Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5763 - June 18, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Braided Pathways
by Shira Levy

Part II

Synopsis: Gavriella, a young adolescent, has difficulty in adjusting to the varied demands of growing up, accepting a new lifestyle as a baalas teshuva and being the victim of a broken home.

We find her anticipating the monthly visit with her father as she sits with her tutor, a girl one grade higher.

"Little good it does me understanding Rashi when I don't know right from wrong," said Gavriella, tightening her grip around her knees.

"Gavriella, why now?" Ruth's eyes filled with concern. "Why now in the middle of asking who Noach's father was?"

"Tomorrow, my father is coming for his monthly visit. He'll be here at noon. When I go out with him, I never know if what I'm doing or am about to do is the right thing."

Gavriella rested her head on her knees, as she looked out the window. "You can't believe how hard it is for me."


At the kosher restaurant the next day, after playing minature golf, Gavriella and her father sat with their lasagna in front of them, relaxing.

"I heard a cute joke, Gavy..."

At the end of the joke, Gavriella burst out laughing. It was really a good one! Some people in the restaurant turned to stare at her. She forced herself to stop laughing but small titters kept slipping out. It was so difficult!

"It's good to hear you laugh, Gavy. You've been so quiet today."

Gavriella shrugged. She found it very irritating whenever her father called her by the name he had used when she was a little kid. But she loved him. She really did. Yet the running in the field business and eating `the right way' just kept churning within her. Should she say something to him? Would he understand?

"What does it mean to be a lady?" she asked cautiously.

Her father looked at her for a while. "What do you think it means?"

"Whatever it is, it's hard."

"Well, in my eyes, you're a wonderful young lady! You've grown so much, it's hard for me to believe that you're only fourteen years old!"

Gavriella blushed as she fiddled with the flowered blue and green napkin in front of her on the table.

Her father leaned halfway over the table top. "Are you having problems in your new school, or something?"

Gavriella felt her cheeks begin to burn. She probably shouldn't have said anything. If only she could freeze each questionable moment, run and ask Ruth what she was supposed to do, and then come back and unfreeze time. She would always do the right thing then!

"If this religious stuff is too hard for you, you can come and live with me," her father said. "You know that."

Gavriella looked down. "I know, Dad, and I appreciate it, but even though being religious is hard for me, still," she looked up into his eyes, "in my heart I know that this is the right way."

"Fine, Gavy. Whatever you want." He signalled for the waiter to bring the bill. "As long as I don't have to do any of that stuff."

She shouldn't have said anything to him. He couldn't understand.


After Gavriella said goodbye to her father, she came into the house, plopped down cross-legged on the carpet, and picked up a magazine from the coffee table. Her mother walked in. "Gavriella, how can you sit like that?"

She looked up quizzically. "My knees are covered!"

"You must learn to be ladylike!"

Gavriella looked down. It was so unclear to her what a lady was! But one thing was clear -- she'd never be one!


The Kitzur Shulchon Oruch was opened on the desk this time but Ruth and Gavriella were too busy trying to figure out life at the moment to work on figuring out halocha.

"Last year I went biking for hours with my friends. Last year I jogged every single morning." Gavriella put her head in her hands. "I feel like I'm in a cage."

Ruth spoke softly. "You're certainly not in a cage, Gavriella! This way of life, our way of life, is more refined, that's all. We're careful what we say; we're careful what we eat and what we wear. We're careful in everything we do. Yet we have fun, too! Think of all the melave malkas we've had, singing half the night. Not to mention last Rosh Chodesh when we all went ice skating during the women's hours."

Gavriella nodded. "That was fun."

"Yes, it was!" Ruth said. "So we don't do exciting things every night, but we do do things -- in a kosher way."


"Mrs. Gershon," Morah Devora began, "I want you to know that your daughter is doing quite well academically. But she has some self-esteem problems."

Mrs. Gershon, a medium-sized woman wearing a pick snood with a matching grey and pink sweater, sat straight. "I don't have enough patience for that girl, as much as I love her. I'm so tired at the end of the day. But regardless, she ought to realize things on her own."

"Mrs. Gershon," Mora Devora said, leaning forward, "she's young. She's changing in so many ways -- physically and spiritually. Let her feel that you're there for her. Let her know that you're there for her."

"I just feel so depleted," Mrs. Gershon said.

"Does Gavriella help with the housework and the cooking?"

Mrs. Gershon winced. "She's young. Plus she has so much homework and so many tests. I do everything myself. It's only the two of us, anyway."

"Gavriella is certainly old enough to clean up the house! You ought to be coming home from work to a neat home and a meal, not coming home to MAKE them."

"I don't feel she's competent enough, really."

"Aren't you giving her a double message, then, Mrs. Gershon? You say she ought to realize things on her own, even without your guidance, yet she's too young to cut up a few cucumbers and tomatoes?"

