Rivka Sila stood by the rail of the boat and watched the
waves playing games. The sea was deep blue and as the sun
shone up high in the sky, its rays were reflected mirror-like
upon the water. A refreshing wind blew upon her face and
brought a smile to her lips. Soon we will reach our
destination. Soon this tedious journey will come to an end. I
must write a letter to my parents about this delay in
She smiled happily as she imagined the expressions upon the
faces of her parents. The slight wind was blowing upon the
masts and as the boat started moving, she rushed down to
their cabin to be with her five little children, who were
napping peacefully, and her dear mother-in-law, Bonile
Bergman, who was resting there, too.
As she entered the cabin, her mother-in-law awoke. "It's
moving! I mean, the boat is moving!" Rivka Sila exclaimed
excitedly. "Soon our voyage will be over. We will reach Jaffa
tomorrow, please G-d."
"Tomorrow is Friday," Bonile commented, "and if the boat
docks too close to Shabbos we won't be able to disembark. We
must plan carefully and not cholila desecrate the
"We spent so long upon roads and ships, we can stay one more
day and get off on Sunday," Rivka Sila assured her mother-in-
law. Little did they know what lay in store for them.
In a letter to her parents, the young woman wrote, "From
Zidon I traveled in a large boat headed for Jaffa port. When
we reached Jaffa, the anchor was thrown and the boat stopped
moving. As we had planned, we stayed aboard, hoping to debark
on Sunday and then be directly on our way to Yerusholayim
with all our luggage. A caravan of camels and donkeys would
take us there.
"Unfortuantely, it wasn't so at all. That Friday night, a
terrible storm arose which lasted throughout the Shabbos. It
was impossible to sit or stand, and surely not to walk. It
was quite an ordeal. The boat shook from side to side. The
anchor tore off and the boat was thrown upon a small shoal of
sand. We were fortunate to be alive! As for our property, it
was swallowed up by the sea. Dishes, sheets, quilts and
pillows, towels and tablecloths, even all of our jewels and
silver cups and much more fell into the water. In the midst
of the turmoil, I was able to snatch at some of the things
but I couldn't hold on to them. I was much too busy saving
our lives. Among our losses was our money, forty ducats, with
which we had planned to establish our home in Eretz
"I am thankful to Hashem that we were able to save our lives,
both adults and children. It was a great ordeal, a trial for
us all. Finally, on Sunday morning, the sea threw us up on
the beach. We were a miserable sight: without shoes,
stockings, dripping wet, cold and forlorn..."
The Jews in Jaffa tried to help and eventually, the family
reached the home that the head of the family, R' Eliezer
Bergman, had prepared for them in Yerusholayim.
"Good morning, my dear Sila," Bonile turned to her daughter-
in-law. "Oh, I forgot. From now on we will call you Rivka
Sila, adding on your Hebrew name."
A smile appeared on the face of the young woman. "It will
take me some time to get used to my Hebrew name. I will have
to think twice when I hear my name called."
"I hope the change will be for the better. Life in Eretz
Yisroel is not easy, so they all say," she said with a
"We always hope for the best. I keep praying that our trip
will be a smooth one, and our settling down as well."
Rivka Sila's mother came over to the two and overheard her
daughter's comment about the upcoming voyage. "Indeed, how
will you manage upon the roads? Where will you all sleep?"
Rivka Sila was ready with an answer. "R' Eliezer planned
everything carefully. He checked it all out and wrote to Jews
who live along the route. They all replied to his letters and
promised to host us. They say that there are beautiful sights
along the way that can divert us from the ordeal of the trip.
We must continue to pray that Hashem help us at all
"I am still uneasy. True, R' Eliezer, your dear husband,
investigated and planned everything carefully. He prepared
lists of the baggage, but what if it does not reach you? Such
things are not uncommon on the roads."
"I know there are risks involved, but we have to try. We must
hope and pray for the best. I think this is the only way to
the only way to be zoche to kedushas Eretz
Rivka Sila's mother, Mrs. Rosenbaum, wiped away a tear.
"Please write to us and tell us about everthing, good or bad.
Though I will be far away, I might be able to help with good
advice and I will surely keep on praying that your plans
succeed. I am deeply worried."
Rikva Sila picked up her two-year-old daughter and began to
sing brightly. She paused a moment and said, "Don't worry,
Mother. We will keep on writing. With Hashem's help, we will
reach our destination safely."
In the year 5594, right after Shabbos Nachamu, R' Eliezer
Bergman, his wife, Rivka Sila, his mother, Bonile, and his
five children left Wurtzburg, Germany. Seated in a wagon
heading for Eretz Yisroel, they took along a great deal of
luggage; things known to be lacking and necessary to
establish their new home: mattresses, kitchenware, books,
clothing and food for the journey. A maid accompanied them
until they were to reach Kritzhaber.
