Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Cheshvan 5763 - October 30, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Special Education
by N. Bar

Part II

Synopsis: After much deliberation, Shoshy has majored in special education, thanks to the hearty encouragement of an older friend and neighbor, Yael, who has since married and moved away. Successfully having completed the course, Shoshy has answered an ad for a teaching job in this field.

It is Yael whom Shoshy calls to glean some more information. Yael lives in the neighborhood of the distant kindergarten and can find out if the rumors of this institution being about to fold up have any basis.

Yael sounds reserved and distant on the phone. Shoshy subsequently learns why from a mutual friend, Rivky, whom she meets at the supermarket. Since Yael gave birth to a Down's syndrome daughter two years ago, she has retired from society and lost contact with all her old friends.


Thoughts of remorse flooded her. Oh, look how sensitive and caring you thought you were. You didn't want to hurt Dassy and ask her, because she has a brother who suffers from an entirely different problem, and you only made things worse for yourself. You hurt Yael, who's having such a hard time putting up with her situation.

Sunk in her thoughts, Shoshy left her friend Rivky with a feeling of helplessness and regret. In the coming days, she tried to figure out where she had gone wrong and why she was deserving of such punishment -- of hurting people without meaning to. What bothered her most was the thought that Yael would think badly of her. After having told Shoshy, several years back, how much she appreciated her sensitivity, she must have been terribly surprised, and at worst, upset and angry at her. Anyway, Shoshy had no intention of calling Yael again to find out if she had looked into the matter, now that she'd messed it up so badly.

As the week went by slowly, Shoshy remained in a state of depression. So much so that she didn't even think of the job. Besides that, she was upset at herself for not calling Yael back to apologize for her lack of consideration. Every day she prayed that Yael would find it in her heart to forgive her.

After four days of self-recrimination, she received a phone call. "Shoshy, it's someone for you," her brother's voice broke through her gray reveries. "Yes?" Shoshy answered, trying to identify the caller at the other end.

"Shoshy? Shalom," a soft, friendly voice answered. Who was this? Who was calling? She tried to figure out to whom this familiar voice belonged. Wait a minute! Could it be Yael? Yes, her voice sounded just like the old Yael used to sound. Yes, it really was her! But what could she want? She had so much wanted to receive a call from her, even an angry one, just so that she could apologize and explain that she hadn't known about the difficult situation Yael was in and hope for forgiveness.

"Shoshy, is that you?" a strong positive voice continued. "I saw that you weren't calling, so I decided to get in touch. I wanted to say that it would be a shame not to apply for that job opportunity. It's an excellent kindergarten. I checked it out myself long before you asked me. As far as the salary goes, well, they really are in debt, but I heard that the situation is improving since this institution has joined an important, stable organization." Shoshy clutched the receiver anxiously as she listened to every word. She knew that at the end, it would be her turn to speak and to apologize and it would not be easy for her. But, thank G-d, Yael's voice didn't sound as upset as she had anticipated and that would probably enhance her chances for forgiveness.

She was about to begin, when on Yael's side the silence was broken by childish phrases in the background. After that, Yael began to speak again. "Look, Shoshy, I wanted to tell you something else." Shoshy felt herself tense up completely. It was about to come. Now she would talk about it.

"Shoshy, so that's it. You probably remember as well as I do that I always appreciated your sensitivity to others. I think I also helped convince you to go into special education because I felt you had an unusual understanding of people in general, and special children."

And now you realize that you were wrong, Shoshy continued to herself. You realize that I don't care and that I lack sensitivity and that I can step on people's toes. Yes, she imagined very well what Yael would tell her. Now it was her turn to learn her lesson, especially since she hadn't had the nerve to apologize until now.

"Shoshy, are you with me?" continued Yael. Somehow, her voice did not sound angry or threatening. "What I wanted to say is that I didn't really know you well enough then."

Of course, Shoshy mused. Now that you know me, you probably realize that I'm a self-centered person who only cares about herself and her career, and never minds if I have to hurt someone in order to get ahead. The words were so familiar to her that they resonated in her head and almust shut out the voice on the other end.

But Yael's voice was stronger, causing her to stand up in surprise. "...but what I didn't know is that you're intelligent, as well."

"What do you mean? What are you talking about?" Shoshy exclaimed. "If you want to reprove me, and you certainly have good reason to, you don't have to get cynical, especially since I had no intention of..."

Yael continued on without paying any intention to Shoshy's annoyed response. "The intelligent person in you knew enough to ask me in a roundabout way to help you, to investigate an area I myself have experience with, without prying or asking unnecessary questions. And on the other hand, without running away from reality. All this proved to me that you really do have an understanding of people in a caring, sensitive and intelligent way."

Shoshy was still hesitating. She didn't know how to relate to Yael's words. Did she really mean what she was saying, or was she just being sarcastic? Was she being friendly, or putting her down? What did she want from her?

"You see, ever since I gave birth to my Batya'le, my life has changed completely. Besides the fact that she had a difficult problem, the social side of things upset me tremendously. People simply ran away from me. I don't know what they thought or what they felt, and to tell the truth, I was so emotionally overwrought that I didn't have the strength to try and find out. I could only think of my own pain and problems and so I felt completely left out.

"You can't imagine the type of excuses and reactions I got from people. They did everything possible to keep me at a distance. It was as if I had some kind of contagious disease. Even the friends who had seemed to me so close and caring now stayed away and I was left alone and hurting. In anger, I retaliated and closed myself off. How else could I react when I saw my cousin or my good friend hurriedly cross the street as soon as they saw me with the baby carriage? There were others also who tried to avoid the subject and act as if everything was just fine, as if they didn't know anything. But I could tell right away that they were acting -- they were so strained that they just gave themselves away. The curious ones were no better; perhaps they were even worse. They pressed for details and asked so many questions, as if I were just an interesting case for them to hear about and gain more general information. They were so probing and indiscreet sometimes that I dreaded meeting them. All these things just made me retreat more into myself.

"Then came your phone call. In an interested and friendly manner, you asked me for a favor. You probably knew that I must be quite familiar with the institute, since that's the reason I chose to live in this neighborhood. You understood that I could help you and you asked in a natural, refined manner. You gave me an opportunity to help you out and to grow from my experience without making me feel that you were trying to run away from me or, on the other hand, probing into my problems. I appreciate the way you related to me -- as a regular person who could help, not just someone who needs assistance, and for that you deserve a yasher koach.

"You see, I suddenly realized that my opinion and my judgment were still as important to you as in the past, and maybe even more so, now that I am familiar with the topic from close up. And it really did me good. I would really want a teacher like you for my daughter; someone who understands her special needs. I'd like to urge you to take that job. It's cut out for someone like you."

Yael finally finished talking. Her long emotional speech had taken quite an effort and rivulets of perspiration were running down the receiver she held clutched in her hand.

There was a long silence on both sides of the line. Shoshy couldn't believe things had turned out in such a way. But she knew that now was the time to react, and it had better be fast and good.

"Thank you, Yael, thank you for the encouragement," she said in a heartfelt voice. "And most of all, thanks for the special education!"


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