Jewish Story about Romance in the Old Yeshuv



            April/May 2012    
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When Sorrele Found Itzig: A Taste of Honey

By Norman Chansky

Up! Up! Boker boh" the pilot's voice sang through the loudspeaker. "This is your pilot speaking. Everybody up. It is MORN-ing." "Up, Up. Wake up!" the staff sergeant stewardess ordered as the lights in the main cabin came on. "You men in the back," she was addressing the men swiveling and rocking as they arranged their phylacteries. "Take your seats. We are landing in thirty minutes." They ignored her until she, her arms akimbo, marched toward them . Their bodies circled back and forth. One more minute they were gesturing with their fingers.

Itzig had another night of fitful sleep. It was like every night for the past month since leaving Boro Park. He stretched his arms and blinked several times. Was it true he asked himself. Am I really landing in Palestine? Although his thoughts were muddled and his emotions perplexed, he would write to Sorrele that elements of clarity were surfacing from his deep confusion. Still he could not fathom why his brother, Joshua, could be so cruel. It was he who stole from the meager earnings from AVROHOM'S GLATT KOSHER CONFECTIONAIRE.

That store was no bigger than a jail cell yet carried all sorts of candies, some imported from Palestine. "You say anything," Joshua had said "And I'll kill you." Then he punched Itzig in the stomach. Itzig foundered. Then Joshua stood over his brother and recited the Mourner's Kaddish. It was he who said he would give his gambling winnings to Israel, Israel Cohen, his bookie and then gave a sinister laugh like THE SHADOW, a flawless imitation of Orson Welles. Although aching from head to foot, Itzig had stuffed some books and clothes in a Navy surplus duffel bag and left home.

After his beating, he stumbled like a drunkard toward the BMT station. He fixed his skull cap that slipped underneath his black fedora. "Good bye Boro Park, Good bye my young scholars" he chanted to the tune of Hatikvah, the national anthem song of hope. Before reaching the subway station, his thoughts heavier than his duffel bag, he saw Sarah Pincus, his Sorrele. "I'm making aliya," he tearfully shouted. He fixed the strands of blonde sneaking out of her student nurse's cap. Breaking all rules of modesty, she hugged him fiercely and kissed him.

Next door neighbors, they had been friends since she was in first grade and he, in second. When he was in fourth grade he brought his Talmud book home and would study with her many an afternoon. When he prepared his assignments he would share the ancient words of the rabbis with her. She absorbed their wisdom like a sponge. His home work done, they would sing Hebrew songs. Together they had tasted the elixir of The Bible; were warmed by the fervor of the sages; were elevated by the ecstasy of the kabbalah; were awed by the brilliance of the commentaries; and, above all, were exalted by their devotion to God. "I will never forget you," she sobbed. And with the sweet taste of young love and the lingering scent of Sarah's lavender water, Itzig left Brooklyn for a destiny awaiting him in, as the Gentiles say, the Holy Land. "May G-d Watch over you," she sobbed.

On the plane Itzig imagined the brown hills of Jerusalem baked in the sun for countless centuries and the great men who walked them: David, Jeremiah, and countless scholars. He longed to walk in their ways and in their path. Then he worried did I abandon my father. He admitted to himself that his students needed him. Then, again, so did the country he wanted to help rebuild. And most of all he yearned for Sarah.

He was torn. Then he remembered his father's stories of suffering in Poland. It was from Warsaw that Jewish youth not only sought a haven in Zion but chose to rebuild it into the vibrant nation that it once had been. His pilgrimage was a mission. Those were romantic stories of poignant times. He thought of the moment when a recruiter arrived at his yeshiva. Join the League for a Building Palestine. Emancipate our people; rebuild our land. It appealed to him. Like our teacher Moses he hearkened to The Call. "Hi-nay-nee" here I am. My father would understand he comforted himself.

