Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Elul 5759 - August 25, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Open Hearts, Open Doors
by Rifca Goldberg, Tzefas

Each woman asks in her own kind way. Although it is interesting to be approached by a variety of different people, Sefardic, Ashkenazi and Litvish, I still vacillate between feelings of gratitude and embarrassment.

Tonight Tzvia went one step further. She's like that. She lacks discernment. Lacks understanding, especially the conventional kind. But she is blessed with beauty, her own charm, and social grace. Someone else with a mentally retarded child once mentioned to me how important it is to receive community help, since she and I don't have any family here in Israel. With Tzvia, I've basically managed for these past eleven years. Of course, there were always a few who did help out in different ways, taking Tzvia every day in the afternoon for the week after I gave birth to another child, paying for the three week overnight Ezer MiZion summer camp for special children, and others letting Tzvia play at their homes occasionally.

But where do I draw the line? Now that Tzvia is older, somewhat more verbal, and more self confident and outgoing, things are changing. Tzvia goes downstairs by herself to play, or at least, watch, the other girls jumping rope and playing Chinese elastic jumprope (where two pairs of feet hold the circular rope in place). But Tzvia tends to take things further now that she feels more independent.

Last week a neighbor I hardly know approached me. "Tzvia asked if she could eat by us for a Shabbos meal, but I didn't know if you'd allow it." I attempted to keep my poise as I explained, once again, that when my father had visited Israel in the winter, I had asked different friends to have some of my children join their Shabbos tables so that my father would have relative peace and quiet, not being used to a large family to begin with. Since Tzvia is so sociable and sweet, she was the easiest to place. For three meals each Shabbos for three weeks, she went to different homes to eat -- and she loved it. In fact, she loved it so much that even after my father went back to America, she went around mooching invitations for Shabbos meals. That's not the right term, really, for we are always careful to send along some treat for the family, which she proudly presents as soon as she makes her appearance. Well, Tzvia started disappearing for an hour or so after she came home from school on Fridays and upon her return, told me, in her limited speech, which families she had lined up for each of the three Shabbos meals. "Tzvia!" I cried, "I'm your Mommy! I want you, too!" She just smiled and shrugged as if to say, "You'll just have to wait your turn."

And then tonight she went one step further. On a Tuesday, a plain old Tuesday, she tells me that she's eating dinner by the Dayan's. "No," I say, calmly, but firmly, "that's too much." But she begs and pleads, thick tears in her eyes. "Want, Mommy. Eat -- Dayan. Be good girl. Want, Mommy!" "Of course you'll be a good girl. I know," I respond, feeling my resolve crumbling, worrying that Mrs. Dayan won't be able to give her own family the attention they need because of Tzvia. On the other hand, it is a lifelong lesson for her children to learn acceptance of others who are different from themselves.

Tzvia hands me the phone. "Call, Mommy. Eat -- Dayan." I call the Dayan's, not surprised at the burning feeling in my cheeks. "I'm sorry that Tzvia's bothering you. We have a lovely dinner, here; it's just that when my father was here in the winter..." The story repeats itself and to my amazement, the response repeats itself as well.

"There's no problem," Mrs. Dayan reassures me warmly. I can visualize her big beautiful smile as she continues, "Have her come over right now. Really, it's our pleasure." And off Tzvia goes, not forgetting her package of wafers to present when she comes, and to distribute -- herself -- as dessert.

What a community! "There are no people like those in Eretz Yisroel!" I am left feeling the power of ahavas Yisroel for all of my wonderful neighbors. It is not the first show of chessed I have experienced here and I am sure many more and bigger examples have yet to follow.

Tzvia returns an hour later, her belly filled with good food, her heart filled with the love of others' giving, with an added sense of importance and independence. Her eyes are filled with happiness. I like to think that she left some behind, as well...


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