Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Teves 5761 - January 17, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
by Sheindel Weinbach

What was the first book you ever read? A real one, a biggie, not a Dick and Jane reader. Remember the thrill? The sense of accomplishment? The pure enjoyment that resulted from surmounting that paper Everest, the pride in standing up and being counted among those who count, a little person with the authority of the written word to back you: "...but I read it in a book!"

Try to recapture the heady sensation, the feeling of power, of initiation into the world that counts. I remember the flyleaf in one of those first books: it had a mock yellowed square in the middle, ornately curlicued, with the picture of a full blown schooner, sails bursting with air, that read: "A Book is a Frigate..." and so on. I rolled the rich word upon my mental tongue, frigate, a new word, exciting, an acquisition that when I met again, I would relate to, welcome, thrill to.

And from that first book on, the hurdle behind you, you became an incorrigible reader. You read indiscriminately, grappled with a growing vocabulary, couldn't fall asleep without a book by your bedside, nursed the love and reverence of the written word.

I imagine this is true for the many readers who consider themselves readers, book readers, not only newspaper afficionados. So here, dear friends -- and I think all readers belong in a friendship category all their own -- is a new challenge, one very worthwhile, satisfying, rewarding, thrilling, with additional side benefits thrown in.


For so many reasons, the first being, relaxation and pure enjoyment, just like you get out of the good books you enjoy from your kosher local English library, whose titles you already know by heart, even their places on the shelf, and to which you rush to get the latest book that just came out.

Well, you can double your options and enter the Secret Garden (one of my firsts) of the Hebrew library. You are daunted. Hebrew? I can barely concentrate on my davening, and you're telling me to relax with a Hebrew book, for enjoyment? I'd sooner go to bed with a dozen toothbrushes than break my teeth on a Hebrew book.

Oh, but you're so mistaken. Go back to that first English book you read. Sure, it was hard. But wasn't it great when, by the dozenth book, you could already sail the frigate, if not with ease, at least with pleasure! It's really a question of breaking through the sight barrier, once you've overcome the resistance of gravity, made that quantum leap, crossed the watershed, you will look forward to subsequent times and keep on sailing into the seas of the word.

Okay, so you feel a bit guilty about indulging, about spending so much time over a book that's primarily for pleasure. But it isn't the "Wizard of Oz" that you [I] first read. Even the parve Hebrew books we read these days have messages, the more subtle, the more palatable - the better they stick. We are talking about books with Jewish content, of Jewish heroism - all those Holocaust non-fiction, of Jewish history, Jewish sages through the ages, and even the fiction with a message.

Aside from pleasure and enrichment, there is a dimension of sharing with one's children, of reading what they read, of understanding what speaks to them, what is relevant to our society, of discussing values and conflicts as they appear in the books. Actualia, currency, issues of today. And into this particular category fall all the books on the Teshuva movement, for example, real life or fiction.

One of the big problems of today's hybrid society in Israel, is the generation gap between the `greeners' who came from Western countries, and their Israeli- born-and-educated children. Without going into the myriad reasons and solutions, we offer the simple exercise of reading what your children are reading, understanding what appeals to them, relating to what they relate, sharing what they think and feel - and what is going on in the Jewish world around us.

And so, onto our book review of a book well worth reading. For enjoyment, enrichment, insight, current relevancy, reflection and the inspiration of finding solutions to impossible no-win situations, like that in this book. This is a sure thing to be translated into English, but why wait? Why postpone the pleasure?


Meida Gorali

by A. Friedman

Published by Feldheim, 5761; 224 pages

This is a book well worth struggling over for your debut into the world of current Hebrew literature. And if you are really a novice at this, you will find the language simple enough, skipping over words and phrases which you will eventually reencounter with greater understanding. This particular book gave me the uncanny sensation that it was written in English and that I was reading the Hebrew translation, being so vivid and accurate in its issue presentation.

Except for a brief episode, this book takes place in Cleveland and centers around a young girl who struggles her upward way from deep involvement in her Reform temple and its social activities to committed orthodoxy. Her exploration, her clashes, her small and great victories, enlightenments, are depicted very authentically, and make fascinating reading, especially for an American, but equally for curious Israeli teenage readers. This is a book you can share with your children, discuss from a vantage point, and gain important insights in the struggle of Reform vs. Torah- true.