After a turbulent sixteen hour flight that taxed the limits of his brain and digestive system, Itzig arrived in Lydda. A web of British security guards eyed him suspiciously until Uri of the kibbutz secretariat hustled him on to a battered bus. "Ba-ruch ha-bah," (blessed is the one who has arrived). Itzig felt immediately wanted. At the kibbutz, Uri led Itzig to member bunks. "This one is yours." He pointed to a cot covered by a thin mattress. Then he told him that the Afternoon and Evening prayers were about to begin after which they would sit down for supper. There was nothing ornate about the prayer room. Each kibbutz member took a folding chair and placed it next to a "chaver". "Chaverim!" Uri announced in Hebrew this is a new oleh. We'll call him "Itz". "Ba-ruch ha-bah Itz", they chanted. They sang many of the afternoon prayers "Ashray yoshvay vaytecha" Happy are they who dwell in Your House." The service over, the chaverim took their folding chairs and piled them in a corner. Itz wrote to Sarah that Uri speaks in a machine gun staccato rhythm. When piqued his voice rises in an arpeggio like a harp strummed from lowest C to highest C.

Itz apologized that he knew Biblical Hebrew rather than Conversational Hebrew. Uri just laughed. Words sputtered out of his mouth. "You'll learn quickly. You might even add some words to our vocabulary. Who knows?" Then frantically he skittered back and forth like a hummingbird. There was much to be done before his bedtime and he trusted no one to help him.

Itzig wrote long letters to Sarah telling her about his visit to many sites, the pure air of Palestine, the sun baked hills of Jerusalem. He even found his way to the Dead Sea. He dodged many an obstacle. He was buoyed by the water and even more so by his daring venture. Raising turkeys on the kibbutz was a mitzvah, something worthwhile. But he was sad when they were slaughtered. On the other hand, people needed protein.

When exploring the land he would often have to sneak through brush and rubble to catch a glimpse of its wonders. Everyone at his kibbutz was Orthodox in some way or another, many of them liberated from the camps just two years earlier. Some of the men were beardless. The weather being so hot he shaved his beard. He was still Orthodox but also comfortable. Sarah would write him letters telling of her joy at his good fortune to serve and of her hope that some day she would join his cause as a pioneer. What a privilege that would be. What a delight! They had so much in common. Both loved learning. Each was the other's best friend.

He also wrote a long letter to his father explaining his decision to make aliyah, pilgrimage to Zion. It was a pull to the land of the patriarchs. That was a half truth he would confess next Yom Kippur. His brother Joshua tore it up as well as many of the letters telling of his joy at serving in Palestine. Joshua filled with rancor and jealousy, with a smirk on his face, would trash them. In time, Avrohom believed Itzig was dead. After many a month Avrohom rent his jacket and mourned his son. The mere mention of his name led Avrohom to say, "May his memory be a blessing". Because he was so busy putting bread on the table there was much that Avrohom did not know about his two sons. Itzig was a superior student at the Beis Yaacov Yeshiva. Itzig was not one to show off his achievements. His teachers lauded his wisdom, dedication, and ardor. He was especially gifted in Aramaic for a 21 year old man. So talented was he that he was invited to tutor a class in Talmud.

Itzig's students adored him. He was kind to them. Never was he sarcastic; never did he embarrass a student who made a mistake. After school Itzig often worked side by side with his father at AVROHOM'S GLATT KOSHER CONFECTIONAIRE. On the other hand, Joshua was the only student at the Yeshiva to be asked to leave. He would sass his teachers and would rarely turn in written assignments. In an act of defiance he attended Brooklyn College where he found his niche. He also would help out at his father's store but would pocket some of the sales and bet on horses with an ultra-orthodox bookie. Itzig knew about this and accused his brother of breaking two commandments, stealing and dishonoring their father. "Shame on you, Joshua, shame, shame," Itzig admonished. That was when his brother beat him up. That had been the last straw. When Avrohom returned from the candy store, Joshua, crossing his fingers so his father did not see, said that Itzig dipped his hand in the till and fled.

In her lifetime, the Widow Perl slapped her daughter's face only twice. Once, when she became a woman; the second time when one she chanted from the Biblical text. Sarah was never to perform those functions reserved for men, her mother insisted. Sarah protested "why can't a woman study the holy books like men do?" Her mother raised her hand again. Like that of the patriarch Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac, it halted midair. "Sarah," her mother pleaded, "don't rebel against the ways of our people." Sarah had a rage that could curdle her mother's milk. Rather than dip her tongue in venom, she forced her lips to smile as she formed a plan to escape to Zion, to her Itzig. She had three more months of schooling before she would graduate from Beis Rochel Hospital School of Nursing where she mastered Anatomy, Microbiology, Pediatrics, Chemistry, Nutrition, and Patient Care. She was an all A student. She had the brains and drive to become a doctor but she lacked the tuition money for medical school. At home, though, she was content to study the Talmudic tractate BLESSINGS which she hid in a satin pillow case under her mattress. She wanted to learn when and how to pray.

