"There is nothing as whole and perfect as a broken heart..."
(R' Yisroel Salanter)
Synopsis: Rivky undertakes the project of sewing her own
bridal gown. She utilizes her work hours as her time for
reflection and prayer. All of her hopes and prayers are
incorporated into the stitches.
The sewing was completed. The sewing machine returned to its
place in the closet and Rivky's workshop, which prepared to
part from its longtime resident, was restored the bedroom-
look it had previously enjoyed. From time to time, she would
remove the plastic sheeting from the dress and caress the
silky folds with her eyes or strengthen a limp laying button
and snip off a stray thread. The high collar, veil, train --
all were perfect. "Ultimately perfect," she said to herself
one day. "Thanks to my prayers." A sense of gratification
mingled with a large portion of pride filled her heart.
"It was too perfect," she would later admit to
herself, in the storm, upheaval, shock and sense of
helplessness that engulfed her.
It all happened so quickly. Rivky left the wedding gown on
the table for just a moment and went to call her mother to
discuss the particular charm of a line of beads she had
embroidered. The scissors were in easy reach and the room --
very unexpectedly -- was unlocked since Rivky had only
intended to be out for a brief moment. When she returned,
followed by her mother, the two discovered to their shocking
dismay that Ruthy was inside the gown.
"Look! I'm all dressed up like a kalla!" she squeaked
in her three-year- old shrill voice. "Just like Rivky!"
"But how did you get into the dress? The zipper was up!"
Rivky's voice shot up to screeching decibels.
"I got in without the zipper," said the imp, mischievously.
Ima shook her out and lifted the dress above her head, trying
to hide it from Rivky, as if to protect her from the sight.
It was unnecessary. And when she finally dared lift her eyes
to look, Ima couldn't decide which was whiter -- the dress or
Rivky rushed out of the room. Ima did not even try to follow.
Her heart searing with sharp pain, she forced herself to look
at the dress once more. A huge rip, down the length of the
entire skirt, split the dress in half. The scissors were
still in the room, silent witnesses to the terrible travesty.
There was no point in punishing Ruthy. She didn't even
realize she had done something wrong.
It took Ima two days to summon the courage to utter the
fateful words. In her heart of hearts, Rivky knew that this
would eventually have to be said, but when Ima came out with
it, she couldn't stop the tears from flowing. "We'll have to
go to a wedding gown gemach." They both knew that they
there was no time to alter the ripped gown. Two days had
passed exploring all the possibilities of a cover-up job, but
no feasible solution came into question.
"Just that not!" repeated Rivky for the hundredth time.
"After all I put into that dress. I so wanted it to accompany
me to the chupa. It represented so much! How I worked
Ima nodded in agreement. "All that you invested in your
prayers, Rivky, is a lifetime investment. That, at least,
Rivky, was not cut up. Your prayers will surely accompany you
to the chupa." Ima must have retorted this reply at
least one hundred times, as well. Abba said it, too, as did
her other siblings. And yet, it was as if nothing had been
said. Everyone understood Rivky, realized that the strain,
tension and excitement over the upcoming great event of her
lifetime made it all the more difficult to understand and
accept the fact.
"She looks like she's in mourning. One might think that a
terrible tragedy had occurred," Rivky heard Laiky's strident
voice in the kitchen. She bit her lips. "She's lucky she
didn't say that to my face or she would have heard how far
removed she was from beginning to understand how I
Rivky buried herself in sleep during the following two days,
in spite of herself. A heavy lassitude crept into her bones
and blood. Her spirits drooped and wilted even though she
tried to think about everything except for THAT. But the
sight of the wide, raw tear running down the dress kept
returning to haunt her. She didn't have any strength to take
care of her last-minute shopping and arrangements. And she
could hardly speak.
"It isn't only the dress," she confided to Chani when the
latter recovered from the shocking sight to which she was
subjected. "It's everything. All my thoughts, my prayers, all
seem to have been ripped right up." she choked. "If all these
are not accepted pleasingly in Heaven, then what's the use? I
can't help feeling rejected Up There. Everything I tried to
accomplish, spiritually, since my engagement, it's all
Chani could hardly breathe. She was at a loss. Better that
way. Silence was the best way to react. She had felt she had
to be with Rivky in the evening, to be supportive. Rivky had
just returned with her mother from a round of shopping and
was laden with packages. With slow, lethargic movements, she
poured her friend a drink and then another for herself.
"Enough of this self pity. I must keep on going. The wedding
is almost here and I still have lots of other things to worry
about beside a torn gown." Rivky stated this automatically,
by rote. "We went to two gemachim today. I wanted to
take the first gown that fit but Ima insisted that I try some
dresses at different places. I didn't have the strength for
more than two. How important is it, anyway? The bridal dress
is the least important part of a real Jewish wedding." Rivka
laid out some cookies on a plate, her eyes downcast. Chani
"What do you say?" Rivky finally asked, daring to meet her
"You're right. It's enough, already. Stop it. You're all
wrong. You're talking like a baby. Have you forgotten that
you are about to be married? What's happening to you?"
Chani's voice was high pitched, tense, strident and
Rivky was taken aback. How could Chani talk to her in such a
way? Now -- at a time like this?
"You're making a mountain out of a molehill," she continued.
"So what if the dress was ripped? Does that mean that you
can't establish a good Jewish home? That you can't succeed at
being a good wife and mother? Just because the dress did not
remain whole, it means that Hashem has rejected you? That
you're worthless? What put such foolish notions into your
head? Have you forgotten that sometimes people are put to
tests? That there are nisyonos in the world?"
Chani's voice continued to a crescendo. Rivky was stunned.
She lifted her hands in front of her, as if in self defense,
and leaned back against the wall. "Really, Rivky, perhaps
Hashem prefers a simple white gown without all the
compliments of `Ooooh, you sewed it all by yourself?' Did you
even consider that this might be a test?" Her voice suddenly
turned hoarse and she stopped talking. Rivky stood there,
leaning against the wall, her complexion matching its
"I think I'd like to be alone now, to be a bit with myself."
Chani was a good friend and Rivky knew she could ask her this
favor without insulting her.
On the day of the wedding, when Rivky wore the gown she had
borrowed from a nearby gemach, she couldn't hold
herself back. Despite the fact that morning was quickly
turning into afternoon, and that she dearly wanted to begin
her erev Yom Kippur mincha prayers, still, before
that, she felt compelled to go her to her room and shut the
Very quietly, she pulled out the suitcase under her bed and
carefully removed the dress she had sewn and spread it across
the bed. Her trembling finger traced the ripped line and
tears formed in the corners of her eyes.
"Hashem, dear Father. You wanted it thus. I pray to You with
a broken heart. I know. I know that I could never have
arrived at this state with the dress I sewed, in which I wove
all of my hopes and prayers. Here I am, on my wedding day, in
a simple bridal gown, white and pure, and with a soul also
pure. Whatever You did -- You did out of compassion for me...
Now I feel no dress could be as whole and perfect as one that
is split with a long tear. And how much more pleasing to You
is the avoda of a broken heart. I will soon be going
down to the chupa and I feel that You, Hashem, will be
leading me along these steps. And just as You are guiding my
steps now, Hashem, and Your comforting hand encompasses my
entire being, so, I pray, will You continue to lead me and
guide me, always..."
Some of the wedding guests might have maintained that the
nobility that radiated from her face is common to all brides
on their wedding day. Some, however, prefered to think that
it was the simple, unadorned dress that emphasized tenfold
the lovely light that shone from the kalla's gleaming