Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

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









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Rivka Sila Moves to Eretz Yisroel

by Yisca Shimony

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 Zidon.

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 Shabbos."

"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 Yisroel.

"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 sigh.

"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 times."

"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 Yisroel."

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 easier.

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 mules.

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 money..."

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 destination, Yerusholayim.


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