The story unfolds with self revelations, disillusionments and conclusions that lead up to a final commitment. But this is not the end. The heroine, Helen, learns that because her mother never received a get from a previous marriage, she can never marry a legitimate Jew. How does Helen handle this revelation and resolve it into a lifetime project?


One particularly rude awakening early in the book comes during a month long visit in a kibbutz which is paid for by her Reform `rabbi,' who sends her there specifically to become disenchanted with her natural love for Israel, the Jewish homeland. Upon her return, he explains at length why the Reform movement has rejected a focus upon Israel (a position which also undergoes a change later on...). He does not imagine that her disillusionment would come in such a stark, compelling rejection of Israeli youth.


The kibbutz youth go on a tiyul with their well- versed guide, and they arrive at a nature spot with a waterfall. In the words of the book:

AND THEN THE SHOW BEGAN. Danny began climbing up the cliff, boulder by boulder, using hands and feet, manoevering himself until he reached a height of twelve meters. Then he shouted exultingly, "One, two... three," and leaped.

I watched the scene in shock. Huge rocks were embedded in the pool; how could he not have been afraid of crashing onto them from such a height?

The chevra cheered thunderously when Danny's head finally bobbed up from the water. After him jumped Yoav, Gabby and Lior, each one from a boulder one level higher than the last, diving from a greater height.

Only Eitan sat on the side, not rising up to the challenge.

"Yaaa, Eitan, Yaaa, climb up and do it!" roared the heroes from the pool. "Are we sayeret or not? (This was an unfamiliar concept to me, until it was later explained as slang denoting a crack army unit.)

Eitan did not reply, but they continued goading him.

"Coward! Coward! Who will accept you into their army unit? What do you think, that only marks count? Courage! Bravado, that's what counts. Yaa, let's see you jump! Army profile 21..." they booed him loudly.

I saw Eitan's face blanching whiter and whiter, and the group continuing to torment him. Suddenly he got up, his lips compressed, indicating that he had come to a fateful decision. He quickly scampered up the cliff, trying to rid himself of the nightmare. "Eitan! Eitan!" the shouts were encouraging, now. He reached a level higher than his predecessors. I looked at him in growing dread. His face was so white that I could guess that his heart and feet were not on equal footing.

Finally he halted. "Yellow! Chicken! Jump!" "Yellow! Chicken! Jump!" came the measured cries, in a chorus. He looked down and a shiver shook his body. I felt sorry for him. I almost called out to him to stop, but he jumped, a halting leap, far too close to the rocks... The inevitable came to pass. His body ricocheted from boulder to boulder, bouncing from one rock unto the next, tumbling down, falling, being all but smeared upon the rocks on his way to the pool. The girls screamed hysterically and I felt nauseous. Blood was pouring from him as he continued his route of jolts, until he sank like lead into the pool.

Effy [the guide] jumped in and pulled him out. He ordered us to call for help on his cell phone. Eitan was unconscious, wounded everywhere. Effy administered resuscitation for several minutes and we looked on, hoping for a miracle. "He's breathing!" he finally announced. "He's breathing on his own." Effy now set about tending to his wounds and we helped. There was not an inch of whole skin on his miserable body. I waited for admissions of remorse, words of excuse, but none were forthcoming.

"He leaped like a coward, was wounded like a failure," someone behind me said. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" I said in fury. "You forced him to jump and now that he's wounded, you're making jokes about it?"

"Mrs. Rabbit comes to the rescue of Mr. Rabbit," he replied. I felt rage flooding my entire body. "Shame on you! Shame on all of you!" I said, over and over again... "My friends in America would never do what you did today, you barbarians!" Tears rolled down my cheeks and they began answering in a babble of voices, but Effy silenced them.

"From this very minute I don't want to hear another word about what happened. We will discuss the matter at some future time, but not now. By no means!"

[We hope we have whetted, not damped your curiosity and interest. This is a powerful, fascinating book, well worth struggling through in the Hebrew rather than waiting for the inevitable translation.]


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