Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Teves 5764 - December 31, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

SomeOne is Helping You to Walk
a true story by A. Lapid

Part III

Synopsis: Orly has come to visit her friend from Haifa, Deganit, and stays overnight at the seminary, vacillating over making the `leap of faith' commitment. After candlelighting at the apartment, they go for a walk.

And Orly talked.

"Rabbi Levine told me today," she began in a quiet voice, "that I needn't make a comprehensive decision upon everything. At this point, I must shy away from a total change. But that sounds strange to me, since if I believe this to be the true path, I should really take it all upon myself right away. But he, himself, said I didn't have to."

It sounded as if this made things that much easier for Orly. "So what did he advise?" wondered Deganit.

"I've got to decide upon one thing. One new halacha that I hadn't kept till now and that I must begin to embrace. If I like, I can keep contact with him. How does that sound?"

"Rabbi Levine knows what he's talking about. If you went to speak to him, it means you intended to listen to what he said, right?"

"True. So what should I decide upon? There are millions of prohibitions!"

"I think you should choose one thing you think you can keep without backtracking. I'd suggest it be something that doesn't arouse any particular notice from those around you. Start with something between you and yourself. Between you and Hashem," Deganit suggested.

"I think I'll start off with something easy, yet not demanding any drastic change in my lifestyle."

Deganit glanced sideways at her. "You'd better prepare yourself. There'll be tests. You'll definitely experience difficulties and unexpected obstacles; all kinds of deterrents will suddenly crop up. It's always like that.

"I, for example, decided to begin by keeping Shabbos. When I first came here, I wanted to do almost everything, without any compromises and leniencies. I hardly traveled home for Shabbos and thought I'd encounter no problems. But precisely that particular upcoming weekend, my parents decided that I had to come and visit since my relatives had just arrived from abroad. This was all at the very beginning of the way. I couldn't tell them what was happening to me and I was afraid to tell them that it would be impossible. So I went.

"It was simply horrible," Deganit recalled. "They traveled back and forth in the very midst of Shabbos. They turned on lights and cooked, listened to music and took snapshots. You can already imagine it for yourself. I sat there like a mourner among wedding guests. I didn't know what was permissible and what not.

"`You probably don't feel well,' my aunt decided on Shabbos morning when she saw me amidst the others, looking frozen and introspected. The idea appealed to me and I retired to bed. I cried so much then, you can't imagine. I hadn't imagined my first Shabbos to be like that! I told everyone that I had no appetite and ate only bread and cheese.

"Towards the end of that Shabbos, they all left the house and went to some kind of entertainment. I remained alone, because, after all, I `didn't feel well.' And then, I suddenly felt as if Hashem, in all His glory, descended, as it were, to join me in my violated Shabbos." Orly smiled.

If Deganit had uttered anything like that a month ago, she'd have been certain she needed hospitalization. Now, it sounded very logical.

"And that was that. I sang to myself some song I remembered from a Shabbos I had spent by a family. I couldn't recall the words exactly, but I was able to recapture the melody accurately. I think that it was at that moment that I firmly resolved to follow this path and that nothing would deter me. I had this sudden inspiration, like a revelation." Deganit teared at the memory of that Shabbos. "A profound sensation that never returned in such intensity, even though I have experienced other flashes of spiritual insight since then. And it accompanies me to this very day. Sometimes, when I feel myself too weak to stand up to all of them, I recall that melody, the song I sang to myself at twilight, and I hum it inside my heart.

"There's another thing I'd like to tell you tonight," Deganit added, taking Orly's hand. They began walking back towards the apartment. "At first, you'll see it in the flesh, you'll feel as if Someone is holding your hand and helping you to walk. As if you are being accompanied along your first steps. Only later will you be enabled to walk by yourself..."

Orly was silent and they walked back thus, sunk in thought.

They were about to go to sleep. The end-of-the-month darkness spread over the sky and Orly turned to her hosts. "In the seminar, they told me that there's a book called the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch. Do you have one here? It's a concentration of all the laws, isn't it?"

She sat and read through it until just before daybreak, leafing back and forth among the chapters and paragraphs.

No, she felt no Divine inspiration, nor any sublime melody singing itself in her heart. Only one big jumble, one large question mark filling her heavily laden mind and heart.


Deganit awoke to the sound of early morning footsteps. "I've got to go," Orly stated emphatically. She zipped up her huge backpack and hoisted it onto her shoulder. "I promised my mother I'd be back. We're having a family get-together tonight."

Deganit wondered if this was an excuse, but didn't say anything. Orly looked so determined that she felt that anything she said would fall on deaf ears.

She left quietly, closing the door behind her. No emotional good-byes, no thanks, no promise to return. Almost without a word of parting. As if she was afraid that someone would run after her and bring her back to the little apartment, to the Jerusalem atmosphere, to the restrictive, demanding framework, to the so-difficult path...

Deganit wanted to look at her, to study her from some hidden window, to see if she was going fast or slow, or hesitantly... Perhaps she might succeed in reading her thoughts. But all the windows in the apartment faced the mountains and Orly had gone out from the front, to the bus that would take her to the Central Bus Station and to Haifa.

And that's how Sharon found her, standing in the narrow hallway, half crying.

