Malka Yadler sat on the hard wooden bench in the doctor's
waiting room. In spite of acute stomach cramps, she was able
to see what was happening in the room and was alert to her
surroundings. She heard the loud cries of the little girl
sitting opposite her and noticed the fidgetings of the young
woman sitting next to her, apparently her mother. She held
the crying child close to her heart and soothingly caressed
her long thin braids.
"What's bothering her?" Malka asked.
"Sores in her mouth," the young woman sighed. The little girl
raised her voice and wailed, while her mother kept trying to
quiet and soothe her. "Sh... sheifele... sh..."
On another bench sat another young woman. She, too, sat next
to her children, a little girl and boy. Both children had
red, infected eyes.
Malka sighed. "I"ve already experienced these illnesses in my
own family. Boruch Hashem, they are behind me and it's all
over, except for these stomach cramps. Fortunately, this
doctor knows his profession; he knows how to cure and his
medicines truly work!" She sighed. "But it seems such an
endless ordeal..." She stopped her train of thought as a
sharp pain spasm hit her full force.
"You are in pain! What is it? What is ailing you?" asked the
young mother of the crying daughter with sores in her mouth,
who introduced herself as Zissel.
It took a while for the pain to ease and at last, Malka was
able to say, "My stomach hurts." She tried to smile, "My
children also had sores in their mouth in the past and Boruch
Hashem, the ointment the doctor smeared on them helped. And
on another occasion, their eyes were infected and I was told
that it was good to dip a clean cloth in tea and rinse them
with it. And it helped the eyes to heal."
"They say that the best thing to avoid stomach cramps like
yours is to drink boiled water only. You must be new here,"
said the other mother, Chanshi. "Infected eyes is also a
common ailment and it is best to catch it before
complications set in, chas vesholom. Tea is only for
Malka listened carefully to the two Yerushalmi mothers. "How
can one avoid infected eyes? It is so contagious?" The
screams of Zissel's little girl stopped the discussion. All
visits to the doctor broadened the women's medical knowledge,
even if they usually ended up at the clinic, anyway. "Oh,
what's the use," Malka sighed in desperation. "If it's not
one thing, it's another. There seems to be no end to the
different afflictions here. It must have something to do with
the climate, damp in the winter and so hot in the summer."
"You mustn't talk like that," hastened Chanshi to say. "It is
such a privilege to be living here in Yerusholyaim ir
hakodesh! You must learn to look at the beautiful side of
things and thank Hashem for everything, especially for
sending us this doctor to help us instead of the missionary
doctors, G-d forbid. We are very fortunate, you know..."
Malka knew she was right and made no reply. But she couldn't
A noise from the anteroom drew her attention and through the
open door she saw the clerk sitting behind the cashier
window. She'd have to pay for this visit before she was
allowed in to the doctor. Taking out her handkerchief, she
unknotted it and removed one of the last coins they still
had. She went to pay the required amount and came back to
await her turn. "I really mustn't complain," she reminded
herself again. "Hashem will help tide us over till we get
some more money."
As expected, the doctor instructed her to boil all the water
and milk for the family before they drank it. He gave her a
white powder and told her to mix it with water and urged her
to return if she needed any more help.
Malka rushed out of the clinic and began walking home to
Botei Machse, near the Churva shul in the Old City. A sudden
strong spasm made her stop and lean against a stone wall.
Soon she was able to continue on. She reached a fork in the
road. One narrow alley led to the Moslem quarter and the
other to the Jewish quarter. Just as she was about to turn
in, something caught her eye. A gleam, a sparkle of
Silver? Here in the poor city of Yerusholayim? Who can
afford silver here? she wondered. She looked again and
saw a row of shining silver items in a display window and
marveled. How strange, and yet, at the same time, how
Suddenly, an idea struck her and she felt better immediately.
She reached home a few moments later to the sweet sound of
her husband's study, just in time to hear her little baby,
Ben Zion, crying in his crib. Malka rushed into the tiny
kitchen, which her elderly mother was busy cleaning, to warm
up some milk for the baby.
"The doctor said we must boil all the milk and the water,"
she said, giving the wailing baby over to her mother. Malka
kindled the coals as fast as she could and then poured some
milk from a pitcher into a small porcelain pot which she had
brought over from Europe. She had to adjust it carefully on
the crude stove, a tripod standing over a can filled with
As soon as the milk boiled, she mixed it with some lukewarm
boiled water that remained in the kettle and began to spoon-
feed the baby. R' Yitzchok glanced over at Malka and was
relieved to see her feeling better and coping energetically
with the care of the baby.
Fed at last, the baby gurgled with content. R' Yitzchok
closed his gemora and asked what the doctor had
"Nothing much. He gave me this powder and instructed me to
boil all the water and milk before drinking it." Malka
sighed. "In Horodna, we drank plain water and I sold milk and
butter, and no one was ill..."
R' Yitzchok looked at her in bewilderment. "Why are you
suddenly mentioning Horodna? That was chutz lo'oretz.
