he gift that keeps on giving.”
It’s a ubiquitous marketing slogan. Gift cards. Magazine subscriptions. Electronics. Jewelry. The list goes on and on.
But gift cards do get depleted. Subscriptions run out. Electronics become obsolete. And jewelry (at least among us Sisters) often breaks or gets lost.
Some gifts, however, really do have everlasting impact, often beyond their physical existence. Some gifts don’t even have a physical existence — they’re intangible offerings. And sometimes neither the giver nor the receiver realizes the gift’s true value until years — or even decades — later.
A mother-in-law’s gifts to a daughter-in-law. An aunt and uncle’s gift to a niece. A grandmother’s gift to a granddaughter. Join us as we remember gifts that changed our lives.
Emmy Leah receives…
The Gift of a Broken Wall
“A match made in Heaven.” We’ve all heard the expression, but my bechor Nachum’s match was a gift truly made close to the Heavens, high on our Israeli rooftop….
Years before, new in Beit Shemesh, my husband was set to make a siyum haShas. Only problem was — where? Small house, tiny backyard, no shul hall yet in the neighborhood….
We looked toward the Heavens, literally, for a solution: our rooftop. We shared a rooftop mirpeset with neighbors, who offered their side of the dividing wall for the women, our side for the men. Under the stars, on our shared rooftop, we celebrated the completion of a great cycle of learning. And there, too, under the same beautiful sky, years later we celebrated a great beginning:
For Nachum had become engaged to “the girl next door.” Yes, the next-door neighbors were now going to be our mechutanim.
Besides the wall separating our side of the roof from our kallah’s, Mira, other things seemed to separate us, as well. We were a boisterous, born-in-Brooklyn family, recent olim to Israel. Nachum spoke a rich and fluent Hebrew, but with a New York accent. They were a quiet, all-girl family, native Hebrew speakers.
We were Ashkenazim, descendants of Eastern Europe. They were Sephardim, whose grandparents came from Morocco and Kurdistan. On Fridays, the smell of garlic and sautéed onions wafting out of our kitchen mingled with the scent of their fresh coriander and za’atar. They were repelled by our gefilte fish; we choked on their fiery tilapia, made with hot peppers and spicy paprika.
It was an entirely unlikely shidduch. Did the zechus of our joint rooftop siyum bring our different worlds together? However it came to be, our whole neighborhood celebrated when the son of Acacia Street Number 7 and the daughter of Acacia Street Number 8 became the first chassan v’kallah of our newly built development.
And then came the night when we Ashkenazim would enjoy a Sephardic treat: On the same roof where we’d celebrated the completion of Shas, we planned a rooftop henna engagement celebration. That morning, my husband and our young chassan borrowed a sledgehammer and knocked out a chunk of the wall separating our roofs. Meanwhile, I headed to another Moroccan neighbor to borrow traditional henna robes, straight from Casablanca.
“What gifts are you giving your kallah?” she asked casually, taking out colorful beaded caftans from an immense trunk.
“The traditional gifts. You know, the gifts the mother-in-law gives the kallah at the henna!”
Gifts! I was supposed to bring gifts to the henna! Who knew? Suddenly, the wall between our worlds seemed higher….
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 612)
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