My Bubie feels that it is important to talk about bad things that could happen to people and to think about how we can prevent them from happening. In our community girls often get married at a very young age. My Bubie feels that this is not the best idea. Also, she wonders, do girls learn about how important it is to know, if someone is mean to them who they can go to for help? She worries about these things because she has heard stories about young women not being able to protect themselves if they marry someone who hurts them or is mean to them. I do not worry about these things but maybe I should think about what if I or one of my sisters or one of my friends is matched with a boy who is not nice. This is what happened to the woman in the next story and we can learn something from her.
Fradella and Graziella became best friends. They went almost everywhere together. One day, Fradella said to Graziella, let’s go and ride the light rail in Jerusalem to the park. We can go on the swings and play on the swinging bars and even eat our lunch on the grass under a beautiful, big tree. Graziella said that she would make sandwiches and bring drinks, and Fradella should bring the chips and the fruit. They told their parents that they were going to the park and that they would come home before it got dark.
On the way to the park, while riding the light rail train in Jerusalem, Fradella and Graziella saw an old woman standing. Fradella immediately got up from her seat and offered the old woman a place to sit. The old woman, whose back was bent and whose hands were old and wrinkled and swollen, thanked Fradella and offered the girls to walk her home where she would give them a treat and tell them a wonderful story.
Fradella and Graziella wanted to go to the park but they knew that it was a big mitzvah (good deed) to help the old woman back to her apartment and besides, they always loved a good story! She was carrying bags of groceries and Fradella and Graziella took the bags and carried them for her up to her apartment near the park.
When they arrived they smelled the most wonderful cake baking in the oven and the old woman invited them in for some milk and cake. She told them that she could make them tea too if they wanted. They washed and sat down to eat the most delicious cake either of the girls had ever tasted in their lives. Then the old woman sat down and told Fradella and Graziella her story.
"When I was a very young girl, 16 years old, I lived in a place where it was not safe. The people in the village were very bad to the Jews, especially Jewish girls. My Father wanted me to get married young so that the leader of the village, who was an old man of 40, wouldn’t take me to be one of his wives. He had many wives.
My Father was a kind man but he did not understand about people very well and thought that every Jew was a good person. He made a match (shidduch) for me with a boy who was 18. I only met him one time before the wedding. He was handsome but we really didn’t have any time to get to know one another. My Mother said that we would learn to love each other and that everything would be fine.
The night of the wedding was a very happy occasion. Everyone came to the wedding meal and we received some very nice presents. I felt that my life would be very good as a married woman.
We had seven nights of sheva brachot (celebrations after the wedding) and I was so tired by the end of the week I could hardly keep from falling asleep during the day. After the wedding my husband started to tell me that I had to do many things to keep him happy. I had to serve him his food. I had to cover my face when I left the house. I could only go outside if he said I could go. I couldn’t see my friends anymore and I could only see my family if they came to visit me.
He also told me that he thought that I was ugly and that I should feel lucky that anyone would marry me. He became very mean to me, although he didn’t yell or hit me, he treated me like a slave and only said things to me that made me feel terrible.
One day I asked him, 'Why did you marry me if you think that I am ugly and stupid?'
He answered, 'Your Father paid my Father a lot of money to marry you and I had no choice.'
This made me very sad, but there was nothing I could do. Then the children came. I had five children almost one every year. My husband was not very nice to the children either. He never spent any time with them and expected me to take care of all of them without help and continue to serve him.
My family noticed that I was not looking good and they tried to help but my husband said, 'This is not your business. This is my family and don’t get involved!'
Finally one day, while I was in the market, I saw a friend who told me that she was going to Eretz Yisrael and maybe I wanted to come too. Her husband was killed in an accident, she had three daughters and she did not want to live in a place where the people were not kind to women. She did not want to make her daughters get married young. She wanted them to go to school and learn many things and then find a kind man to marry who would be a good husband and a good father.
I said, 'My husband is still alive and he doesn’t even let me leave the house very often. For sure he would not want to take us to Eretz Yisrael!'
'Listen', my friend said to me. 'I see how your husband treats you and the children. You should come with me and leave him. You are a smart woman and we could share an apartment together and work until we could each buy our own apartment.'
