SYNOPSIS: Tzippy Braun is a spoiled youngest child,
seventeen years old, trying to escape the overprotection of
an older sister. Miri, having just given birth to a premature
boy who needs constant doctor's supervision, has moved back
home to London pending the baby's improvement.
Tzippy's well ordered world is beginning to fall apart and
her relationship with her sister, all the more.
The arguing went on and on, even more full force than the
year before, when Miri had been a kalla. Each of the
girls snatched every opportunity to vent out the bottled up
resentment they bore towards one another. Tzippy resented
Miri for having upset her comfortable life style, while Miri
resented her sister's lack of sensitivity toward her fate.
Sadly, the constant quarreling only increased the tension in
the Braun household.
It was a particularly drab Thursday afternoon, the last day
of the first school term. Tzippy was finally through with the
last of her midterm exams and two long weeks of vacation were
dreamily sprawled out before her, arms seemingly
outstretched, beckoning that she leap forward and embrace
Contrary to where anyone may have expected to find Tzippy on
her first afternoon of freedom, she was sitting on a bench in
the park, dutifully rocking her nephew to sleep in his pram.
From the look on her face, however, it was clear that this
was the last thing she wished to be doing.
With the baby's condition constantly improving, the number of
visits to the hospital clinic had been reduced to only three.
In place of the treatments, Miri had been given various
therapy exercises to perform with her baby and she'd spend
exhausting hours doing them, two days a week.
When Miri had come home on this particular Thursday, she'd
been greeted by a bleary-eyed big sister, a whining baby in
"Hi, Tzip. How was your day?"
"Very good. Where's Mom?"
"Aren't you home early, Tzippy?"
"Yeah. All we had was a final and no classes, of course, so
I'm home. But where's Mom?"
"She's not back yet from having tea with the queen. Where
would you expect her to be just a bit past noon? Sitting
around and waiting for you?"
"Ha, ha. Very funny. Could you PLEASE tell me where Ima
"Why are you always so impatient? You know, the best advice I
could ever give you would be to learn the art of patience.
Getting through life without patience is like... nu," Miri
fumbled for an appropriate analogy, only to find that none
would surface. "Well, it's basically impossible."
"Fine! Now are you going to answer my question or will I have
to... um..." Now it was Tzippy's mind that went blank on her.
"Oh, whatever. Just tell me already where she is."
"Okay, okay. She went out to do a little shopping. I decided
it was time for her to get out on her own and relax a little.
I don't know how I convinced her to go; she never leaves me
alone with the baby. Oh, Tzippy! I didn't expect you home
this early so I didn't make you anything. Shall I cook up
"Nah, it's okay. I took some fruit and nosh along and I'm not
"Good. You have no idea how tired I am." At this point, the
baby's whimpering became louder. Miri's eyes began closing,
despite her erect position and suddenly she had an idea. It
was so amazing that her eyelids fluttered open with a
"Tzippy, why don't you take him out in his pram for a bit?
That way I can get some sleep and he'll get some nice fresh
air, which I'm sure will calm him down. Hold on, let me just
bundle him up in a warm coverall. It's chilly outside." As
she spoke, her deft fingers were already slipping her baby
into the sleeves. With a gurgle in his direction, she thrust
him at Tzippy, gently pushed her towards the door and running
upstairs before Tzippy had a chance to protest. "It'll be
good for both of you," she called over her shoulder as she
climbed. She fell into bed and drifted into blissful sleep
even before her head hit the pillow.
Dazed and raging at her sister's audacity, Tzippy was left
with no choice but to care for her young nephew. "I might as
well take him out," she mumbled to herself as she irritably
struggled to put her jacket back on while balancing the baby
at the same time. "But, boy, is Miri going to get it when she
And that's how she ended up spending the first few hours of
her long awaited freedom, fulfilling the burdensome task of
babysitting her nephew on a local park bench.
Once outside, the baby's whimpering dwindled to complete
submission, as though his crying had been a non-verbal plea
to bask in the joy of the great outdoors. Being rocked to and
fro, his small brown eyes widened at the grayish London sky
and his pale cheeks assumed a slight shade of color as the
cool breeze whisked by them.
Tzippy shook the pram forcefully, putting all her nerves into
the task. After a while, the cool breeze affected even her,
and the frustration gradually drained out of her system. With
but the slightest remnant of her frown, she scooped up the
little tyke and began rocking him in her arms. And for the
first time since his arrival, she played with him.
She stroked his cheeks and cooed softly and covered his eyes
and then revealed herself with a peek-a-boo. And for the
first time since he'd moved into her house, she felt that she
She looked at him with sad eyes that, unbelievably, were not
swelling with self pity. The sorrow was on behalf of the baby
alone: for his pain, his hardships, for the suffering with
which his condition had acquainted him so early in life. And
then the baby did something he'd never done before. He
smiled. And it was the smile that did it.
The smile was a sharp arrow that pierced the armor that
surrounded Tzippy's heart. It was like a metal brush that
managed to scrape off the rust. It was like a duster that
succeeded in removing the layers of thick dust under which
her heart was smothered, like a radiant lamp that illuminated
the darkness, allowing her heart to be seen. It was like the
key that opened the sealed chamber and released her
imprisoned soul, like the magic that lifts an apathy curse.
And it started Tzippy thinking.
Why did the baby make the effort to smile? Because he wanted
to give, he needed to give, and that's all he could give.
What conditions does a plant need to blossom? Obviously,
sufficient sunshine, water and carbon dioxide. But also, a
place to dispense its oxygen. Someone to whom to give.
A world of giving. And what had she, Tzippy, thought of
giving to others? The thought had eluded her completely.
Nothing had ever managed to get past her foolish self
It had started to rain and Tzippy's tears mingled with the
drops. She covered the carriage with her sweater and ran all
the way home with one thought ringing in her mind.
Opportunities to give, to give...
The morning of the bris was a joyous one for Tzippy,
although not in the same way that his mother's wedding had
been. This time, it wasn't of herself she was thinking, it
was her parents, her sister, the baby himself.
Attired adorably in a snowy white garment, the tiniest
matching kipa atop his little head, the baby looked
healthier than ever before. Tzippy passed by her sister,
scooped him out of her arms, and tickled him playfully. As
the baby giggled appreciatively, Rabbi Braun, the
sandak, came forth and tapped Tzippy on the shoulder.
"Time to hand him over," he said.
Standing beside her mother in their backyard, where the
bris was taking place, she heard the mohel
announce, "And his name shall be called b'Yisroel
Nosson Chaim ben Aharon. MAZEL TOV!"
Cries of Mazel Tov erupted and many women came over to
embrace Mrs. Braun, as Miri was nowhere to be found. Then the
meal began, but Tzippy lingered in the background a few
Nosson Chaim, she pondered. No doubt a combination
of Mommy's grandfather and Aharon's. How well the name suits
the baby! Nosson Chaim. `He rendered life.' Yes, Hashem
awarded the baby life and he, in turn, taught me the real art
of living. Sure, he was responsible for the quake that
destroyed my dream castle, but that was bound to happen
sooner or later. False foundations just don't hold up.
What Nosson Chaim did, though, was help me rebuild my castle
on a truthful plot of land, upon the deep, sturdy foundation
of giving. He showed me true joy!
"Mazel tov, dear nephew!"