It was the middle of a long hot summer. Each day the sun
blazed down from the bright blue sky and the sizzling air
didn't stir. Miriam longed to get away for a short holiday to
the sea, but sadly, she knew it would not be possible this
year. The local girls' school where she taught English did
not pay its staff over the summer and recent large dental
bills had wiped out all vacation plans.
Eight-year-old Shira didn't nag or complain, but Miriam knew
her daughter would love a break. Then they saw a colorful
sign posted on the bulletin board of their neighborhood
grocery store. It advertised a one-day bus trip for women and
girls from their community to the beach. The cost was forty
shekel, a very reasonable price for such an outing.
"Could we go, Mommy? Please?" Shira asked, her huge brown
eyes beseeching. "All my friends say they're going on this
trip and Dina Rosen, my best friend, says she and her mother
are going for sure. I could wear the new bathing suit Auntie
Faigi sent me. And we could collect seashells, like we did
last summer. Couldn't we go, too? It would be so fun!"
"So much fun, you mean," Miriam automatically corrected. She
had been an English teacher for too many years to let her own
daughter get away with such a grammatical error.
"Yes," she agreed. "I'm sure it would be fun. I think we
could just about manage the price for you, and if Dina is
going, I'll ask her mother if she would keep an eye on you. I
wish I could go too, honey," she added softly, suppressing a
"Does it cost a lot of money?" Shira asked.
"Forty shekel. For some people that's not a lot at all. But
for us, right now, it would be difficult," Miriam
"Then I will daven that both of us can go," Shira
assured her mother. Then she reconsidered. "It is O.K. to
pray for something like a trip to the beach? Or should we
pray only for really important things, like refua
sheleima for Zeidy?"
"I think we can pray for everything and anything, sweetie. We
may not always get whatever we ask for, but we can still try.
Hashem is always listening."
Just then, Miriam's eye fell upon another sign on the
bulletin board, faded by contrast and half hidden now by the
bright, colorful ad for the beach outing. It was her own
sign, advertising private English lessons. Optimistically,
she had placed it there several months earlier, hoping she
would be able to earn a little extra income over the summer.
But she had had only a few calls in response and none had
worked out. If only someone had taken lessons from me,
she thought wistfully, then I'd have had enough money for
several trips to the beach. Forty shekel was exactly what
she charged for a private lesson. How ironic.
That evening, Miriam called Mrs. Rosen, who assured her that
she would be pleased to supervise Shira on the trip.
"She's such a sweet girl. It would be my pleasure. And it
will be more fun for Dina, too, if Shira comes along. But
what a shame that you can't make it yourself. I find these
trips are always a nice little break, especially during the
terrible heat wave."
Miriam agreed longingly. "I know, but maybe some other
No sooner had she hung up the phone, when it rang, startling
"You are teaching English lessons?" It was an older woman's
voice, quite heavily accented.
"Why, yes," Miriam replied, taken by surprise.
"I want to make better my English. It's good for you for a
lesson tomorrow?" the woman asked.
"Certainly," Miriam assured her.
"How much it is, the lesson?" the woman inquired.
"Forty shekel for one hour." Miriam hoped she wouldn't back
"That is okay," she agreed. "My name it is Ora. What time I
must to come?"
They agreed on five o'clock and Miriam gave her the
As she hung up the phone, Miriam felt cautiously optimistic
but decided not to say anything to Shira just yet. She would
not be surprised if the woman didn't show up. That had
happened before. Still, she prepared the lesson and sent
Shira over to play at Dina's apartment at ten to five.
Promptly at five, Miriam's student rang the doorbell. Ora
turned out to be a plump, middle-aged woman who clearly found
English a struggle. But Miriam was patient and tried her best
to make it an interesting lesson.
At the end of the hour, the woman sighed, stood up and placed
two crisp twenty-shekel bills on the table.
"Thank you. It is very good lesson. But I see English is so
hard language. Maybe I call you for more lessons a later
"Tell me, Ora, how did you know I give English lessons?"
"I see sign on the board by the store. I am looking on sign
for the beach, but under I see your sign and think maybe I
Ora said good-bye and left. Somehow, Miriam had a feeling she
would not hear from her again. But it didn't really matter
Picking up the money in her hand, she closed her eyes for a
moment. She could almost feel herself breathing the tangy sea
air, floating in the cool blue waves, splashing and laughing
with Shira, collecting shells together, marvelling at the
perfectly beautiful designs of Hashem. As gratitude filled
her heart, she thought how perfect were all His designs, both
large and small. How very perfect, indeed.