Synopsis: Mrs. Bloom and Mrs. Rivka Rabinowitz's mother,
Rachel, were friends from before the Holocaust. Upon the
celebration of her friend's retirement, Mrs. Bloom comes and
makes a devastating confession.
A short while before Rachel was about to catch her train to
safety, Mrs. Bloom detained her friend, demanding repayment
of a debt.
Mrs. Rachel would have been ready with all her heart to pay
the debt. She was an honest woman who didn't owe even a
shoelace to anyone. How had she forgotten the money? The
problem was, that all her money had been sent with a trusted
messenger for deposit in an anonymous account in Switzerland.
The money she had left herself was only enough for the
expenses of the journey. Mrs. Rachel began to apologize to
the neighbor while promising her that she would send her the
money by trusted messenger when she reached Israel. But the
neighbor argued and wouldn't give up.
Precious moments were being wasted and Mrs. Rachel was afraid
they'd miss the train. She began begging her neighbor to
leave her alone but the neighbor persisted. She argued with
Mrs. Rachel for a long time. Only when Rachel burst into
tears did the neighbor relent and leave. Mrs. Rachel hurried
to the waiting carriage filled with her young children. The
suitcases were loaded on as well and the small retinue went
on its way.
When they arrived at the train station, the noise was
terrible. For long hours they stood in the long line that
inched forwards. Towards the afternoon, when the family was
only a few meters from the long-awaited train, the doors
closed. A loud, long whistle, pierced the air and the train
departed, leaving behind it a long trail of soot, smoke and
Rachel and her family had to retrace their steps and return
home after saying goodbye to it forever. They still deluded
themselves into believing that their plans to make aliyah
were still viable.
After a few days, they heard that that train had been the
last one to leave Poland. They had missed the chance
literally of a lifetime. The sad and painful part of the
story was that a few months later, the Jewish Ghetto was
erected in Warsaw. All the Jews of Warsaw were told to go and
live in the Ghetto. Life was too difficult to bear. The
Germans tortured them and fatal shootings were routine. Every
day, many fell among them, Rachel's husband was murdered. A
year later, they were exiled to work camps, mostly to the
Treblinka death camp. Mrs. Rachel and her children were
hurried off to Treblinka and stood in line for Selection.
"I stood behind them," Mrs. Bloom confessed in a sad voice,
"I saw how the enemy looked at them. He wasn't impressed by
Rachel's short stature or gaunt look. Certainly not by her
children. And so he told everyone to go left except for you.
You, Rivka, were a young energetic girl and only you were
told to go right. My heart was heavy. Although none of us
knew what the significance was of going left or right, my
sixth sense whispered to me that something terrible was going
to happen. When it was my turn, the enemy looked at me and
told me to go right.
"I've endured difficult days since then. I only found out
after the war that Rachel and her family were killed in the
gas chambers. " Here, Mrs. Bloom heaved a heartbreaking sigh,
a sigh that could break someone in half. "Oy, Oy, it's all my
fault. I caused it to happen. If I hadn't detained them for
the 60 miserable zloty, your mother, Mrs. Rachel, would have
been living with us today. Her and her dear children. Woe is
me what have I done? Why was I so adamant about 60 zloty?"
Mrs. Rabinovitch's sighs joined her own. Only now did she
understand what had caused the solicitous concern of her
older friend who had been with her for many years —
pangs of conscience. With great effort, she was able to
restrain the anger in her heart. It's true that she was full
of faith that everything is from Hashem and that a debt is
paid by someone who owes one, but it was difficult for her to
deal with the fact that the woman in front of her had
detained her family for a paltry debt.
"I'm wondering how my parents, Hy'd, weren't resentful
and didn't blame you when they were suffering in the valley
of death; I, for one, didn't hear anything of the terrible
injustice until this minute," Mrs. Rabinovitch wondered and
then she had the answer. Her righteous parents abstained from
gossip. Extraneous speech was never heard in their home. Who
were they to complain about an injustice done to them? The
world is governed by Divine Providence and if they were
detained from leaving Poland, it was Hashem's will.
Suddenly, she felt the urge to emulate them. How would my
parents want me to act now? she asked herself with a
sense of commitment. With restraint! With real courage, she
held her tongue silently. She slowly bent her head to escape
Mrs. Bloom's look of remorse. Mrs. Bloom didn't feel
comfortable. It would have been better if Rivka had said some
piercing words rather than remaining silent. And this silence
spoke more loudly than any words. Hesitantly, Mrs. Blum
examined Rivka Rabinovitch, weighing her words. Was this
finally the right time to tell her?
"Look, I'm a suffering, sick woman. Regret fills me day and
night, without giving me rest," Mrs. Bloom confessed in a
wavering voice. "I've decided to dedicate a sefer
Torah to the memory of your perished family."
Rabinovitch's breath stopped. A sefer Torah is a merit
for the souls of the deceased. Her generosity would be a balm
to her riddled conscience. "The ceremony will take place two
days before Shavuos in the Central Synagogue," Mrs. Bloom
reported and urged her to take care of the technical
In Rivka's heart a war of conflict of interests was raging.
Why should she prepare and work for the simchah? Her
heart was not yet free to accommodate a simchah of
this type. The kind of injustice of the proportions that she
heard today from Bloom would paralyze her for at least a few
weeks. It's true, the sefer Torah was dedicated to her
family. But whoever was responsible for the damage should fix
Mrs. Bloom has two daughters. Let her volunteer them to
make up for the guilt of the sin. And she herself had better
take care of the important errands she had planned for the
Mrs. Bloom examined her, eyes sunken in their sockets. Who
knew how much she tortured herself for her crime? Who knew
how much inner strength it had taken for her to come and tell
her of her sin, how she saved up penny after penny from her
meager pension for the spiritual challenge she had taken upon
"The deeds of the fathers are signs to their children." Mrs.
Rabinovitch overcame her reservations. The image of her stoic
mother flashed before her eyes. "I'll bring the
refreshments," she stammered. "Anyway, there's a whole supply
of baked goods left over."
Mrs. Bloom couldn't hide her relief. More than enlisting
Rivka for the task, it was important for her to attain her
"Fortunate is the mother who bore you," she told her.
Two days before Shavuos, in a hallowed atmosphere, the
Hachnassas Sefer Torah took place at the Central Shul.
Rivka Rabinovitch didn't stop wiping her eyes and her lips
murmured, "My dear parents, I'm sure that you are watching me
from Heaven and are happy with me. Your whole lives were a
shining example of true acceptance of the Torah and I will
cling to your ways." Her face shone as she watched the parade
of glowing torches and her heart swelled.
The respect for the Torah is not just superficial, it is deep
and enduring, a life order, a compass and guide from which
one must not veer.