One day she went to the emissary's office and told him that she was planning to emigrate to Palestine. Since the local quota had not been filled, he made kibbutz life sound attractive. Milking cows, planting corn, harvesting corn, feeding corn to the chickens, teaching children health care. Free room and board and what is more a free plane ride to Palestine, the land of hope where dreams come true. And Itzig would be there.

Secretly, Sarah obtained her birth certificate and passport. She withdrew funds from her bank account. One night she composed a letter to her mother. It took weeks of editing. Finally, she wrote,

    Dearest Mama,

      Since I first heard stories about Palestine from my teachers, I have wanted to go there and be a part of it. I am twenty years old, a trained nurse. Old enough to know my own mind and to be responsible for myself. I am leaving in a few weeks. Let's make them the best weeks of our lives. Please understand that I yearn to be a part of our people's destiny.

        Your loving daughter,

          Sorrele

        Much to Sarah's surprise, her mother said that she understood. She herself left Warsaw when she was sixteen. When she arrived in America she was suckled on sorrow. By the time she was Sarah's age she was weaned on woe. Still nothing could have stopped her from building a new life in America. Then her husband's light was snuffed out by a virulent pneumonia. The same fate befell Itzig's mother's. Times were not easy for her and they wouldn't be for her Sorrele.

        When Itzig learned of her plans he called her. The phone connection was poor, crackling and fading in and out. "Shalom Sarah," Itz kept repeating. Do you hear me? Listen!" He then shouted, "do you hear me? Wait a few months before you come here. Beware." Then the line went dead. She understood him to say "Don't wait a few months to come here. Mahair." (fast) There was not a more miserable time to make aliya Itzig was trying to tell her. There had been explosions in every major city. Food shortages spread as well as fear that shoppers would become victims of a grenade attack. His kibbutz was training for war.

        Reluctantly, he wrote to her, that he learned how to fire a rifle. He amazed himself that he shot accurately. He got a high each time he hit the target. For self protection, he wrote to Sarah, he carried his rifle with him each time he went anywhere. Sarah felt that there was all the more reason to make aliya.

        Before she left for Palestine she stopped by AVROHOM'S GLATT KOSHER CONFECTIONAIRE to say goodbye to Itzig's father. "Alive?" Avrohom shrieked. "Itzig phoned you? You heard his actual voice?" Sarah explained that she had received many letters from Itzig. He was settled in his new surroundings on a religious kibbutz raising turkeys.

        "I am going to Palestine to join him". Avrohom dug into his pocket and gave her a hundred dollar bill for Itzig. Joshua overheard the conversation. "Give him something from me" he said flicking his fingers. "You gave him enough, mister" Sarah stabbed, her face beet red. "You scoundrel. Out of envy offal spews from the depths of your soul." Joshua's ego melted like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. He kicked the candy case like a four year old. Sarah brought her hand to her lips and blew them a kiss. "L'hit-ra-oat" she said. "Until we meet again."

        From Itzig's letters she learned that his name was shortened to Itz. The first thing he noticed upon his arrival in Palestine, he wrote, was the warmth of the weather. Next was the warmth of the people. How cordial they were. "Ba-ruch ha-bah" he heard them say. Not "welcome" nor "greetings" but "Ba-ruch ha-bah". Blessed are you who arrived. From letters Sarah learned that Uri introduced Itz to the chaverim who led him to the dining area. There Itz saw several long tables with some 50 chaverim waiting for the food brigade to begin serving. The din was deafening. Raucous laughter pierced his ears. The meal was hardly sumptuous: a few slices of cheese, pumpernickel bread, and tea. The chaver sitting next to Itz, Avi, explained that the big meal is breakfast after the morning prayers. "We will show our gratitude to G-d by singing the Grace After Meals." Then there were more songs and even more until 9:00 o'clock when all the chaverim retired to their bunks.

        Avi was a soft spoken chaver from rural Vermont where few Jews were to be found. Raised on a farm he would have been called a yokel or a rube by a city slicker. Gentle in manner and genteel, in manners, he was the height of refinement. Courteous to a fault, his demeanor was flawless. He would have been an anomaly in Boro Park. Like Itz he went to Palestine to build the land. A farmer's son, he intimately knew about agriculture. In his spare time he had schooled himself in Bible and Talmud.

