire time? An entire week! In our tiny apartment! Okay, yes, we have a second bedroom, but just barely. And, hello, one bathroom! I’ll have literally no privacy!”

Dini winced. That did sound awful.  “Have you discussed this issue with your husband?”

Sarale nodded. “Yes! You told me how important communication is, so last night, I sat Yisroel down and told him that I really think his parents should stay at a hotel. I mean, Zahava Stein’s parents came two weeks ago, and they stayed at the Inbal, even though Zahava’s apartment is much bigger than ours. And Rina Meyers’s in-laws actually took them to the Ramada. Not that I need your parents to treat us, I told him, but how can they not understand that we’re a shanah rishonah couple and we need our space?”

Dini frowned slightly. She agreed with Sarale 100 percent, but she had a sneaking suspicion that her husband wouldn’t take this attack on his parents too well.

She began rolling out a ball of dough as she said casually, “How did your husband respond?”

Sarale’s face darkened. “Badly. Like, really. He got all huffy: ‘Not everyone has money to pay for a hotel. They’re spending so much just for their plane tickets. You think money grows on trees, but it doesn’t. What do you want them to do, sleep on the streets?’ ” She scowled.  “Stuff like that.”

Dini’s jaw clenched, as anger surged. This was so not all right. How could Sarale’s husband react so insensitively?

She looked down at the counter, taking a breath. If Sarale had simply wanted sympathy, she would’ve called a friend to vent. She’d come to Dini for a reason — because she wanted help. Dini closed her eyes. What would Rebbetzin Greenblatt have said?  Had she ever had a similar situation with Shuki? She couldn’t remember.

She turned to Sarale, who was still glowering into the air. Oddly, it reminded her of Shuki’s expression as they’d walked through the streets of the Old City and he’d related to her what was going on at his father’s business.  She remembered how he’d heard her unspoken criticism of his work ethic, only because it had echoed through all the years of actual accusations.

Dini looked at Sarale. She may not be Rebbetzin Greenblatt, but at least she could make sure the girl didn’t make the same mistakes she’d made.

“Ouch. That must’ve hurt,” she said softly. “You needed your husband to understand your needs and instead, he took his parents’ side.”

Sarale nodded vigorously. “I was furious.” She pursed her lips.

Dini continued slowly, “But let’s take a step back. Your husband’s a good guy, right? In general, he’s sensitive to your needs?”

Sarale’s eyes swiveled to her. “Yeess.  I mean, in a guy way. Like, he doesn’t always get it.”

“No, he probably doesn’t.  But… can you think of an example where he was sensitive?”

The younger girl absently flattened her dough with the palms of her hand. “Um, last Thursday night. It was late and I was exhausted, but I was in the middle of making the soup and the chicken was in the oven, and we were having company for Shabbos. I was getting a bit snappy, I guess—”

Dini raised an eyebrow, and Sarale’s lips twitched. “Okay, not ‘I guess.’ I was. And Yisroel, instead of getting annoyed, just says, ‘I see you’re really tired. Why don’t you go to sleep, and I’ll wait up for the chicken?’ And I start crying about how it’s not just the chicken, it’s also the soup, and then I need to make a deli roll, and he says, ‘I’ll do it, don’t worry.’ ”

She turned her eyes on Dini with wonder. “And you know what? He did. When I woke up the next morning, the food was cooked, and he’d even cleaned up.  Wasn’t that sweet?”

Dini grinned at the change in her expression. “Very.” She leaned toward her. “So now that we’ve established that he’s not, like, a total insensitive boor—”

Sarale giggled.

“Let’s go back to your in-law situation, and how you can better express what you need from your husband, in a way that doesn’t make him defensive. Because it’s not really about who’s right here — it’s about how to build your relationship so that you can understand each other better. Makes sense?”

Slowly, Sarale nodded.

They’d already filled their first baking pan with rugelach (and not bad-looking ones, either, Dini thought proudly) and Sarale was looking much happier, when they heard the front door open.  Startled, Dini stuck her head out of the kitchen to see Shuki in the doorway.

“Oh! What are you doing home? Is everything okay?”