Mrs. Gershon fidgeted in her chair.

"What about your neighbors? Have they been helpful?"

Mrs. Gershon looked out the window, her voice strained. "They've invited us for Shabbos meals several times but I haven't gone. I mostly sleep on Shabbos. Gavriella has gone to Ruth's home a lot, though. I was never tired like this when I worked before I got married. There have been a lot of transitions. I suppose that makes a difference, and I'm not as young as I used to be." She shook her head. "I feel bad for Gavriella. I'm just not the mother I used to be. I rely on the school and her friends to be her mother, her father, her family. I just don't have any patience any more."

Mora Devora looked around the small room, wondering how she could help this woman -- this tiny family. "Maybe Mrs. Gershon needs counseling?" she thought.

She looked straight at Mrs. Gershon who was, herself, lost in thought. Under Mrs. Gershon's hazel eyes were dark half- circles, the look of utter exhaustion was tight in her cheeks. More Devora thought, "Maybe Mrs. Gershon doesn't need a counselor. Maybe she needs a good night's sleep and some pampering." Out loud, she asked, "Have you been to a doctor?"

Mrs. Gershon looked startled. "What for?"

"Perhaps you're lacking vitamins or certain nutrients. You should really be checked."

Mrs. Gershon hesitated.

Mora Devora leaned over further, picking up the phone. "I'll go with you. You're not alone. You're part of a community, now. Let's make an appointment together."


"What are you doing?" Ruth sat down on the edge of the bed and looked into Gavriella's expressive, deep brown eyes.

"Grappling," Gavriella looked back with a lopsided smile. "Just grappling."

Ruth waited. She'd already learned that Gavriella would speak. Needed to speak. But only when she was ready.

Finally, Gavriella said, "Why can't I know?" Tears sprang to her eyes. "It's the not knowing that upsets me so much. If I didn't realize that running in the field is `wrong' and eating while standing, and laughing out loud..." Gavriella felt her throat closing. "If I don't know within myself, then I'll just keep making mistakes because I don't know. Life is just made up of making mistakes and grappling. That's all." She cupped her chin in her hands and looked out the window. Winter winds were beginning to blow. The leaves on the trees outside danced wildly, with their red and orange tints shining in the daylight.

"It comes with time," Ruth said soothingly. "You've made so many adjustments so far. No one can do everything in one go!"

"I try so hard and I'm always, always, ALWAYS wrong!" The frustration finally overflowed from Gavriella's eyes in large, hot tears.

"No, you're not!" Ruth said emphatically. "You're moving forward. You're learning. You're not `wrong.' You just need time and everything will fall into place. You'll see."


"Surprised, aren't you?" Mora Devora said.

Mrs. Gershon was looking down at her test results where the words "Severe iron deficiency" were written across the top.

"Boruch Hashem, it's an easy thing to correct, Mrs. Gershon."

"Yes, I suppose you're right. I really am surprised, though."

"I have another surprise for you."

Mrs. Gershon looked up.

Mora Devora continued, "My cousin needs a receptionist for the office she runs, which is quite close to your area. I highly recommended you. You can go for an interview whenever you like this coming week." Mora Devora wrote the address on a piece of paper, handed it to Mrs. Gershon, and smiled. "It would be a lot easier for you having a job closer to home. Good luck."


"There were notices up this afternoon announcing the opening of a dancing class in the school," Ruth said, tightly braiding Gavriella's hair and watching in the mirror for the reaction.

Gavriella looked back blankly. "So?"

"I've enrolled both of us. It starts Wednesday at 7 p.m."

Gavriella shrugged.

But that shrug became a completely different movement at the dance class! With the music pounding through the air and all the girls trying to keep pace with the teacher, it was Gavriella who caught on the fastest, Gavriella who danced with ease and grace.

"And Mom," she said excitedly after the class, at home, "the teacher singled me out three times in order to show the other girls certain dance steps!"

"It really sounds fun, Gavriella," Mrs. Gershon smiled broadly.

"It was more than just fun. It was great!"

Her mother bent over the cutting board as she chopped some carrots. A lot of harshness had gone out of her mother's voice lately, ever since she started working at the nearby office. And since she'd begun taking iron supplements, Mrs. Gershon had a lot more energy.

Then Gavriella noticed: her mother's face was relaxed in a way that she couldn't remember for a long time. She looked at her mother closely, thinking, "It sure has been hard on Mom, what with the divorce and then the two of us becoming religious, her having to get a full-time job. She probably also has had a hard time with all of these new things to learn. I really ought to help more. It's time I stopped being so wrapped up in myself."

Gavriella reached over to take a peeler and a zucchini. Her mother looked up and their eyes met. It felt to Gavriella that at that moment, their hearts met as well.

Gavriella didn't know if she would ever be a `lady,' but she knew that she was no longer a little girl, either. Things were changing and sometimes, maybe even always, changes were for the good.


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