        Days later Itz and several new chaverim got into the battered bus and drove north to visit Haifa. The bus driver entered the Dining Room to locate his passengers. On the plane Sarah was reading Itz's letter about that trip. She was laughing out loud much to the dismay of the sleeping passengers. But she was too excited to sleep. Itz wrote that the driver was shouting, "Mahare, Mahare. I don't have all day." "Savlanut," shouted a chaver impatiently. Itz would soon get used to brusqueness. Itz wrote that he was enthralled by the rolling hills, the coast, but especially the date palm trees. He had never seen a palm tree in his life. The clacking of the fronds was a symphony of timpani. To take up the time the new members broke into song. Avi led the others in all of the hymns the kibbutz members sing on the Sabbath. How could a country boy know so many tunes Itz thought to himself. The members sang with all of their hearts and souls as the prayer says.

        Once in Haifa, Itz wrote, that they got off the bus and walked around the city. There were British troops patrolling the streets. They looked mean, angry, and tired. Their days were numbered, though. The streets were filled with Arabs doing their food shopping. They gave friendly greetings to the kibbutzniks with Salaam aleykem. Itz repeated their greetings. Those were the first Arabic words he learned and they were so much like Hebrew. And there was a warmth to them. Yet Avi said to keep a watchful eye. He knew of the killing of Jewish workers by Arab militants in this very city and their chanting "Allahu Akbar". God is the Great.

        The two of them stopped at a food kiosk. He could not resist the tempting falafel sandwich. "Take a bite, b'vakashah," he urged Itz. "It is kosher, all vegetables. A home made tahini sauce blankets a ball of fried chickpeas, onion, parsley. A pocket in pita bread keeps the balls and chopped vegetables in place." Itz hesitated. Not to hurt Avi's feelings he bit into the sandwich overflowing with a white sauce. Itz went on to describe the bus trip to farms growing bananas, olives, corn, watermelons, figs, and lentils. Then, he wrote, the bus circled Mount Carmel stopping at an edifice surrounded by magnificent gardens. There in plain sight was the golden domed Bahai temple where Abdul Baha, the founder of the Bahai religion was buried.

        The driver then took the group past many churches, mosques, and synagogues. He said that Haifa is a city of coexistence. Haifa, known as "the white dove", accommodates both Christian and Moslem Arabs as well as Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Maronites, and Jews. On the way back to the home kibbutz there was another intensive class in Modern Hebrew. Then the bus passed Roman ruins lying on the ground near the aqueducts at Caesarea.

        Bladder tensions forced the group to holler for a rest stop. "Mahair, mahair," someone urgently shouted. Shouting, Itz wrote, is the only way to get the attention of an indifferent driver. The driver stopped at the dunes of Caesarea. "O.K. chaverim," this is a public bathroom." There was no building in sight. The men got off the bus and relieved themselves standing in the sand. "Mahair, Mahair," the driver demanded. The members barely had time to zip up their pants. Itz and Avi had severe stomach cramps and rid themselves of the undigested falafel sandwiches. Food would lose its allure for them for many days to come. Later they joked that their falafel was a powerful form of Arab revenge. As her plane lurched toward a landing, Sarah laughed until tears rolled down her cheek and wet Itz's letter.

        When Sarah arrived in Palestine she was taken by taxi to her kibbutz. When she arrived the secretary bid her "bruchah ha-ba-ah". Blessed is she who arrived. She felt wanted and instantly knew she would love Palestine. After a good night's rest Ruti, Secretary For Women, sat down with her to map out a plan for her stay at the kibbutz. Sarah could not help noticing the numbers on Ruti's wrist. Ruti was all business. "You are a trained nurse. We have many trained nurses from the camps. What we need is a m'tapellet, a care giver, for the children, most of them orphans. Can you love them?" Sarah was nonplussed. How could she in good conscience turn down this request? What happened to all of the years of nurse's training. Sarah looked at Ruti's wrists and said, "of course". She tried to hide her disappointment.