The load was piled high upon the wagon and many more things
were sent ahead by post to the port of Trieste, where they
would board ship and head to Eretz Yisroel.
As they had planned, they spent short rest periods in inns
along the roads, but as soon as they reached a Jewish
community, good Jews hosted them. Food on the road was smoked
meat, dried fruits, fresh vegetables and biscuits. In places
where it was possible to buy live chickens, R' Eliezer, a
disciple of Rabbi Bing of Wurtzburg, slaughtered them and
Bonile and Rivka Sila kashered and cooked them.
They soon reached the town of Kritzhaber, Germany. The
Bergman family was hosted by the benevolent Hirsches, a
wealthy family which owned a jewelry store. Fine, generous
people, they were famed for their hospitality extended to
Jewish travelers. The Bergmans were given two rooms,
beautifully furnished. Rivka Sila wrote a letter to her
parents in Wurtzburg, praising their hosts and the lodgings
they so generously provided. "The Hirsches even took their
own children out of their beds to accommodate us." She
described their home: "Their furniture is even nicer than
that of the famous Baron Hirsch..."
They moved on towards the Tyrol Mountains, bordering on
Italy, and stopped at the town of Butzan. The scenery was
breathtakingly beautiful and they were enraptured by the
glorious color of the vegetation and the blue of the skies,
as well as the flowing rivers. Rivka Sila writes: "R'
Friedman hosted us. He is an important person, the manager of
the post office, and respected by one and all for his honesty
and integrity. He sent us three bottles of wine and a maid to
help me. I had a terrible toothache and could not enjoy the
fine accommodations. But after I received medical treatment,
I felt better."
They reached Venice, but here, Rivka Sila had no help and had
to do everything herself. Still, she reassured her parents,
"Do not fret. I do see in this trip the benevolent hand of
Hashem, all the time. The children talk about you often and
keep mentioning your vegetable garden..."
They reached Trieste by steamboat and there, Rivka Sila was
able to find a young woman to help her. Before boarding, they
had to complete paperwork and documentation, using the
services of a rich man who had accompanied them from Vending
(Venice). "He arranged everything for us cheaper, as he knew
the language and the Italian mentality..."
There were problems with the parcels sent ahead by post which
contained food, linen and other things. They never reached
Trieste. "We purchased a large basket full of live chickens,
bought mattresses and prepared to sail.
They were unable to communicate aboard their ship,
Yeligrapha, which looked like a large house. But they
were fortunate to find a gentile passenger who spoke both
German and Italian whose services made the trip much
Time was moving forward and the Yomim Noroim would soon be
upon them. The big problem for them and for the other Jews on
ship was finding the arbaa minim. Since the wind was
not always strong enough to propel the ship forwards, they
had to spend the Yomim Noroim on board. Rivka Sila writes,
"From Lozin, an island near Greece, we sailed on Wednesday,
Erev Rosh Hashona, and spent Rosh Hashona, Yom Kippur and
Succos on the ship. A terrible storm erupted on Motzoei
Shabbos and continued till Monday, the third day of chol
hamoed. We slept on the rugs in our cabin but the ship
shook so much that we had to hold on tight lest our feet bang
on our heads..."
When they reached the shores of Zidon after 46 days on the
water, R' Eliezer asked to be let off and went in search of
accommodations. After some time, the captain became
impatient, took all of the family's belongings by force and
set them on the beach, ousting them as well. They felt
stranded and helpless but finally they spied R' Eliezer
coming towards them.
He came accompanied by the shammosh of the Jewish
community. He was kind and offered to let them sleep in his
home but Rivka Sila saw that it could not hold them all. They
planned to hire a small boat to take them to the main port of
Zidon, not far off, and find a proper Jewish community. They
found a boat, but there was no wind for the sails, so they
had to change their plans and make their way to Zidon on
When they arrived, Rivka Sila wrote home, "I have no help and
it seems I won't get any. The women here marry at the age of
14-15, and those who hire themselves out for work charge a
lot of money. The gentile women are not cheap, either, and
there are not enough for the needs of the community. In
general, anything done by someone else is much more expensive
and even though I have so much to do, I cannot spare the
Lodging was also not easy to find and there were times when
they found themselves sleeping under the sky with no roof
over their heads...
At last they found a place and R' Eliezer went on alone to
Yerusholayim. When he had found a place, he summoned the
family and they boarded a ship to take them from Zidon to
Jaffa. As described above, they met up with catastrophe. They
lost all of their possessions but fortunately, found
benevolent Jews who helped them arrive at their final