Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Av 5764 - July 28, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Our First Summer
by Sara Gutfreund

I can still feel the heat of that first summer. It shimmers along the pavement and parches my throat. As soon as I leave the appartment, I am exhausted. I have never known the weight of a Middle Eastern summer. I could not have imagined how desperately I would search for a patch of shade, how relentless the noonday sun could be.

We are new immigrants, in our second month of marriage, living in Petach Tikva. Customs is on strike and our lift, with all of our belongings, sits at the port in Haifa. We are renting an apartment without furniture and without appliances. Everything is on the lift. We don't know each other well enough to gauge how to react. We sleep on the floor. We eat a lot of falafel, and buy fans to blow the stifling air around our empty apartment.

One day, I stop at a pet store at the bus station. I decide to buy a tiny yellow chick. That night we watch the chick run happily across our living room floor. As he runs back and forth between us, I realize that the heat is getting to us. We are losing it. It's been over a month since we arrived. Hesitantly, I look up at my husband.

"I think it's time to buy a couch."

The next morning I meet my husband after minyon. We walk along the unfamiliar streets, looking for a furniture store. Finally we find one and we approach the salesman sitting behind the tiny, wooden desk. "We would like to see your couch selection," my husband begins. But the man isn't listening to him. Instead, he is staring intently at the tefillin bag in my husband's arms.

"Are those tefillin?" he asks. Dumbfounded, my husband nods.

"My grandfather used to put on those," he says wistfully. He looks away in embarrassment and then turns back to us.

"Can you show me how to put them on? I've always wanted to try."

My husband nods. The salesman pulls a piece of fabric from the table and places it on his head. My husband shows him how to put on the tefillin. Then the man asks for a siddur. We sit down in astonishment as customers come and go. With the stray piece of fabric on his head, the man davens, line by line. Afterwards, he hands the tefillin back with tears in his eyes.

As we walk home, still couchless, the heat seems to dissipate. And I know that this long, hot summer will end. I know that eventually, we will have our furniture, build our home. But I ponder this.

Is it possible that Hashem has brought us all the way across the world into this steaming, hot summer, so that a furniture salesman in Petach Tikva could put on tefillin?

We walk in silence, feeling the burden of the unasked question lifting with each step along the way. What are we doing here? And now we know. We are coming home, taking our places among our people in our Land.

The unbearable heat becomes bearable. The empty apartment seems suddenly full. It is an achingly beautiful summer.


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