Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Cheshvan 5764 - November 19, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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











Home and Family

One Bris Leads to Another
A true story as told to Esther Weil

Part II

Synopsis: The narrator knew only two things about Judaism - - that she must marry within her faith, and that male children must be circumcised. The bris of her first son led to her participating in Torah lectures and slowly, taking on mitzvos.

The decision to make aliya was logical but not practical. First of all, anyone filing an application to leave Russia was badgered by the authorities, not a pleasant affair, to say the least. Second of all, one couldn't receive an exit permit unless relatives from Eretz Yisroel (or any other country) had filed a written request that s/he visit them. Finally, a woman couldn't leave the country unless her husband signed an official document approving her exit.

I tried to weigh my situation's pros and cons. On the one hand, I had a large house in Russia and a good job as an electronics engineer. However, in Russia it was impossible for me to live a full Jewish life or raise my children as Jews. Moreover, since my husband's commitment to Torah was far weaker than mine, I was certain that he wouldn't support my move to Eretz Yisroel or sign a document approving it.

I considered all these points and my hopes of raising my children as observant Jews tipped the scales.

Then and there I resolved to leave Russia at all costs. Even though I was still unfamiliar with many Jewish concepts, I sensed that the Divine promise, "One who strives to purify himself is aided from Above," was materializing through me.

Red Tape

My husband was averse to my plans. He was very attached to his family and parents, and also had difficulty learning Hebrew. Besides, he had heard many reports about the financial and employment problems of new immigrants to Israel. I begged him to change his mind, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. At last, I decided to give up and not argue the issue with him.

One time, we happened to pass a lawyer's office and I proposed, "Let's go inside."

Both of us knew what I was driving at, but he feigned naivete.

"Why?" he asked.

"I might want to visit Israel one day. So let's get the red tape over with now."

"Okay," he replied. So we went in and he signed. When we came home, however, he wondered aloud why he had signed a statement he opposed. I saw his signing as an act of Divine Providence. The first barrier had fallen. At last, I had an official letter of approval, signed by my husband, stating that I could leave the Soviet Union whenever I pleased.

But another hurdle still had to be overcome. How could I receive an exit visa when I had no relatives in Eretz Yisroel who could invite me to visit them? Without such an invitation, one cannot leave the country even on a pleasure trip!

Once again, I had special Heavenly assistance in the form of a friend who had made aliya a year before and had even written to me from Eretz Yisroel. I hadn't answered her then and wondered whether she still remembered me...

I called her and when her husband lifted the receiver, I began to stammer. He remembered me and asked what I needed. I told him that I wanted to visit his family in Eretz Yisroel. He understood my intention and asked how many members of my family would be joining me. "Two," I replied.

Because he had made aliya so recently, the Russian consulate had tapped his phone. He knew that and as a result, asked me brief and pointed questions. After that call, I once more felt that Heaven was guiding me.

Although such invitations usually take a few months to arrive, I received his letter within a month. Another miracle had occurred, and another piece of red tape had been sliced.

Now that I had the invitation, I thought it would take me only a few days to receive the coveted permit. But reality was quite different. Every day, hundreds of people who wanted visas filed in front of the emigration offices. Russian law at that time stipulated that applicants had to come to the office every day in order to determine if their turn had arrived. They also had to sign a daily attendance sheet and whoever missed a day, lost his turn and had to begin the procedure anew.

I certainly couldn't do that since I had to punch in at work every morning and to send my children to school. Another dead end!

Another Miracle!

Suddenly, my eye caught a small notice which said that due to the pressure, an additional branch of the office had opened. Amazingly, that office was right near my house, while the main office was an hour's ride away. I left quickly, hoping that the waiting line at the branch wouldn't be too long. To my utter surprise, I was the first and last Russian citizen to file an application at that new office! A few days after my arrival, it closed, perhaps due to a lack of applicants.

Although I had obtained the exit visa, I still required a great deal more providential good fortune in order to be able to leave Russia.

My next problem was securing dollars. A citizen leaving the country was permitted to take only $200 with him -- hardly enough to start life anew anywhere else. However, if he obtained money on the black market, he was liable, if caught, to be accused of espionage. I decided not to run the risk of being caught and to suffice with the minimal amount.

In other countries, going to the bank and withdrawing a sum permitted by law is a routine procedure. But in bureaucratic Soviet Union, every procedure was very complicated. To begin with, one couldn't withdraw the money unless he had plane tickets. But since it was forbidden to hold even permitted foreign currency for more than two days, one needed a miracle in order to coordinate the dates of the receipt of the money and the date of his proposed exit from the country. This was especially difficult because one generally had to wait three months for his turn to receive the dollars, but could never guess when that day would arrive!

Miracle in a Coffee Cup

One day, a woman I had met at the emigration office called me and said she had postponed her plans to make aliya. "I have a turn for two more days," she said, "and will give it to you. Hurry up and buy tickets." But there was a snag. Her name was stamped on the slip authorizing her to withdraw the $200, while my name appeared on the tickets and on my exit visa, which I also had to show the bank clerk. If I were caught `stealing a turn,' I would be punished very severely.

I nearly gave up. But then I reasoned that if Hashem had helped me so miraculously until then, He would continue to do so. Closing my eyes, I prayed, "May a miracle occur. May the teller not notice the discrepancy."

With my tickets and application for the $200 in hand, I apprehensively approached the teller. Suddenly, he knocked over the cup of coffee on his desk. Terrified that his foreman might shout at him, he became all flustered and without even examining my affidavits, he gave me the money.

Well, there I was, all ready to go. I quickly packed my belongings, said good-bye to my parents, and headed to the airport where I boarded a plane to Eretz Yisroel with my two sons.

During my first few months in Eretz Yisorel, I stayed at an absorption center near Yerusholayim. Then I got a job and enrolled my children in a cheder.

Shortly afterwards, I received a divorce from my husband, against whom I bear no grudges. He is a fine person, yet we were simply unsuitable for each other. Eventually, I married a talmid chochom and am grateful to Hashem for having brought me this far.


Zeidy, you kindled a spark within me. In your merit, my children -- all seven of them -- are following in your footsteps.


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