Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Cheshvan 5760 - October 27, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
a story by Chaya Levinson - Part Two

"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.

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 over it!"

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 feel..."

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 ruined, shredded."

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 said nothing.

"What do you say?" Rivky finally asked, daring to meet her friend's gaze.

"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 demanding.

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 whiteness.



"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 door.

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 eyes.


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