Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Kislev 5761 - November 29, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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











Home and Family
Not On Bread Alone
by Sudy Rosengarten

The children slept. She curled up on the one comfortable arm- chair that they owned and waited for her husband to come home.

"The wallpaper does look nice," she told herself emphatically. "The apartment does look prettier since I put it up." But her husband had never even noticed it, had never said a word.

She thought back to the years in Aushwitz, when, in order to stay alive, she'd dreamt of having a loving husband, adorable children and a beautiful home.

"Well, maybe it isn't so beautiful," she conceded with a mirthless laugh. But to her, their cockroach-infested two room cold-water flat in Manhattan's Lower East Side slum -- from which most of the other Jewish survivors of World-War II had already moved away into more Hassidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn -- was still home. How lonely it had become, now that her cousins had all relocated to Williamsburg. How desperately she needed the friendship and warmth of another human being. She looked again at her watch. Moishe would be home any minute. She was wearing a dress that she had just finished sewing that morning. As she'd hoped when she bought the material, the color brought out the green of her eyes. She tucked some soft blond wisps back under her kerchief and went into the kitchen to check the pots on the stove.

She knew it was Moishe by the heavy drag of his footsteps on the stairs. What a tired old man he'd become since they'd arrived in America two years before. Until then, they'd thought of America as the goldener land, the Land of Opportunity, but two years of working in a factory alongside Puerto-Ricans and Negroes had just about killed all his hopes for the future. She wondered if anyone from the Camps would still recognize him as the vibrant young man who'd gone through the valley of almost-dead-bones, liberated after the war, offering encouragement, support, comfort and reasurance? Who would have then imagined that the very one who had inspired hope and faith in others would so soon become drained of them himself?

The footsteps came closer. She smiled into the mirror and unlatched the door. He tried to smile, weariness dulling his eyes. She searched his face for some sign of joy to be home again after the long, hard day but all she saw was frustration. "He's tired," she reminded herself sternly. "He leads a hard life. A wife's job is to pull her husband through the difficult times, to be a moral support till better days come around..."

She served him supper, chattering gaily all the time to lift him out of his depression: the silly things that had happened to her that day, the cute things the children had said or done. She tried not to dwell on his not noticing the new dress she wore or the earrings she'd impulsively clipped on before opening the door. And then she saw that her husband's head had dropped; his eyes were closed.

He was fast asleep, chin on chest, food hardly touched. "And to think that all the girls in Aushwitz envied me for marrying the most sought after young man in the Camp." she exclaimed mockingly. "The most dynamic! The most intense! The very one whose soaring spirit forced them to stay alive when all they longed for was death."

They had planned on aliyah when they married, but as the date of their child's birth drew closer and the entry-certificates for Israel had still not arrived, they had decided to join a group going to America. What difference did it make where they went, so long as their child was not born on German soil!

Her husband woke with a start, looked at his watch, jumped up. "I'll be late," he gasped and grabbed his coat. "But where are you going?" she asked unhappily. "If you only knew how I count the minutes till you get home from work. Ever since the others moved away, I have had no one to talk to all day." He looked up startled, saw the new dress she wore, the earrings, the pained look in her eyes. His face went white. "I've found a teacher," he said in a rush. "In shul, this morning. He said that if I want, he would study with me every night." He looked at his watch again.

"I'm supposed to meet him at eight o"clock." His voice was a cry. "Maybe I can still do something with my life," he pleaded in a near whisper. "Maybe I can still make up for the years that I lost. It's been eating into me ever since we came to America. It's the only thing that I think of all day; to make up for the time that I might have been studying Hashem's holy word. It's come to a point where nothing else makes sense. If I don't at least do that, I won't be able to answer why I tried so hard to stay alive."

As the words rushed out, his face became alive again and his eyes sparkled as they hadn't in years. Once again her husband was the man in the Camp whom everyone had loved. But, whereas in the Camp he'd encouraged her to rise towards him and had welcomed her to fit into his dreams, to share them, now, in desperation to save his own dying spirit, he had neither the patience nor the desire to explain it all to her so that she could understand, and share his longing. "I've been empty for so long."

His plea was a whisper that slashed the silence. How she wanted to recapture the past with him, to redream their future, to cry together with him and hope for better times. How desperately she needed another human being to cling to... She also needed moral support, whereas all he needed was the spiritual stimulation that came from Torah study.

Again her husband looked at his watch. "You do want me to go! Tell me that it's O.K. with you for me to go." The urgency in his voice left her no doubt that their life depended on her answer.

"Yes, of course," she said softly, forcing herself to smile. "Of course you must go. It's perfectly all right. I understand. Anyhow, I wanted to paper the bedroom tonight." His eyes filled with silent gratitude. "Of course you've got to go," she said again. "I am so glad for you! Hurry or you'll be late".

She stood by the open door and listened to him running down the steps, thinking of him as a young man, full of excitement, rushing off to his first love.

It seemed so long ago...


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