        But the tears in her eyes told a different story. Ruti put her arm around Sarah and said, "yi-hi-yeh tov Sorrele. It will be all right. We need you and you need us." That embrace dissolved her inner turmoil; it softened her. Not only did he feel wanted, she felt needed. "Show me the children," she begged Ruti. And there in the Children's Room she thought she heard the clarion call of the shofar summoning her to mission. And with gusto that was asleep in her soul for so long she embraced the little girls. Their smiles were her reward.

        After she was settled and her brain cleaned of jet lag, she asked Ruti if she could phone Itz. Her answer frightened Sarah. The phone lines were down. There had been attacks on civilians throughout the land. Itz's kibbutz was burned to the ground. The turkeys were scorched; the palm trees, in ashes; the dead kibbutzniks, buried. No one knows who survived. "Please God," Sarah prayed, "Watch over my Itzchak".

        Sarah's kibbutz bordered the Mediterranean. At twilight she would walk to the edge and watch the reflection of the setting sun in the swelling waves. She thought if only the whole world would embrace the beauty and peace of that moment. Then she would trudge through the sand and pick up shells and ancient blue glass fragments left by the sea. She'd finger the shells and enjoy their smooth backs. "Children," she would say when she returned to the kibbutz "look at the present that G-d Gave us today."

        The first Shabbat was both exhilarating and frightening. Shabbat, the Heart of Creation, was the source of Light, Peace, and Joy to the world. It was God's Gift to humanity. Sarah had never experienced such conviviality. The rabbi began his blessing, "This week crests toward its apogee And coalesces with eons of history. Heavenly Harps Strum And Celestial Voices Hum Their Welcome to the Shabbat Queen: Hallowed Presence, Beauty Pristine." He then recited the blessing over the wine and then the blessing over the bread, the reminder of the cake that the people gave to the priests in the days of The Temple.

        All chanted Amen. Members sipped their wine and snapped a pillow from their golden glazed challah and repeated the blessing over bread. A large tureen of chicken soup filled with knaydlach balls appeared. As with most kibbutz foods the soup had more than a hint of garlic. The members smacked their lips. Following the soup were platters of sliced brisket, broiled chicken, and roasted potatoes. A rare treat. But it was Shabbat after all.

        The main course finished, watermelon chunks arrived as desert. There was such friendliness among the members. Smiles and laughter were on every face at the long table even on a knot of gaunt faces whispering in Yiddish. Flower vases were everywhere to be seen on the clean linen table cloths. Before the Grace After the Meal the members sang "tsur mishelo" from You my Rock O God have I eaten. After Grace was sung, women rose and clacking their tongues ululated with gusto while doing the patch tanz. First, they joined hands and formed a single circle. Next, they turned eight steps to the right. Then, eight steps to the left. They then took two steps forward toward the middle and clapped their hands three times. Next, they took two steps backward, stamped their heels three times and rejoined their hands. They twirled and found a new partner.

        So many members wanted to be Sarah's partner. She had never been a good dancer but the women showed her the steps and, fumbling at first, before she knew it she was dancing like a pro. Never had she known such joy, such Sabbath joy. She was a vital link in the history and preservation of her people.

        At 3:00 A.M. shots rang out and several of the children awoke in tears. Frightened, the sheep bleated raucously and ran helter-skelter toward the gates. Rushing into Sarah's arms were two toddlers struggling for comfort. Who was to comfort Sarah, though? She herself was alarmed. Forgetting her own fright, with a racing heart she gathered the children to her bosom and said, "yihyeh tov. All will be well. God is our Guardian."

        The watchmen fixed their rifle sights and shot. Then there were shots from elsewhere. After fifteen minutes quiet settled over the kibbutz. The next day three dead marauding Arabs, blood stained checkered kaffiyeh hanging from their heads, were found lying near the main building. One of the watchmen choked up and recited a passage from the Merchant of Venice in Hebrew.

          I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer.

        He continued, "and you were an Arab with eyes like mine, hands, and organs. And like me a mother's son."

        At dawn the crowing of a strutting rooster awoke the members drowsy from little sleep. The rooster's call was like a shofar summoning members to prayer. The groggy members assembled in the Prayer Room, already humming with rumors of the early morning events. The rabbi banged the lectern and announced there was a quorum of men. All chanted the morning prayers with the ancient lilt.

