Home Forums Can I Get Your Feedback? Short Story- The Uprooted Tree

  • Short Story- The Uprooted Tree

  • Elisheva Halle

    Member
    July 19, 2020 at 6:54 am

    A short story I wrote with the same theme as the poem I posted earlier. I want to submit this to a magazine but want to get your input first. What do y’all think? Some particular questions: is the message clear? Is it too controversial for a Jewish magazine? Did it end too abrupt? Thank you!

    Uprooted

    “Plant trees?”

    I am nearly shrieking.

    And then I groan.

    Couldn’t Shmaryahu and I agree on anything?

    “Yes, our home is on top of a hill. I feel like we need more privacy. Nachi gave me a great idea: plant trees.”

    “I hear what you’re saying about the privacy…but I love our view from the top of the hill.”

    “How about we start off with two trees? They’re just saplings…”

    “For now…” I say. I look out onto our spacious backyard which had drawn me to our house in the first place, with its little garden and brook that snakes across the back.

    “But you don’t know the first thing about planting trees, no offense…”

    “Nachi said he’d help me. He said to get saplings, not to grow them from scratch,  of course, otherwise it could take years.”

    “I hear that.” My tone brightens. I enjoy gardening; perhaps those trees could become one of my projects.

    Shmaryahu leaves for Maariv and night seder. The kids are sleeping. I grab a bucket of cookie dough ice cream and a magazine. My intention is to reenergize before I got to the pile of dishes in the sink. But an ad that catches my eye within a second of opening the magazine makes my heart freeze.

    ‘Now YOU Can Make a Difference- Bina College for Women is now offering a new track for those who want to change lives- Social Work’

    My heart skips a beat, but I can’t continue reading the ad. My cake decorating business is doing just fine and keeping me busy. As a mother of four little ones, I don’t need to add more of a workload on my shoulders. And yet… a park comes into focus in my mind’s eye where I am sitting with my seminary teacher across from me while her children play in the park sandbox.

    “I want to marry a boy who I can do Kiruv together with,” I say to my seminary teacher, stars in my eyes.

    “Nomi, you don’t want to limit your Shidduch options…besides, many of the boys who enter Kiruv do so because they aren’t succeeding in their learning.”

    I swallow.

    “Oh…ok…”

    My mind travels back to the present, and I gaze at the ad. The restlessness inside me rises, reaching a crescendo as it passes my throat and  turns into full blown anxiety the longer I stare.

    This can’t be good for my health’I say to myself and turn the page and read the headline: ‘Laundry Tips and Tricks from a Professional Organizer.’ I exhale. Okay, this is more what I am looking for at that moment.

    But as I crawl into bed later I can’t quite shake off the niggling feeling. I looked over at Shmaryahu with a frown.

    “Are you okay, Nomi?” Shmaryahu says, “don’t tell me you’re still thinking about those trees…”

    “No, stopped thinking about them long ago.”

    You should be so thrilled,  I reproach myself, so many women would want your life: a learning husband and family which you’re partially supporting with a fun, creative business. What’s gotten into you?

    But the ad I had seen earlier materializes before me: Now YOU Can Make a Difference.

    But I am making a difference. A learning husband, raising a family…

    But you could be doing more…

    And before I could stop it from coming, an image of me hosting a room full of Shabbos guests comes to view. I’m putting out two types of freshly made Challa and an array of dips before the guests, who can’t stop oohing and aaahing while soaking in the holiness of Shabbos. I’m smiling, and schmoozing, helping one guest with her dating difficulties, and another with her philosophical queries about Yiddishkeit.

    I’m making a difference.

    But here I am, stuck in Frumsville, or call it Black Hat Town or Yeshiva Village, without a non-Frum person in sight. And I tried the local Kiruv organization, but in our out-of-town community, the Kiruv organization was not really happening and only offered me a Partner-In-Torah, which I gladly took up. But still, I feel I could do even more than that…

    So maybe go ahead and get that degree in Social Work. It isn’t exactly Kiruv, but you’ll be using your Kochos to change lives…

    No. No. Stop being silly. I can’t do that at this point in my life. It’s so much work. It will take years. And after all that, who’s to say you’ll be able to build yourself up? Maybe it will all be a waste after all.