We're very fortunate to be here!"
"It seems to me that all of our troubles here point to
something... I really don't know how to say it. As if it's a
punishment somehow. On my way here, I recalled what you told
me to say to your father before we came. But those were your
words, your feelings, not altogether mine." She looked
guiltily at her husband.
R' Yitzchok smiled. "It was a mitzva. Thanks to you,
thanks to your being a dutiful wife, my father agreed to our
going to Eretz Yisroel. At one time, he had vowed that he
wouldn't let us go and would do everything to prevent it. But
you told him that you would leave me and go by yourself. This
is what convinced him and he was forced to retract his vow.
As a son, I was obliged to obey him, but when you threatened
to leave on your own, he realized how determined you were to
come. He knew you were right. It says in the gemora
that a wife is entitled to receive a get if she wants
to go to settle in Eretz Yisroel and her husband is detaining
her. I really wonder if he knew I was behind it..."
"It seemed the right thing to do at the time," Malka said. "I
saw how much it meant to you. And to me, too. I wanted to
come, too. It's just that with everything being so much
harder here, I am beginning to think that maybe we are not
worthy of living here and we are being punished..."
"And you want to return to chutz lo'oretz?" he asked
incredulously. He involuntarily raised his hand to his
payos. Malka remembered how shamefully he had returned
home one day, there in Horodna, with one of his sidelocks
shorn off. A policeman had stopped him on the street and
willfully hacked off one sidelock with his penknife and
laughed in his face. He was about to cut off the other but
decided that this Jew would look more ludicrous with one
sidelock still dangling. It was then that R' Yitzchak had
made up his mind to leave Horodna and go to Yerusholayim.
They stood there, looking at one another, memories flooding
in. "Where will we get the money to go back?" he finally
asked, seeing that she made no move to retract her wish.
"I've thought about it. In fact, it's the money problem that
really discourages me from staying here." She was referring,
of course, to the terrible setback they had experienced
through an unfortunate business transaction that should have
provided enough money to support them, at least at a
subsistance level, for a good many years. They had invested a
large sum in barrels of alcohol, only to find them empty upon
arrival at the Jaffa port... And now they were reduced to
their last coins and had to scrimp to pay for a doctor's
"Where will we get money for the trip back? From Heaven I was
shown today a way to raise a little money. On the way here I
saw a shop in the Moslem quarter that had some expensive
silver items in the display window. We still have some of our
heirloom and wedding silver pieces. We can sell those. I've
felt all along that coming here was not the right thing..."
she finished off in a whisper.
"Eretz Yisroel is not easily acquired, Malka. This might be a
test from Heaven to see if we are worthy of this wonderful
gift. At any rate, we must not return to chutz
lo'oretz," he said with emphasis. "Sure, it is difficult.
And if we are destined to die, which we will, eventually,
isn't it better to die here? Think of it: we will be buried
here, on Har Hazeisim! Not in chutz lo'oretz. But
Moshiach will come before that, Malka! Think of that! We'll
be here to greet him..." He looked at her entreatingly.
Another bout of spasms gripped Malka and she closed her eyes
tightly. A few tears escaped and began rolling down her
The next morning, R' Yitzchok reopened the conversation. "You
know, Malka, that was an excellent idea of yours, to raise
some money by selling some of our silver. We certainly don't
need silverware to eat from when we can't afford meat... But
I have another idea. Why not open up a grocery store? Then
we'll have a means of support and we won't lack money for
food and things." He didn't want to mention doctors...
Malka frowned. "But I'll need to buy my merchandise from the
Arabs. How will I manage to communicate with them?"
R' Yitzchok smiled. "I know targum, that is, Aramaic,
which is similar to Arabic. We'll teach ourselves some key
phrases and manage with sign language. Actually, they know
some Yiddish, too, and they'll be eager for our business.
You'll see, it will work out, b'ezras Hashem."
Her eyes lit up. R' Yitzchok had found the solution; he was
sure that Malka would be happy to return to business, as she
had done in Horodna. And he was so right.
Malka opened up a small grocery store near the Churva shul in
the Old City. The dry staples were bought from Arab merchants
while milk was purchased from a Jew. Malka made excellent
butter and cheese which were an instant success. Within just
a few weeks, she was able to recoup the losses of the empty
barrels of alcohol -- four thousand rubles.
Even more amazing was the fact that as soon as they had
regained their lost investment, their savings from Horodna,
their profits shrank to a normal income, enough to keep pace
with a simple standard of living.
Some time later, R' Yitzchok summed it up for them. "See,
things are fine now. It is no less than we had in Horodna and
the money we saved here was honestly gained. Hashem has
blessed us with exactly what we need. It is now up to us to
be happy with our lot, here in Yerusholayim." Malka realized
that their way was right and well accepted in Heaven.
As for their little boy, he grew up to be a great
tzaddik -- the famous Yerushalmi Maggid, R' Ben Zion