        Sarah bundled her little charges still shivering and sniffling spasms of fright and told them that God Watches over them. This was only slight comfort to them. As the morning service came to a close, the rabbi welcomed and praised the men still carrying rifles. The very one who killed the Arabs and recited Shakespeare hoarsely shrieked, "I slew my cousin Esau" and, sobbing, chanted the lament of the Mourner's Kaddish, doxology glorifying G-d. Sarah, shaken by those words, churned with emotion. On the one hand she was alive. On the other hand, there was something disturbing about the voice she heard. Was it a voice she recognized from the past or one of a heroic stranger she imbued with melancholy? Tears glinted in her eyes. How mixed were her emotions. They vacillated between alarm, dismay, and relief.

        After lunch all of the members went to their cabins for a nap. Sarah's charges did not leave her side and whimpered in their sleep. When they awoke Sarah took them in her arms and said, "let's all go for a Shabbat stroll and thank G-d we have the strength to overcome our fright". The two little girls held tightly to Sarah's hands. They were dressed in bright white blouses and blue skirts in honor of the Sabbath. The sun shone in the sky reflecting swaying palm trees; birds sang; and the air was filled with fragrance of orange blossoms. One little girl, Miriam, picked up a stray rock and watched it skitter across the water, rising five times. How her heart gladdened. Sheerah, the other girl, picked another stone and skittered it across the waters. How they all laughed: they forgot for a moment how scared they had been.

        When they returned to the kibbutz it was time for the afternoon and evening prayers. The sun was lowering in the west and tinges of pink streaked in the sky. Toward the conclusion of the service three bright stars appeared in the sky as the rabbi intoned the blessings over the wine. The ornate spice box was jiggled sending its clove and cinnamon fragrances into the air. The double wicked twisted havdalah candle flared and blessed. The rabbi held curved fingers up to the flames. The shadow of his fingers reflected on to his palms. A few drops of wine doused the flames. He drank the wine and the kibbutz members sang out "Hamavdil", the separation of the sacred from the ordinary. Everyone wished each other a good week. A cluster of Yiddish speaking women sang with almost mystical fervor, "Ani ma-a-min." Even though The Messiah Tarries I still believe. All assembled shared that profound spiritual moment.

        Sarah noticed the beardless man with the rifle, the one who shouted during the Mourner's Kaddish. A stabbing pain pierced her heart. She tapped him on the shoulder. "Do you know a kibbutznik called "Itz"? Aware of her lavender fragrance he turned around. He looked at her. His heart fluttered and spiraled upwards. "I am Itz". "From Brooklyn?," she pressed. "From Brooklyn," he replied. "Your father Avrohom owns a candy story?" she persisted. "He IS my father." he acknowledged. "But you are beardless," she was befuddled. "I am still Jewish, very Jewish," Itzig replied. Sarah pushed the rifle aside and without any shame embraced him. "You are my Itzig," she wept. "I have found you, my polestar, at last. He wiped her tear and kissed her cheek. He swooned, "Sorrele". They were holding hands as they left the Prayer Room. They headed toward the sea. Sarah rested her head on Itizig's shoulder as together they watched the reflection of the moon rippling in the waves.

        After some time Itz began to kiss Sarah's hair. A glimmer of sadness wormed its way into his soul. "I must confess," he began, "There are some days I have misgivings about moving to Palestine." Sarah said, "So do I. It's one thing to read about the hardships, it's another to live it." "That's how I feel also," Itz said. "I wanted to teach Talmud but instead I took care of turkeys-until the Arabs torched my kibbutz." "I wanted to do nursing here," Sarah chimed in, "instead I am a m'tapellet." Both regretted what they had said. "Despite the gossip, the in fighting, the career disappointment, and the fear of Arab raids, I belong here waiting for the procrastinating Messiah," Sarah proclaimed. "Me too," Itz agreed. "Would it be all right if I kissed you?" Itz asked. "All right? I would welcome it," Sarah blushed.

        Together they walked hand in hand to their respective cabins. Neither slept well that night. Each felt they had fallen into an abyss of uncertainty. The next morning the rooster woke everyone. The little children gathered around Sarah. They needed her attention. She had much to think about. As did Itz. There was an announcement at the women's "luach modaot". The sign on the bulletin board read "Talmud lessons tonight". Itz didn't sign his name. That night Sarah brought her well worn copy of the tractate Brachot, Blessings. The one she brought with her from America. Eighteen women showed up for class. When Itz walked in smiles appeared on everyone's face. Sarah's heart thumped with joy. Itz began "when is the proper time to recite the sh'ma in the evening?". There followed the varied views of the sages. Opinions ranged from nightfall to midnight to the light of dawn. There were differences of opinion in the class, too. The members enjoyed the disputation claiming it sharpened their minds.