    But how I wish I could do Kiruv. No degree. No years of toiling and studying.

    But Shmaryahu doesn’t even like hosting. Forget about it. It’s just a dream.

    And so I settle my head onto my pillow, to be met with different types of dreams, while my real dream lingers.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

     

    “Look at that. One of the trees is doing beautifully, while that one is withering, no matter what I do.”

    I glance out the window. I see what Shmaryahu means. One of his trees had doubled in height, with gorgeous, large leaves, while the other one… well, let’s just say it needs a face lift. Badly.

    “Oh, sorry,” I say, not sounding the least bit so.

    “Yea, well, I guess it was just an experiment. But, anyhoo, are you okay if instead of coming home at 7:00 every day I’ll come at 7:15? Nachi had this great idea to learn a few pages of Mesilas Yesharim…”

    My heart twists. And then guilt creeps in.

    You should be so thrilled your husband loves to learn so much!

    Yes, but I’m so exhausted by the end of the day.  Wish I had more energy.  I wish I just felt more fulfilled with what I am doing…

    Well, if you were doing Kiruv you would be…

    “I don’t know, I’m pretty wiped by 7:00. Not sure how I’ll last another minute…”

    Shmaryahu’s face falls, but he quickly perks up.

    “’Kay, no problem. I know you work hard. I’m glad you can say ‘no’ when something doesn’t work for you.”

    I feel another pang of guilt. Shmaryahu is good. Too good. How can I continuously let him down?

    I look outside at the tree full of leaves and the sagging one. What was the flourishing tree’s secret?

    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    “Yaeli, stop that!” Yaeli was holding a winter dress and pouting that she wants it to wear it. The problem? It was at least 70 degrees outside.

    “Yaeli, Mommy said no!”  I need to do two cake orders this morning. And my baby had not been good about his morning nap, so I already know that my four hours with my toddlers away is limited. And on top of that, the past few months the niggling feeling in my chest had grown until all day I am battling voices in my head.

    Just start getting your degree in social work!

    No, I can’t…besides it’s not really what I want. I want to do kiruv…

    “YAELI BE QUIET AND PUT ON YOUR SUMMER DRESS.”

    Yaeli looks at me, shocked.

    “No, no I wan’ the grey dress, No No!”

    I clutch my cell phone in one hand and Yaeli’s blue summer dress in the other. The voices in my head grow louder and louder.

    Kiruv, Kiruv, Kiruv, how on earth will you do Kiruv…

    “Wan’ the grey dress, grey dress.”

    I look over at the clock. It is already 9:30. My baby spills his oatmeal and starts smearing it into his hair.

    Kiruv, Social Work, Kiruv, Social Work, no I want Kiruv, but how…

    “No blue dress! I wan’ grey…”

    My nerves reach their limit.

    “Everyone, BE QUIET,” I scream, throwing my cell phone across the room, where it smashes against the bookshelf into two pieces.

    Yaeli stops screaming. The baby looks up from his oatmeal fiasco, stunned. Time stands still.

    And I stand up, my mouth agape as I stare at my cell phone and then look up and notice the two trees out my window. One with crinkled, brown leaves, and one which had begun to grow fruit.

    And I knew that I had to discover the secret soon before the last leaf on the withering tree would fall.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Later that night I am back to my bucket of ice cream and magazine.

    ‘Discover Your Why- Sign up for a FREE Discovery Session’ reads the advertisement on the first page.

    I roll my eyes. It was so the ‘in’ thing. Everywhere people were advertising that they knew the secret of someone’s particular life purpose. As If…

    I turn the page. Habits for Healthy Living. Okay, that was more like it…

    But the niggling feeling is back.

    And then Shmaryahu walks through the door.

    “Whoa, you’re home early.”

    “I forgot my Sefer…hey are you okay? You look kind of perturbed. Happens to be you haven’t been yourself lately…”

    “Yes happens to be…” I start to say, but then close my mouth.

    “Yes…”

    “Oh, never mind…it’s just that…this whole ‘Know your why’ business that’s all over now…”

    “Know your why?”

