Out of the corner of her eye she [Havah] saw her mother creep through the doorway and inch toward the bed with a wooden rolling pin high over her head. She slammed it down on the back of the man’s head. With a sudden jerk and a grunt he released Havah. He rolled off her and fell to the floor unconscious.
She sat up, clutching a pillow and stared down at him. Blood pooled under his head and seeped into the cracks between the floor boards. This had to be a dream. In the morning Papa would wink at her over breakfast and assure her it had all been a horrendous nightmare.
Her mother yanked her hand, dragged her from the bed and held her for a moment, her tears hot on Havah’s neck.
“Hurry, Havah. May the God of Israel go with you.” Taking Havah’s face between her hands her mother kissed her forehead.
Tugging Havah’s arm, her mother dragged her to the back door of the house and shoved her out. “No arguing. Go!”
Heart thumping, she ran. Thick smoke stung her eyes and burned her throat. She stopped and turned to look one last time. The blazing synagogue crumbled to the ground.
“No, Havah, don’t look back!”
~~Taken from Please Say Kaddish for Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
The Heder teacher’s face turned crimson. He narrowed his eyes and glared at five-year-old Havah as if she were a piglet about to be dumped on his doorstep. Then he clenched his tobacco-stained teeth and spat a brown glob on the doorstep.
Up until this moment she had been excited to learn to read the Torah, the words that came from Adoshem’s own mouth. Huddled against Papa’s shoulder she hid her eyes in his coat folds.
“You can’t be serious, Rabbi Shimon. She’s a girl.”
“So she is.” Papa’s arm tightened around her. “My daughter’s mind is every whit as keen as her brother Mendel’s.”
“To be certain she’s a bright one, and one day she’ll be a most excellent wife and mother. Perhaps she’ll even marry a rabbi herself but, Rebbe, to come to Heder with boys? It’s not right.”
“Where does the Torah say it’s wrong for a girl to learn?”
“Rabbi Ben Hyrcanus clearly stated in the Talmud that to teach a daughter Torah is tiflut, obscenity. And did he not also say that the words of the Torah should be burned rather than be entrusted to a woman? Rabbi, you of all people should know this.”
“As far as I’m concerned it’s opinion and rubbish! Didn’t the prophet Yo’el write ‘your sons and daughters shall prophecy’? Miriam and Deborah—were they not judges in Israel?”
“You win, Rebbe.”
“I always do.”
~~Taken from From Silt and Ashes by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
Published by Argus Publishing
Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency
Until the pogrom that took them from her, Havah’s parents, Rabbi Shimon and Miriam Cohen were the two most important people her life.
Not one to be bound by law and traditions, Rabbi Cohen relied more on Torah than Midrash, the rabbinic commentaries. When questioned, he was quick to argue that the former was the irrefutable word of God while the latter was merely opinion and conjecture. He encouraged his daughter and his wife, if they so desired, to study the Holy Word.
Miriam was a gentle and loving wife who kept a clean, Kosher home. She considered her greatest treasures to be her husband, her two sons and her daughter.
Havah adored her parents and her memories of them are a constant thread throughout the series. Even though she was only sixteen when they died, their words of wisdom are always there to guide her.
The Sequel to