Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3
The next day, Shani boarded the bus with Moishie and his folded stroller in tow. As she made her way to the back, she noticed one empty seat. She hauled Moishie and his stroller to the back and sat down. Suddenly, she heard a voice next to her. "Hi."
Shani looked at the woman next to her, trying to place her. Then she remembered the day before. Sure enough, it was the woman with the brightly-colored scarf who had helped the girl. Today, the scarf was a leopard-print, which seemed to match the woman's savage mood. Shani settled Moshie and her purse on her lap, then turned to say a quick, non-committal "hi" in response.
"Can I ask you a question?" the woman asked.
"Ask." Shani responded.
"Why didn't anyone help the girl yesterday? It's been on my mind. That poor girl was so scared, and hurt, and she got spit upon."
"You helped her," Shani pointed out.
"Yes, and I stayed with her in the emergency room until her mother could take her home. She had five stitches in her head from where the rock hit. The girl was so upset, she called Second Chances on my phone. She wants to leave the community."
"I guess it goes to show you. The girl is unstable and obviously not committed to Yiddishkeit."
"Really." The woman pursed her lips. "Would it surprise you to learn that she's an excellent student? Or that she spends her Sundays with the Bikur Cholim? Or that she's committed the entire Sefer Tehillim to memory? But of course a yellow shirt and lack of opaque stockings means the girl was dirt under everyone's feet, right?"
Shani shifted her purse to the floor and looked away uncomfortably. Moishie squirmed in her lap, but Shani didn't want him to run around in a moving bus.
The woman continued. "I never expected this. I was taught that the Torah makes you a better person. But it seems like we care more about what we eat and how we dress than how we treat others. The first time I heard a frum person use profanity or ethnic slurs, I was in shock. Now it just appalls me. Makes me wonder why I chose this." Shani stared at her. "Yes, I am a BT."
"Oh." Shani responded.
"My sister wonders what I was thinking. Even I wonder what I was thinking. She told me to bail after..." The woman loosened her scarf. An ugly scar snaked across her throat. "One of the sikrikim threw a piece of glass at me when I was on the street fifteen minutes after women's hours. It's stupid. There's nothing in our texts that says we have wear black tents and hide from men."
"Now, wait a minute," Shani interjected. "It says in Bereshis that Sarah Imeinu was in the tent. She was a truly tzniusdik woman who stayed indoors where she belonged."
"Oh. I get it." the woman responded. "One of our Imahos stays in her tent during a heatwave--which is what most people would do--and now we all have to hide away. I didn't know the Torah was made of rubber. it almost needs to be to stretch that far. Besides, didn't both Rivka and Rachel go to wells? And when Rachel was there, didn't she get a kiss from Yaakov?"
"No she didn't!" Shani snapped.
"Look it up if you don't believe me. And as for the black, didn't Shlomo HaMelech say in Mishlei that the eishes chayil makes scarlet clothes for her household, and that her own clothes were of fine linen and purple?"
Shani couldn't think of a response. Of course she had heard "Eishes Chayil" every Shabbos of her life, but had seldom thought about what the words meant. Shani decided to look in her husband's seforim when she got home.
The woman pulled the cord, and the bus stopped. "You know," she said as she squeezed past Shani, "I was always taught that the Torah makes us better people. After yesterday, I'm not sure I believe that anymore." And she was gone.
To be continued...