Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Sivan 5763 - June 11, 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 I

She ran as fast as she could, through the grass, past the trees by her back porch, the wind blowing against her face with a raw force that thrilled her. "I'm a bird! I'm free! I'm flying and my skirt is a wing fluttering in the wind..."

She loved this skirt. Her mother had let her pick out the material and she had watched as her mother made it. And now this skirt was like angel wings.


Gavriella froze -- right in the middle of the vegetable patch. She hated it when her mother used that tone of voice, the one she used when Gavriella misbehaved as a child.

Her mother was wiping her hands on a towel. "You're much too big to be running wild like that!"

Gavriella felt stunned. Wild? She wasn't being wild. Her heart began to fill with bewilderment. She was confused. "What's wrong with running in an empty field?" She looked at her arms. Her sleeves were covering her elbows. She ran her fingers through her long, auburn ponytail, trying to untangle the ends.

"What did I do wrong?" she asked again, her voice sounding childlike in her own ears.

"I told you! You're much too big to be running wild like that!"

That was an answer? In Gavriella's heart, now, there was more hurt together with the bewilderment.


Gavriella made a point of going to school early the next morning to see Mora Devora. Mora Devora was a great tutor! Her patient eyes reminded Gavriella of her grandmother.

"Oh, good! She's here alone!" Gavriella gulped down a big breath of air as she stepped into the small room used for tutorials. She told her teacher about running in the field, the feeling of flying... and about her mother, and how hurt Gavriella had felt. Still felt.

Morah Devora nodded, her eyes so understanding. "Gavriella, last year you were in a secular school, learning in the evenings about Shabbos and Kashrus. This year you're in Beis Leah Jr. High School full-time and doing quite well, all things considered. Your parents' divorce three years ago must have been a difficult thing for you, in and of itself, but then moving to our neighborhood, coming to a new school with new rules, everything so new..."

Gavriella looked down, nodding. "I feel like I belong, thanks to the girls in the class. And Ruth... I don't know what I would do without Ruth." She looked up. "Or without you."

Mora Devora smiled her kind, empathetic smile. Then her face took on a serious look, "But with regard to running in the field, Gavriella, I know you didn't mean anything, but you really are too big to be doing things like that. Someone could be passing by and see you. It's not considered modest and proper. You're maturing and there are things that one does, and does not do."

"It was close to my house."

"Outside is public."

"And my Mom..." she felt the hurt rising in her all over again, as if the whole episode were happening again, right now.

"Gavriella," Mora Devora said, looking into Gavriella's eyes and seeing the dark brown confusion within them. She made a mental note to speak to Gavriella's mother, but for now, she prayed in her heart for the right words. "Even if your mother doesn't say things as gently as you'd like, try to hear the words that she's saying, not the way she says them. Try to see things from the other person's perspective, alright? You'll try?"

Gavriella nodded, "I'll try."

The bell rang. Mora Devora picked up a stack of papers. "I have to go now. I'll see you at the regular time, O.K.?"

Gavriella nodded, watching her teacher rush out. She thought about her words... and her mother's words. Her mother's tone of voice bothered her a lot but the words themselves? Well, all her mother had said was that it wasn't right to run outside. She couldn't say that her mother was wrong. But did her mother have to speak to her the way she did?


Ruth was Gavriella's life saver; she was also in the same school, one grade higher.

Ruth and her family had moved to Israel from England only a year earlier, so although she had grown up religious and had an intact family, still Gavriella felt that Ruth really understood the problems of adjusting to a new place as well as to a new lifestyle. And Gavriella adored Ruth's British accent!

One of the main ways Ruth helped, other than listening so much, was by going over Gavriella's homework with her. Now Gavriella looked up from the new frum thriller she was reading. Honestly, it was 8:15 already! Ruth had said she'd be over at 7:00. Where was she? Gavriella reached over, brushing the stack of novi notes as she lifted the receiver and dialed Ruth's number.


"I guess I have no choice," Gavriella grumbled to herself.

Peeking into the small laundry room, Gavriella said, "Mom, is it okay if I go over to Ruth?"