"Do you think she'll be back?" Deganit was close to bursting into tears. "She was cold like ice. She never behaved like that to me. We've been friends ever since we were seven. Suddenly, the Orly who used to tell me what was in her heart has disappeared. She always used to share her thoughts with me. I think I told her too much yesterday. She simply decided to quit this whole business and scram. I couldn't say anything to her this morning. You should have seen her packing up her stuff, as if she were angry at me, as if she wanted to yell at me, but was holding it in. No, I don't think she'll be back."

"Who knows?" was all Sharon could say. "You can never tell." She had also taken a liking to Orly and was sorry she had left so suddenly, without even having said good-bye to her.


Candles were lit two more times in the small apartment. Deganit prepared latkes again the last evening and they sat around, eating them.

"You've improved," Ofra remarked. "Any left?" There was a knock at the door. Sharon got up to answer.

Orly didn't wait for an invitation. She simply walked into the kitchen, without apologizing, as if she had just left it. She put down her huge backpack and plunked herself down on a chair near the small refrigerator, still wearing her khaki coat. Deganit stood transfixed, wanting to hug her tightly, to ask what had happened and how come she had decided to suddenly return. But Orly was behaving as if she had just left momentarily and was coming in from another room.

"The smell is just the same as when I left..." she chuckled. "You won't believe what I am about to tell you, but it's all true." Her voice was quiet but emotional. "Do you remember that I asked for a Kitzur Shulchan Oruch?" They nodded.

"I searched all night. I was looking for something I'd be able to handle and that would be unnoticeable, that I could keep without rousing any attention, yet would demand a definite effort, a committment on my part. I don't know why I settled on what I did. It wasn't especially spiritual or connected to anything in particular. But when I was already exhausted, I said to myself: `THIS is what I'll take upon myself.'"

"Nu, so what did you decide upon?" Ofra was bursting with curiosity.

"I decided to wait between eating meat and milk. My mother doesn't really cook meat and milk together, and there is a minimal awareness of kashrus at home. And I didn't even decide to eat only kosher," Orly said apologetically. "Only not to drink coffee at the end of a meat meal and to wait six hours. I generally eat supper late so that this did seem at all problematic. It may seem strange to eat a non-kosher meal and then to wait six hours before eating dairy, but I knew I was only committing myself to one practice.

"I didn't tell anyone about it. My parents are totally unaware that I am undergoing a change, and I thought that it would pass unnoticed. One time I almost forgot and had to secretly dispose of a plate of ice cream I took in the afternoon to avoid questions.

"So we had our family get-together." Deganit sighed with relief. So Orly had had a legitimate reason for leaving, after all.

"Our family is very close-knit. All the cousins and uncles on my mother's side get together each Chanuka. I was very tired and mixed up, as you must have seen, Deganit. I really had no desire to go but I knew that for my mother it was an unbreakable custom. I had no legitimate reason for not coming.

"It was nice to meet everyone. My aunt prepared a lavish spread and the atmosphere was festive. I remembered my decision and I knew that this time, I might be in for trouble. My family loves dairy dishes of all kinds and I had eaten a meat meal for lunch.

"We shmoozed around and I had to fill my plate with something so as not to appear different. I sneaked into the kitchen and checked the boxes that had come from the bakery. I filled up my plate with several sufganiyot from a box which was stamped with the word `Parve.'

"I was relaxing on the couch, conversing with an aunt, plate in hand. Suddenly -- would you believe it --" Orly had gotten to the dramatic part of the story. "A son of my aunt's friend was staying by her, a ten-year-old. He was playing around with all the kids in a bedroom when suddenly, there was shouting. The children ran in, hysterical. The boy had suddenly fainted for a few minutes, and when he woke up, his body was full of blotches and he was having trouble breathing.

"Call my mother," he managed to gasp. "Tell her to bring me my injection." She wasn't home and they had to rush him to the nearby hospital emergency ward, in danger of asphixiation.

"It turned out that he was suffering from anaphylactic shock due to a severe allergy to milk. He always carried an injection with him since an attack was a matter of life-and- death. He, himself, knew enough to be careful not to eat anything containing a milk derivative and before all the guests had arrived, had gone into the kitchen and taken a doughnut from a box marked `Parve.'

"Just look at that! There must have been a mistake in the packaging or someone had mixed up the sufganiyot or something. Perhaps the filling was a dairy caramel. Who knows? After all, they weren't bought in a place with any supervision. And at that very moment, I had been about to put one of those doughnuts into my mouth!

"That boy didn't even belong to our Chanuka party. His mother had to go away and he had joined us. So there I was, not really keeping any mitzvot yet, transgressing who knows how many of them throughout the day. And precisely the one thing I had decided upon -- davka that one, should be in the spotlight. It was as if Heaven had orchestrated it to protect and warn me. As if Hashem had said: If you want to, I'll help you!'

"I didn't dare taste a thing after that. The place was in turmoil, in any case. The boy was released a few hours later, and no one checked my plate to see what I had eaten or not eaten."

Orly finished her story. "So that's it. I came to tell you."

They could hardly absorb this amazing episode.

"There's an extra bed here," Ofra said naturally, offhand. Orly removed her coat and hung it up on the rack behind the door.

"It's just like you said, Deganit. In the beginning, it's as if they're walking beside you. As if Someone is holding your hand and helping you to walk..."


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.