The children were eating supper in the hall that they used as
a dinette because the kitchen was so small. Leah was
diapering nine- month-old Mindy in the bedroom... The
phonograph was on and Naomi was humming along in the kitchen,
where she'd started cleaning up. She was so happy to have
finally gotten to Israel. Now her children would grow up in
the Holy Promised Land.
"Ma!" The cry was Leah's and the sound of that one syllable
was so terrifying that Naomi froze and couldn't move.
"Ma!" The cry was now a screech, and Leah, white and
trembling, carried Mindy, struggling to breathe, into the
"Ma! The baby!" all the children cried, covering their faces
not to see the horrible sight. "Ma, quick! Ma! Mindy!"
Naomi ran out of the kitchen, grabbed the child from Leah.
Her mind raced wildly. Aharon wouldn't be home for another
two hours. What was she supposed to do? She ran to the door,
wrenched it open and screamed.
Several neighbors came running, but as soon as they saw the
color of Mindy's face, they retreated.
"A doctor, a doctor!" one of them mumbled weakly, but Naomi
pulled at her, begging, "Someone! Anyone! A doctor won't get
here in time! Help!"
The wailing of the children reverberated in Naomi's head. It
was like the clashing of cymbals, clanging as if they would
never end. The child lifted a hand to Naomi with a beseeching
expression. Then her eyes stopped focusing and became narrow
Naomi had never been so frightened. Her child was dying in
her arms and she didn't know what to do.
Suddenly, in the middle of the nightmare, she heard Moishe
Chaim's voice. He was the husband of her best friend, Ruth,
and they lived across the street. He was flying up the
landing, taking the steps in twos and threes. His carrot-
colored beard was tangled, pajamas peeked out from under a
robe. Naomi vaguely recalled that the day before, Ruth had
mentioned that her husband was sick and at home.
Moishe Chaim grabbed at the child in Naomi's arms, but Naomi
stood stiff as a statue and wouldn't let go. How could she
part with her precious baby when she already knew that
nothing could help her?
Suddenly, Naomi recalled the persistent, nagging premonition
that she'd had before coming to Israel; that a sacrifice
would be demanded of her after realizing her life-long dream.
So this was the price, Naomi concluded without feeling.
The children's cries pierced Naomi's ears, their shrieks and
screams never ending. But closer and louder and more menacing
than that was her neighbor, Moishe Chaim, yelling at her to
give him the child, pleading with her to let go of Mindy.
What? To give him her child when all life had already left
her? Never! Never would she part with her child.
Naomi snarled like a mother cat protecting her newborn
kittens, fought with the vengeance of having nothing to lose.
No matter what Moishe Chaim did, she'd never give up her
There was a tug-of-war as the two of them sparred; Moishe
Chaim desperate to release the dying child from Naomi's arms
without striking her, and Naomi, scratching and kicking
hysterically not to let her child go.
Ruth was running up the stairs, panting and shouting, "Naomi,
what's the matter with you? A neighbor said to come right
away, that something terrible has happened." She turned the
landing and shouted, "Naomi. Look at me and tell me what's
Moishe Chayim yelled to Ruth. "Make her let go of the baby,
for goodness sake! Hit her. Hit her hard. I've got to get
hold of that child before it's too late."
Ruth began slapping Naomi's face, and biting her fingers. She
shook her and punched her and threw her down. And through it
all, Naomi, smiling sadly and strangely, stood her ground.
The two friends grappled and wrestled, Ruth screaming the
whole time and then, suddenly, unexpectedly, Naomi opened her
arms. Moishe Chaim caught the child...
Naomi stood blinking. What's all the commotion about? Why
is there so much noise? Why are Ruth and Moishe Chaim so
angry at me when I'm behaving so well? When I'm so perfectly
in control? Why is Ruth's husband yelling to get me away from
him, to stop from pulling back my baby... Don't they realize
that the worst has already happened? That my baby isn't alive
Moishe Chaim pushed the lifeless form over the bannister and
forced his fist into its mouth. Crying and praying, pleading,
beseeching, he shoved his fingers down Mindy's throat and
pulled out her tongue.
Mindy began retching. Moishe Chaim kept right on, still
crying and praying and holding down her tongue.
At last Mindy moaned and then she started to cry. She lifted
a hand, reached out for Naomi. Her eyes were narrow slits
that still couldn't focus. But she was alive.
Naomi pressed the child to her heart and whispered,
"Boruch mechaye meisim -- Blessed is the One Who
revives the dead."