I was so surprised what my friend said to me. I thought that I would have to live all of my life being sad and never finding someone who respected me and was nice to me. I didn’t even hope that someday I could be happy."
“So what did you do?” asked Fradella.
“Did you run away?” asked Graziella.
"Well, as you can see, I am living here in Eretz Yisrael so I did get here, but it wasn’t because I ran away. Sometimes things in life happen that you don’t expect both good things and bad things."
The old woman continued her story and gave the girls another piece of cake and some tea.
"Later that week, my Mother-in-law, my husband’s Mother whom I loved very much and my Father in-law, who was always kind to me, said that she wanted to take us on a trip to Eretz Yisrael. My husband didn’t want to go but my Father-in-law told him that he needed him to come to look at a business that he was thinking of buying, so my husband agreed to come but he didn’t want me and the children to come with them. My Mother-in-law said that she would be lonely without me and her grandchildren and it was a great chance to take a trip together, so it was agreed, the following week we would all take a boat to the Land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael! Since I had never in my life left our village, I was so excited about going that even when my husband said mean things to me I had joy in my heart knowing that we were going to the Holy Land of Israel.
The next week we all boarded the boat. The trip was a week long and the ride made my stomach very sick. I spent a lot of time throwing-up off the side of the boat. The children ran around the boat and had a great time. My kind Mother-in-law took care of me, my husband, her husband and the kids. I was worried that maybe she was doing too much.
On the last day of our journey, we saw another boat coming close to us. They told our captain to stop. He did and these very bad men climbed upon our boat. They were called pirates who stole from people on boats. They told everyone to give them all of our jewelry and money and then they would leave and no one would get hurt.
As they were collecting all of our money and jewelry my husband did a very stupid thing. He tried to hit one of the pirates and throw him overboard from the ship, but then his other pirate friends saw this and took a gun out and shot my husband dead. People started to scream and cry and the pirates told everyone to keep quiet or they would shoot more people. Even I started to cry because, even though my husband was not nice to me, I was scared to live without a husband.
The end of my story is really the beginning of many other stories. When we came to Eretz Yisrael I met my girlfriend who had come with her three daughters. I told my husband’s parents that I decided to stay here and raise my five children in the Holy City of Jerusalem. My husband’s parents could not think of leaving me and their grandchildren so they too decided to stay here.
My children grew up here and now some of them have their own grandchildren! I am a very old woman with many happy and sad stories, but the best of all of my stories is how I learned to be strong and to raise my children alone. Later on in my life I did re-marry a wonderful man who lost all of his family in the Shoah (Holocaust). He treated my children as his very own.
It is getting late girls and I must finish some of my cooking because I have one of my sons and his family coming tomorrow for Shabbat. It was a big mitzvah that you both did today to give me your seat on the train and to help me with my groceries to my apartment. Remember that you should also always help your Mamas because to be a mommy is a lot of hard work. You both, God willing, will learn that someday when you have your own families.
Also, remember to make sure before you get married that your chatan (husband to be) is a kind man who will love and respect you more than he loves and respects himself. You both deserve the best chatanim who will make loving husbands and good fathers. But, if it happens that you do not have a loving husband who is a good father, don’t be afraid to be alone, because you are never really alone, you will always have friends like each other and of course Hakadosh Baruch Hu (God) to look after you and to help protect you. Believe in yourself, study hard in school, read everything you can and always make time in your busy life to do a mitzvah that will help another person. As the holy Rebbe Nachman of Breslov once said, 'Kol HaOlam Gesher Tzar Me'od, V' HaIkar Lo L'fached, All the world is a narrow bridge, but the important thing is not to be afraid.'
Good bye girls, I hope that you come back to visit me again so I can tell you more stories. By the way, my name is Tehilla. I am originally from Teman (Yemen) but have been in Eretz Yisrael for 67 years.”
Fradella and Graziella thanked Tehilla for the delicious cake, milk and tea. They told her their names and also told her that they would come back to her house as often as they could. By the time that they left Tehilla’s house it was starting to get dark. They couldn’t understand how fast the time had gone by when they were listening to her story. Fradella and Graziella did not get to sit under a big tree in the park and eat their lunch this day. They had a better time than that. They met a new friend who had many stories to tell and what can be better than eating cake, drinking tea and listening to a good story!