Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Teves 5763 - December 18, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Yerusholayim of Yore
Blessed With Plenty

by Yisca Shimony
a true biographical story

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 first aid."

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 help sighing.

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.

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 wonderful!

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 coals.

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 said.

"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 visit.

"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 cheeks.


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 Yadler, zt'l.


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