She didn’t know why she should feel flustered about him walking in while Sarale was here — it wasn’t as if this were a real therapy session or anything. But a glance at the younger girl’s red face showed that she, too, felt self-conscious.

Shuki’s eyes swept the scene, and she saw them flash a brief —was it amusement? But then he quickly stepped back. “Don’t let me interrupt. I wasn’t feeling well, and I came home to lie down.”

Dini’s eyes narrowed. Not feeling well? Or had something happened?

She looked back and forth between him and the blushing Sarale and bit her lip. Her husband would have to wait.

Right now, she needed to go back to being the wise marriage mentor.

After walking Sarale out, Dini came back in to find Shuki lying on the couch, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well,” she said.

His lips curled. “Don’t be. It was totally worth it to have the chance to watch you play rebbetzin.” He shook his head. “Rugelach? Priceless.”

She made a face.

He grinned. “Just give me a heads up before the throngs arrive to watch you do hafrashas challah.”

Dini threw a pillow at him as he laughed. “Make fun of me all you want,” she said, swinging her sheitel over her shoulder. “I’ll have you know that my services are so in demand, someone even offered to pay for my wise advice!”

He whistled. “Is that so?”

“Yup. At my volunteer event the other day.” She smiled, remembering.

Shuki shot her a curious look. “So how much did you tell her you charge?”

Dini sat down. “Very funny.”

Shuki turned to her. “Hey, don’t sell yourself short. Your work is worth something.”

Dini rolled her eyes. “I’m not charging to schmooze with these girls, Shuki.”

“Why not?”

She squinted in surprise. “Why not? Because… because I’m not a professional! These girls are just coming to me because I’m older and more experienced. It would be totally taking advantage to ask them to pay! Not to mention tacky.” She grimaced. “What, I’m going to milk these young kollel wives for every penny? When they know I don’t need the money?”

Shuki folded his arms behind his head as he muttered, “No one was talking about milking them for every penny. Why is that where your mind jumps when someone mentions paying you a fair wage for your service?”

Dini’s eyes widened as he continued. “And just because your parents are wealthy, why in the world should that not entitle you to charge for your work?”

Dini stared at him. Shuki was frowning into the air, and she suddenly realized that this wasn’t about her little mentoring sideline.

She tilted her head. “You’re not really serious about me charging for this.”

He scratched his neck. “No, I’m not. It’s a beautiful chesed you’re doing for these girls.” He sighed.

“So, what then?”

Shuki was silent for a moment. Slowly, he said, “I’ve just been thinking a lot about this recently. About how we get money handed to us on a silver platter for work we don’t do—” His face darkened. “Or, at least, don’t do well. And we don’t give ourselves permission to take money for the things we do do well. Isn’t there something messed up here?”

Dini caught her breath. She remembered, back when she’d been persuading Ayala to take a salary — and committed herself to fundraise for that salary — how she’d briefly wondered whether Ayala realized that she, too, deserved to get paid for her work.

And now she had two payrolls on her shoulders — and, yet, she still couldn’t fully acknowledge to herself that she was doing something worthy of a respectable salary as well.

She caught Shuki’s eye, and he gave her a small smile, realizing that she’d understood. She smiled back.

Her phone rang. She hesitated, looking back and forth between Shuki and the phone on the dining room table, but Shuki nodded for her to pick it up.

It was Ayala. And she sounded really tense.

“Sorry to bother you,” she said. As if it were two a.m. instead of the middle of the day and a perfectly reasonable time to call.

“You’re not bothering me. What’s up?”

She heard Ayala take a breath.  “I’m leaving on an emergency trip to the US. My mother’s in the hospital again.”

“Oh, no. Is it serious?”

“I’m not sure. But I need to be there, you know?”

Dini nodded to herself. Yes, Ayala needed to be there. That was quite obvious from the way she’d been behaving these past few weeks. She’d always been fascinated by Ayala’s inverted relationship with her parents.

“Have a safe trip. I hope your mother has a refuah sheleimah.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Ayala’s voice tightened. “Listen, I’m sorry to throw this on you so suddenly, but… I’m going to need you and Bracha to take over Chesed Tzirel while I’m gone.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 891)

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