Mrs. Levine looked up from folding sheets. "Fine."

A few minutes later, novi notes in hand, Gavriella stood in front of Ruth's house. She was invited often for Shabbos but had never come over during the week. It felt strange. Intrusive.

As a place to study, Gavriella's house was the obvious preference, since Ruth's five younger siblings were usually around. But still, it was almost 8:30 p.m. She took a deep breath and knocked. Ruth opened the door.

"Oh, Gavriella! I'm so sorry! Come in, come in. My mother had to travel to my grandmother." Ruth smiled at the wide awake little faces around her. "At least I said Shema with all of them and I did finish up the dishes, plus I folded the washing, but how does one get such lively children to bed? Did anybody see Motty's favorite pacifier?"

Gavriella went over to the couch and pulled a protruding pacifier from between the cushions. "Is this it?"

"Oh, thank you so much!" Ruth said, rinsing it off and popping it into one- year-old Motty's mouth. "Here we go, now!" She put her hands on her hips. "Everybody to bed, straight away!"

The children went scampering to their rooms amidst giggles as Ruth scooped up Motty, went into one of the bedrooms, and came back empty-handed. She looked around. "Could you please help me tidy up the living room? Then we can study."

Gavriella watched as Ruth gathered up toys and placed them into a basket. Ruth looked up. "Please put all those papers in the rubbish bin."

Gavriella began picking up papers from the floor. Just thinking about doing all the things Ruth had done this evening seemed overwhelming! Gavriella wondered if Ruth helped like this every day. Gavriella never took care of much of anything at her own home. She mumbled to herself. "All I do is think about myself!"

Within half an hour, the living room was neat and organized. "There we are! Thank you so much, Gavriella! Now time to review."


Tuesdays were Gavriella's fullest day. First of all, Tuesdays had the most classes. She didn't finish until 4:00, which meant all the more material to go over with Mora Devora. Now, two hours later, Gavriella was home and ravenous! She opened the fridge door and took out five different plastic containers of food, humming contentedly. She didn't even sit. She just said a brocha and took a full bite of cheesecake. Her mother had made it just the way she loved. Gavriella dug in, then piled a huge amount of left-over mashed potatoes onto her fork and was about to put it into her mouth when her mother walked in from work.

"That's not the right way to eat!" Her mother sank into a chair, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, Gavriella. I'm just so tired."

"You're always so tired!" Gavriella grumbled, getting up and leaving the kitchen.

She had no appetite, anyway.

Once inside her room, however, Gavriella stopped short. Mora Devora had told her to see things from the other person's perspective. She would try. Her mother was obviously tired after working the whole day as a teacher's assistant, and the travel time alone was more than an hour each way and still, she had apologized. She thought about her old school. There had never been a `right way' or a `wrong way' to eat.

And her new frum school. Hmmm. Come to think of it, she couldn't remember ever seeing anyone eating standing up, leaning over a table the way she just had. It did seem more dignified to eat while sitting, taking smaller bites, putting everything out on a plate. More... ladylike. She couldn't believe that those words had popped into her head! But they had. And they made sense, too.


Motzaei Shabbos, the two girls sat on Gavriella's bed with Chumash Bereishis opened on the desk in front of them. Gavriella pulled her knees up to her. She didn't like the way her clothes were getting too small on her. She didn't want new clothes; she didn't want to buy in the Junior section with the more adult styles. There were too many changes, and she was unable to stop any of them. Why couldn't she be a little girl forever?

Ruth was asking Gavriella the fifth practice question but Gavriella couldn't concentrate. All she could think of was what Mora Devora had said the other day, "...too big to be doing things like that." Like what?

Suddenly, Gavriella blurted, "I'm just no good. I'll never be."

"What are you saying? Of course, you're good! Why, a couple of years ago, you didn't even know the basics of Judaism and now you're understanding Rashi!'

Gavriella tightened her grip around her knees. "Little good it does me to understand Rashi when I don't know right from wrong."

"How did this come up now?" Ruth's eyes filled with concern. "Right 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 and 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.

[Final part next week]


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