        When class was over Sarah approached Itz. "Let's walk to the sea again." As they walked Sarah asked do you have any regrets? About last night?" Itz was tongue tied. He turned to her and stuttered, "N N None" as they watched the branches of the orange orchard, a patch of paradise, mirrored in the placid Mediterranean waters.

        Sarah who was forward, a habit she learned in Brooklyn, said, "Let's marry." Itz was taken aback. A tempest brewed in his brain. Lightening surged; thunder crashed. He was unhinged. He argued with himself, "I'm too young, how can I support her, the times are unsettled, but I want no one else to be my wife." "Let's be realistic," he argued "I have no money, no job, no prospects." "I am realistic, too," Sarah disagreed. "I want no one else to go through life with. We can live on the kibbutz as husband and wife." Both listened to the waves gently rolling in and took it as a quiet affirmation from G-d. Then Sarah told Itz that before she came to Palestine his father gave her $100. She said that we can use the money to pay for a kibbutz wedding. "A ring?" he asked. "Who needs it?" she challenged.

        Sarah and Itz called home. Despite the poor telephone reception, Avrohom and Mrs. Pincus understood. Sarah's mother said that she was not in good enough health to travel. Itz's father said that he was delighted with the news and will attend the wedding. Months passed as Sarah and Itz planned their future. "How many children?" Itz asked. Smiling, Sarah replied, "G-d Will Decide".

        May 14, 1948 was the Day of Independence for the Jews and a Day of Catastrophe for the Arabs. Jewish guns blasted to celebrate; Arab guns, to avenge. It had also been the day that Sarah and Itzig had planned to be joined in holy matrimony. Amid the tumult, Sarah, dazzling in her ocean blue skirt and arabesque gilded brocaded white blouse, walked down the aisle of the kibbutz prayer room carrying her copy of Brachot encased in her satin pillowcase. She joined Itzig under the chuppah, the canopy, symbol of the home the couple will build together. Avi was his best man; Ruti was Sarah's matron of honor. The rabbi entered and raised his voice defying the racket of gunfire. "Mee adir" Who is the Most Mighty?

        The four open sides of the chuppah said, as in the days of yore, all are welcome into our home. How poignant was this moment as Itz's father's tallit, prayer shawl stretched across the canopy poles. At the bride's side were Miriam and Sheera, two flower girls. The two orphans would never leave her side as Sarah and Itz later adopted them. The wedding couple knew what it was like to grow up deprived of a parent. Sarah wore her mother's veil which Avrohom brought from Brooklyn. By Itz's side were his father and brother. The rabbi recited the blessing over the wine. Itz lifted the veil and gave Sarah a sip. Sarah smiled knowing that Itzig would always be with her.

        His father gave Itz Sarah's mother's wedding band. Itzig recited the ancient words "Ha-ray at m-ku-de-shet li b'ta-ba-at zu k'dat Moshe Yis-ra-el" . With this ring I do thee wed according to the faith of Moses and Israel." Sarah looked at the ring, and remembering her mother, her knees grew weak . Her mother would always be a part of rather than apart from her.

        At the conclusion of the ceremony Itz stomped on the the glass. At the sound of the shattered glass, his brother shouted "Am Yisrael chai. Long live Israel." "Forgive me." he begged Itz. " I was jealous of you. I was immature. Now I just look up to you, my dear brother." He turned to Sorrele and said, "Thank you my sister for nudging me to grow up." Itz shook his brother's hands, then he hugged his father. With loving eyes he looked at his Sorrele, embraced her and gave her a lingering kiss on her lips. Then Miriam scrambled up onto Sarah and grasped her shoulder. "Eema," she whispered; Sheera climbed onto Itz and clung to his shoulders and whispered "abba". The kibbutz members then shouted, "Mazal tov. Am Yisrael chai." Long live Israel. This was a day for celebrations.

        ~~~~~~~

        from the April 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

        Material and Opinions in all Jewish Magazine articles are the sole responsibility of the author; the Jewish Magazine accepts no liability for material used.

           


             


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