Shira took her last look at the tree-lined street of her
childhood. She glanced at the perfectly groomed lawns and the
white picket fences. Climbing into the taxi next to her
chosson, Shira felt a wave of anxiety wash over her.
She wanted Daniel to have this year in Eretz Yisrael to
learn. But what would she do without her family? And how
would she set up a home? Both Shira and Daniel had been
raised in wealthy suburbs. They grew up in a sun-dappled
world of comfort and ease. Shira didn't even know how to do
laundry, and she had never cooked anything besides toast.
Saying good-bye to their parents had been especially painful
because they didn't want Shira and Daniel to go. Both sets of
parents had made it clear that they wanted Daniel to work in
his father's business and purchase one of the beautiful homes
nearby. They believed that an hour a day of learning would
suffice. Why did the young couple have to go across the
world? After hours of tears and attempted explanations, the
couple had stood their ground. They would use their wedding
gifts to support themselves and they would live simply for a
while. How hard could it be?
Shira could not believe how hard it was. Every morning she
forced herself to smile as Daniel went out to learn, and she
faced the tiny, dark apartment around her. No one in her
building seemed to speak English, and she had to teach
herself all the basics of running a home.
It took her hours to figure out the rusty washing machine and
then a few more hours to hang all of their clothes out on the
flimsy lines outside her window. She kept peeking out the
window, wondering if all their clothes would fall off the
line into the dirty alley below. All morning she tried to
make lunch, but it never seemed to work. The rice kept
burning. She would forget to add eggs to her cake mixtures.
The bread crumbs would refuse to stay on the shnitzels. How
would they survive? Every morning Shira would stand by the
small living room window and pray by the light of dawn.
Help me, Hashem! Show me how to build a home! she
And slowly, Shira learned. She learned how to use a sponga
stick and how to scrub toilets. She learned how to wash
dishes and make simple meals. And she would wait eagerly by
the door for Daniel to come home from kollel. How she loved
to see his face glowing with the joy of Torah! But as the
months went by, Daniel and Shira realized that they were
running out of their wedding money.
Shira decided to take children in for home care while she
awaited the arrival of her first baby. Taking care of six
little babies at the end of her pregnancy exhausted Shira.
She had never cared for younger siblings, and she didn't
really know what she was doing. It took her ten minutes to
change a diaper. Why did babies squirm so much when they were
Years passed this way as Shira and Daniel were blessed with a
rapidly growing family. Shira's job could not support them
anymore. Daniel was becoming a brilliant talmid
chochom and Shira did not want him to stop learning. She
felt the beauty of the Torah in the very walls of their home.
She didn't relish the hard, physical labor and she didn't
like not having new clothes and furniture. But she never
complained because above all, she wanted Daniel to learn. And
now she had to figure out another way to keep her family
One Erev Shabbos Shira opened her jewelry box to put
on her special pearl necklace and earrings. And that is when
she knew what she had to do. That week she brought all of her
jewelry to an assessor. On a piece of black velvet, she piled
her gold bracelets, the beautiful watches, her earrings, the
diamond engagement ring and finally, her Shabbos pearls.
Tears streamed down her face as she handed them over. But
when the assessor wrote down how much all of her jewelry was
worth, Shira was overjoyed. Her face lit up with a smile as
she began to calculate how many years of learning Daniel
would have now. When Daniel asked where the money came from,
Shira told him that her Great-Aunt Frieda was sending them
This went on for years. One bitterly cold winter, Shira
became very ill. She fought valiantly to stay alive but as
her fever rose, she suddenly realized that her life was
ending. Daniel stood beside her bed and tried to make out her
last words to him.
"Keep studying, Daniel. Don't leave the kollel," Shira
During the shiva, Daniel asked his in-laws for Aunt
Frieda's address so that he could take over writing thank-you
notes for her generous gifts.
"Aunt Frieda? There's no Aunt Frieda in our family," Shira's
mother said. Daniel was very confused. Where had all the
money come from?
Months later, Daniel began the painful task of going through
Shira's belongings. He opened the silver jewelery box perched
on the dresser and was shocked to find that it was full of
tiny scraps of paper. He sat down on the bed and began to
One gold bracelet -- five years of learning. One gold
watch -- two years of learning. And on and on. Daniel
began to cry until he was laughing.
Aunt Frieda was Shira!
Daniel folded up each scrap of paper carefully, and imagined
all the words of his Torah learning carrying his precious
Shira to Gan Eden.