    “Yes, it bothers me a lot. The whole concept that every person has a particular purpose…”

    “Why? I think that’s beautiful. We all know every Yid represents a different letter in the Torah…their own chelek in Torah…everyone has their own purpose.”

    “Well, what if a person, let’s say, missed the boat on their purpose?”

    “Missed the boat? I can’t imagine how that would happen, but hey, that’s why it’s so important to know your ‘Why’ and why everyone is talking about it. For example, for me, Halacha fascinates me. Sometimes I consider becoming a Posek, but I know that if that wouldn’t work I can always try to become a Dayan, because my ‘Why’ is enforcing halacha, rules, y’know? Once a person knows what motivates them, it’s like there is a steady stream of inspiration to keep them alive.”

    “Hmmm, very interesting.”

    “Anyways,” Shmaryahu grabs his Sefer, “Gotta run, I’ll see you later.”

    As Shmaryahu closes the door, he leaves behind a wife (me!) with lots to think about.

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    The next morning, as soon as my baby falls asleep, instead of pulling out my mixing bowls and recipe book, I take out the phone book and my cell phone (which, thankfully, had been fixed).

    “Hi is this Bnos Yocheved high school?… Yes…I was wondering who I should speak to if I want to teach high school next year…oh, you think you’re set for next year?…yes, if you could transfer me, thanks.”

    I wait with baited breath.

    “Hi, is this Mrs. Jakobowitz?…Hi, this is Nomi Diamond how are you?…Baruch Hashem I am well, I was just wondering, I know I’m a bit late in the game, but I have a passion for spreading Hashem’s Torah and wanted to know if there is any availability for a teaching position next year…oh, you don’t think so…experience?…well, um, frankly, I have no experience. I do have a teaching certificate from my seminary though…oh, you only want candidates with experience…oh ok…like what, teaching younger grades for a few years?…oh, got it…thank you…yes…you too, bye.”

    I click the ‘off’ button on my phone.

    That was my last hope. No one wants me, no one…what about the Social Work degree…no, I can’t, I can’t. That wasn’t my original dream…it’s too much work…it’s so not me…I don’t need a fancy degree, I just want to do kiruv, for goodness sake!

    I have a cake order I need to get to, but I can barely drag my feet. I manage to get them over to my room where I crawl under the covers.

    The cake would have to wait.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Yes, it had been a difficult day.

    Watching four children, cooking supper and trying to keep a house tidy while your heart feels like lead proves to be a bad idea. There is a lot of snapping involved as I lay lethargic on the couch, my baby trying to poke my eye and the older kids making a mess and racket which I feel completely hopeless to control.

    “Can you take over bedtime today?” I beg as soon as Shmaryahu walks through the door at 7:00 sharp. How happy I am that I hadn’t agreed to him staying longer.

    “Wow, you look exhausted. Are you okay?”

    “I hope so. I just need…need some time to myself.”

    “Okay, I really want to be there for you. Go rest up.”

    I thought I would just go straight to bed, but then I notice my Tehillim on my nightstand. I had offered to say the first ten Tehillim for a zechus for someone’s sister to find a Shidduch, and considering that the day is waning, I need to say them now, or possibly face the consequences after one-hundred and twenty that it had been my fault that my friend’s sister never found her Shidduch.

    So, depressed or not, I pick up my leather-bound Tehillim and begin to say it’s soothing words.

    Praiseworthy is the man…because in Hashem’s Torah is his desire…and He will be like a tree planted by streams of water which gives its fruit in its time, and whose leaf does not wither, and will succeed in all he does.

    I stop and reread the last pasuk. He will be like a tree planted by streams of water which gives its fruit in its time, and whose leaf does not wither, and will succeed in all he does.

    Eureka! That’s the tree’s secret.

    I look outside my window where I can see my backyard. And sure enough, there I spot the brook that runs across the back. The flourishing tree had been planted right next to the brook while the floundering one was planted farther off.

    My husband’s words from the day before suddenly come to life.

    Once a person knows what motivates them, it’s like there is a steady stream of inspiration to keep them alive.

