June 23, 2024
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
June 23, 2024
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 7 summary: Ilana feels guilty that she’s going back to Israel just when her parents need her help. Moriah asks if she can stay on to help her grandparents. At first Ilana refuses, but then changes her mind to show Yaffa that she’s doing her part.

The mood in the car on the way home was, Ari reflected, quite different from the ride on the way there.

For one thing, his kids were actually talking.

“So what are you planning on doing for the next two weeks?” Jake asked Moriah, who was gazing out the window, clearly fascinated by the American scenery.

“Huh?” She twisted around to where Jake was sitting, in the back row. “I’m going to be hanging out with Grandma.” She flashed a smile at her grandmother, who patted her arm.

“Yeah, but you might get bored, y’know. No offense, Grandma,” he added.

Gail laughed. “Of course Moriah should take advantage of being in the U.S. Where are kids going nowadays? The American Dream mall? Great Adventures? Jake, you need to show her all our fun spots.”

“Oooh, sounds amazing!” Moriah said.

From the rearview mirror, Ari saw Jake shifting uncomfortably in his seat. He had that post-Shana Aleph expression on his face, and Ari knew what was coming.

“I dunno,” he mumbled. “Is it, like, appropriate?”

“You’re cousins, you idiot.” Eli rolled his eyes. “Moriah, I’ll take you around and we’ll let the tzaddik here stay home and learn Gemara.”

From next to Ari, Debbie let out her breath with a hiss. “This is getting ridiculous,” she muttered. “Why, exactly, did we agree to send him back for Shana Bet? Just imagine what they’re going to do to him when they’ve got him for a second year.”

Ari pressed his lips together. Debbie had never gone to seminary in Israel herself and she was firmly convinced that the whole year-in-Israel thing was a scam. She was bolstered in her opinion by the dozens of other mothers on her WhatsApp group who were forever sniping about “those rabbis and their brainwashing” and “for the amount they charge, you’d think they could serve a decent dinner” and “I have a cousin who’s brother-in-law teaches in an American yeshiva and she tells me those rosh yeshivas are raking it in big time.”

Ari had once made the mistake of tentatively suggesting Debbie remove herself from the chat. But Debbie had blown up about “people like you who stick their head in the sand and insist everything’s fine.”

Now, he said softly, “If he’s not going to get inspired about Judaism now, when will he?”

Debbie shrugged, squinting her eyes as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “What do all the rest of us do?”

Ari would’ve loved to follow up on that one – he’d never been quite sure just how strongly Debbie felt about her own Yiddishkeit – but this wasn’t the place.

Instead, he said aloud, “What are your plans for the next two weeks, Jake?”

“A few of the guys from my high school class were planning on going camping for a few days,” he said. He paused for a moment. “Also, I kind of set up a daily chavrusa.”

“Kind of?” Ari asked.

“I mean, I did. But he’s busy with work and stuff, so he has to see when he has the time. He said maybe after his Daf Yomi shiur at night, or maybe he’d find time to call during his lunch break.”

“Hmm, sounds like quite an impressive guy,” Ari said. “Who is this friend?”

“Oh, he’s not a friend.” Jake laughed self-consciously. “It’s Uncle Shmuel.”

Why Ari should feel a lurch in his gut – or unconsciously press on the accelerator, so that the entire car gave a sudden jerk – he didn’t know. “Uncle Shmuel? How nice. When did this happen?” He hated how fake his voice sounded.

“I dunno, over the vacation I saw how much time he spent learning and I was, like, really impressed. One day we got to talking and he offered to learn with me, so we started. I never realized how cool Uncle Shmuel is. He reminds me of my rebbeim in yeshiva.”

Debbie was hissing next to him again, but Ari ignored her. He knew very well how she felt about his sister and her family.

The question was, why Jake’s newfound closeness with Yaffa’s husband should bother him so much.


As soon as Yaffa’s family returned home, the kids made a beeline for the kitchen, Yaffa on their heels. Their designer had promised to get a lot of the renovation work done while the Harrises were away, and though she’d been sending pictures updating Yaffa throughout the vacation, there was nothing like seeing it in person.

“Look! The counters are in!”

“Oooh, they put in the backsplash tiles! Stunning! Ma, I told you that the gold leaf was the right choice. Even if they were more expensive”

“Mmmm.” Yaffa gave an equivocal nod towards Shani. The tiles did look beautiful. But did that mean going with the most expensive option was the right choice?

She looked around her brand-new kitchen. It was thrilling, certainly. And, like she’d told her siblings, the renovations they were doing were out of necessity, not extravagance. She’d spent the past eleven years working out of a miniscule, barely usable kitchen – seventeen years, if you counted the broom closet kitchen in their apartment before they’d moved to their house. She’d done her time; she was entitled to finally gift herself a nice kitchen. It wasn’t any larger or more luxurious than any of her friends’. Or than Ari’s and Debbie’s, for that matter. Ilana’s? She paused. Ilana lived in Israel. That was different, of course.

Yaffa creased her eyebrows. What was wrong with her? Why was she getting so defensive? She’d been looking forward to this renovation for years!

“What do you think?” she asked Shmuel, who’d walked in after unloading the suitcases.

He looked slowly around the room and nodded. “Looks like we spent a lot of money.”

“Tatty! Is that all you can say?” Shani demanded. “Do you understand how gorgeous this is? It’s ten times nicer than the Kleins’ kitchen that they renovated last year.”

“Well, as long as we beat the Kleins, that’s all that matters.” Shmuel took a cup from the cabinet and turned on the sink. “Hey, this thing doesn’t work.”

“They didn’t hook up the plumbing yet,” Yaffa said.

“Bet the sinks in the Kleins’ kitchen work, Shani.”

He left the kitchen carrying his empty cup and Yaffa followed him. “Are our kids shallow?” she asked.

Shmuel shrugged. “No more than anyone else’s kids.” He picked up a suitcase sitting in the hall and started up the stairs. Yaffa grabbed her sheitel box and followed.

“Yeah, but look at my sisters’ family. Moriah is giving up the rest of her summer vacation to stay with Ma and Dad. And Matan… I mean, he’s going into the army!”

“Kids in Israel grow up faster,” Shmuel said, walking into their bedroom. “Everyone knows that.”

Yaffa sat down on her bed. “I guess that’s true. Ari’s children aren’t particularly mature.”

“I don’t know, I like Jake, he’s a good kid. Reminds me of myself at that age.”

“Yeah, I saw you and Jake were hitting it off.” Yaffa twisted her ring around her finger.

How had this happened? She’d been the idealistic one; she’d overturned her life, changing the way she dressed, the way she spoke, the things she watched. She’d spent the first years of her marriage supporting a husband in kollel, and lived in a community where Torah reigned supreme. Weren’t her kids the ones who were supposed to have come out passionate and inspired?

Shmuel looked at her quizzically. “Uh, where exactly are you going with these questions?”

Yaffa frowned, watching the ring turn around and around on her finger. “Our family culture needs a major overhaul. And it’s time for me to do something about it.”

By Ariella Aharon


Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles