Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

30 Nissan 5764 - April 21, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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











Home and Family

More Precious Than Pearls
by Sara Gutfreund

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 cried.

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 being changed?

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 going.

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 gifts.

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 whispered.

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 read:

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.


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