Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Adar 5766 - March 29, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

by Gita Gordon

Serializing a new novel.

Chapter 17: The Meeting Jerusalem (October 2001)

Esther has been successful at work, but so far not at shidduchim. Now it has been suggested that she meet Daniel who has been learning at Mir yeshiva for only a year.

We apologize to our readers for not putting in an installment last week, and this week we are putting in a double-sized section.


Esther's parents spent the following weeks making inquiries. First they asked their brother-in-law whose neighbor was a mashgiach in the yeshiva. "Yes, I have heard his name mentioned," was his reply. "He is from America, but his chavrusa is Israeli and he mixes mostly with Israelis. That is unusual. I will make more inquiries about him."

A day later he called them. "I find that he doesn't mix much with anyone. He davens neitz outside the yeshiva in the morning. He learns with his chavrusa at set times. He attends the set shiurim. The rest of the time he learns by himself in the beis medrash. He doesn't appear to have any close friends that I can talk to. Maybe he is friendly with some American boys, but if he is, I can't find them."

The picture was of a solitary man, a loner. But this contrasted with the picture that Yehudit had given, so they managed to contact Daniel's chavrusa that motzei Shabbos, when he was home. "My chavrusa? A fine person, good to learn with, very thorough in his approach to learning. He is a patient guy, nice and friendly when we learn. He has a good sense of humor . . . No, he has never been here for Shabbos. I don't know why. We do invite him but he has never accepted. Why? I don't know."

Inquiries about his family background drew a complete blank. No one knew where he came from or anything about his family. However it emerged that often for Shabbos he would go to Bnei Brak, to stay with the renowned moreh, Rav Bernstein. A call to the Rov and his wife elicited rave reviews. This was totally at odds with the previous reports about his lack of friends, the picture of a man who could not sustain social relationships.

Esther's mother listened as her husband told of the conversation. Then she said, "That sounds good, but you called to ask about his family and not one word did Rav Bernstein say about them."

"No, that's correct. Though that was the first question I asked. His reply was to contact Rav Dov at the Mir yeshiva."

Rav Dov: "The boy is a very good boy who has great potential in Torah. Specifically, I do not know his family, but the boy is a baal middos."

Esther's parents went to their rabbi for advice. After some days he called them to go ahead. However, they were to instruct their daughter that she was to ask the boy, tactfully, about his family.

So Esther's parents had agreed and now Esther was dressing, readying herself to meet yet another young man.


Daniel walked from Mir Yeshiva, in Beis Yisrael, through Meah Shearim to Geulah. He wished he was sitting in the beis medrash, learning. Only because he felt so great a respect for Rav Dov had he agreed to this action, this shidduch. He once again went through the recent conversation with the Rav.

"How can I meet someone when I can't even answer the simplest questions about myself honestly. What can I say? My parents have disappeared in Brazil. I ran away from America because I overheard men saying they want to kill me. Each night, before I fall asleep, I wonder why those men wanted to kill me. I wonder if they are still searching for me. Only when I am learning is my mind distracted and I am calm. How would a young girl react to such things?"

"As long as we hear nothing to the contrary, we must assume that they will return and there will be a logical explanation for everything. Whatever the reasons for your having to flee from New York, I don't believe anyone could find you now. When we arranged your Israeli ID I used all my influence to see that nothing of your old life appeared on your file. No one could possibly connect the American citizen, Dean Barton, with Daniel Bar-On who lives in Jerusalem.

"It is time to move forward. I know it is difficult, but I am not giving this advice without much thought. I have been to a godol beTorah to discuss the matter and this is what he advised."

Daniel looked at the street name and then walked a bit further before entering an apartment block. As he knocked and entered, a feeling of apprehension assailed him. What was he doing to good simple honest people by bringing all the complications of his life to intertwine with them and their daughter?

Esther came into the salon after her father called to her. She sat down at the table opposite the young man. She looked down at her lap and then up to him. They stared at each other, each wanting to talk and neither of them succeeding in getting a word out.

Esther suddenly forgot her personal feelings and thought of him — how difficult it must be, to be so far from home, not to have parents nearby to discuss whether a shidduch went well or not.

She said, "They tell me you come from in America."

She realized that she was speaking English, though she had been told the bochur was happy to speak Hebrew, as he now spoke in that language most of the day.

Daniel replied, "Yes. I have been here for some time now."

He realized that he didn't even feel relaxed in telling the exact date he had come to Israel. Esther recognized his accent. It was slightly different from the Jews who lived in New York. It was much more similar to the big donor from Boston whom she had spoken to just before leaving work that day.

She said, "I spoke to a lady from Boston today. She said that this year, fall is early and the leaves are already turning all the shades of the rainbow, red and orange and even deep pink."

As she spoke she wanted to pull her words back. He would think her so silly — discussing the colors of leaves, of all things!

Daniel was surprised that Esther talked of Boston. Did she know that he had spent many years at school there? He had forgotten many things about his time in Boston, but the wonder of the those leaves as they took on different hues before turning brown and dropping from the trees, leaving them bare as the snowy season approached — this he remembered.

He wanted to change the subject, not to talk of Boston or anything about America. He searched for a subject and the first thing that came into his head was the tranquility of his early morning walks in Jerusalem, so different from the tension he now felt. He spoke of his walks in the early morning and the little shul where he went to the neitz minyan.

Esther said, "Usually I am awake at that time. Its amazing how the colors on the stones seem to change as the sun rises."

"Why do you wake so early?" Daniel asked.

"I like to draw. I'm free then, with nothing else I have to do," Esther said.

Once again she wished could pull back her words. He would consider this a silly occupation, just as everyone else did. Now she had spoiled everything. She had noticed how tension had followed her mention of Boston. She had noticed how it went away when he spoke of the early mornings. Now she had stupidly spoken of her drawings; he would be sure to think she was odd.

To her surprise, Daniel wanted to know more: what she drew, what she used, pencil, or ink, watercolors or pastels. His education had included art classes. His school had prided itself not only for having a high acceptance rate at top colleges such as Harvard but also for producing well-rounded personalities. So art was not something pushed to one side and ignored.

More than one hour later, they were still talking animatedly. The subject had imperceptibly changed and Daniel had shared with her a difficult learning problem he had encountered that morning. To his surprise Esther had not only listened with interest, she even had suggested a posuk that could help solve the problem. He was amazed that a girl should be so knowledgeable.

Daniel suddenly looked at his watch. "Oh dear. They told me I should spend an hour here and it has been longer. We will talk more next time. Oh no! They told me I wasn't to say such a thing. It all has to go through Yehudit. I haven't done this before. . . I . . . "

Esther replied with a laugh. "Don't worry. I won't repeat it. You speak to Yehudit and I will too."

Daniel walked home, thinking all the time about Esther. He had been surprised to find a girl so artistic. He had been surprised that a girl who had grown up in Geulah, and worked in Meah Shearim, spoke such perfect English. He was surprised at her knowledge of Torah. He was surprised at how articulate she was.

Would she truly want to meet again? Would she say something quite different to Yehudit? Was it fair to bring such a sweet girl into the complexities of his life?

Esther realized as Daniel left that she had forgotten that she was shy and tongue-tied. After the initial stumbling beginning, conversation had flowed as easily as if she was with her classmates or her own family.

It was after Daniel had left that she realized that she hadn't asked a single word about his family. All that she could tell her mother when asked was, "I think he comes from a place called Boston, not New York. Maybe that is why you couldn't find out anything."


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