    A steady stream, huh?

    There is a soft knock on the door and Shmaryahu walks in.

    “Nomi, I’m really worried about you…”

    “Oh, but Shmaryahu, don’t be.”

    “Well, you do look a bit better now, a lot better, actually.”

    “Quick, get me my stash of magazines.”

    “Magazines?”

    “Yes- magazines. I need to find the number of Bina.”

    “Bina?”

    “Bina Woman’s College- sit down, Shmaryahu, there’s a lot I have to tell you…it’s about time I start making the difference in the world that I was meant to…”

    “Making a difference?”

    I smile.

    It was time for a new dream.

    A new dream deeply rooted near my personal stream of inspiration.

     

  • Brocha

    Member
    July 20, 2020 at 1:06 am

    I love it, Elisheva!

    My personal opinion about your questions…

    The message is clear and beautiful.

    It may be controversial for some magazines… but I can’t imagine it would be controversial for all of them.

    I don’t think it ended abruptly… but I would have liked to see Nomi figure out a way to make that second tree flourish…?

    You write so well, Elisheva. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jane Whittier

    Member
    July 20, 2020 at 5:44 am

    Actually, I think it did end abruptly.  The piece of information  I was missing was why she though that social work would be her stream of water.  Just because, like kiruv, it is making a difference in other people’s lives?

    Sincerely,

    Jane

  • Anagrammer

    Member
    October 8, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    <p>Just reading this now… I love how you write, Elisheva! And this piece seems to be coming from somewhere deep within you; maybe that’s why Nomi reminds me a bit of you (not that I know you😁)! </p><p>I don’t really have much feedback as far as what you asked, but I agree with Jane that it’s a bit abrupt. And I felt the part where she calls up the high school was a drop distracting because it didn’t lead to anything in the plot and was pretty close to the end…</p><p>I like the whole tree metaphor and how you brought in that passuk in Tehillim!</p>

    • Elisheva Halle

      Member
      October 9, 2020 at 5:05 am

      <p>Hi Annagrammer- it’s funny because since this was from a while ago, I think you didn’t realize that I acctually took Jane’s advice and reposted the story with a slightly different ending. The truth is, I submitted it to a magazine since then and it got rejected. And there is something about this story that bothers me, and I think it has to do with Passion’s point of “being enough” I really want to rewrite this with a totally different ending that still plays on this theme…</p>

    • Anagrammer

      Member
      October 9, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      <p>Oh, no, I didn’t realize. So is the version in the post on top the re-post? Or am I missing some of the posts…? </p>

    • Elisheva Halle

      Member
      October 12, 2020 at 1:55 am

      <p>I think I posted it as an entirely different post</p>

    • Anagrammer

      Member
      October 12, 2020 at 4:16 am

      <p>Hmm, it’s gone…</p>

  • PassionforWriting

    Member
    October 8, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    I love it, Elisheva! I also really appreciate the push and pull between different jobs and wondering if we are indeed ‘making a difference.’ I also LOVE your writing style. I definitely think you should submit it! This is probably unrelated to your story, but I’m wondering where this whole push n pull idea came from – namely, if we’re doing enough. We’re pulled in so many different directions, compare notes and never truly know if we’re good enough. Like, am I still good enough if I don’t have that prestigious job and am just a wife, mother etc.? What makes/gives us have an internal sense that we’re enough?

  • Rochel Solomon

    Member
    October 9, 2020 at 2:11 am

    Wow wow wow, I love a good metaphor. This one struck me deep. I do kiruv actually and went through the whole how can I make an impact struggle so this story really speaks to me. I think the message is strong and the writing is stronger. I think it is very much publish-able. Regarding the ending, maybe you can find a way to add in a scene where Nomi showcases how working in social work had a flair of kiruv in it (the guidance aspect) and bring in the tree metaphor to make it come full circle. Honestly, I liked the ending. I have no problem with stories that end with new beginnings. Regardless, I really like the piece. Submit, submit, submit!

Log in to reply.

Original Post
0 of 0 posts June 2018
Now

RELAX. ENJOY.

Send me the
event info

Skip to content