There once was a poor Jewish man living in Krakow. He dreamt one night about a treasure hidden under a bridge in Vienna. Night after night he dreamed the same dream, and finally one day he decided that he must travel to Vienna to claim his fortune.

He left his family and embarked on a journey to Vienna. He traveled and found the bridge, but it was heavily guarded by the king’s soldiers. For two full weeks the man paced back and forth, back and forth, trying to figure out how to dig under the bridge without the guards noticing.

One soldier, who saw him pacing every day, came up to him at She was the first German I ever metthe end of the two weeks, grabbed him by the collar and shouted, “What are you doing here? Every day I see you pacing by this bridge! Explain right now what you are plotting!”

The startled man blurted out his story about the recurring dream and his trip from Krakow. The soldier burst out laughing, “You silly, foolish Jew! Only an idiot would let his life be guided by dreams. If I was as foolish as you, I would be well on my way to the city of Krakow. For just last night I dreamt that a poor Jew in that city has, buried in his cellar, a treasure which awaits discovery."

The poor Jew returned home to Krakow, dug under his cellar and found his treasure. “I had the treasure in my possession the entire time, but I had to travel to faraway Vienna to realize it!”


When I was 18, I spent a summer working in Geneva, Switzerland. I lived in a youth hostel, and I met women from all over Europe. I was a bit lonely, and another girl, who was also a bit lonely, tried to be my friend. I hesitated. She was a very pretty, tall blonde German teenager. I, a granddaughter of survivors of the Holocaust, had no desire to be friends with a German. She persisted. We spoke. She asked a lot of questions. I was the first Jew that she ever met. She was the first German that I ever met. We would walk together and sit in the park and have discussions, She asked a lot of questionsback in the days when people actually talked instead of texted. One day she asked me, “Can I come with you to synagogue?”

I thought, “Why not?”

I stopped a man wearing chassidic garb in the street and asked him where the synagogue was located. He told me where there was one, and the following Saturday morning Anna and I walked there. After all, if Anna wanted to go, shouldn’t I, Jewish Elana, want to go too?

We stepped inside. Some women came up to us, invited us to sit down and handed us prayerbooks. The Hebrew words, the tunes and the prayers were all familiar to me. I felt at home. Afterwards, women again came up to us and invited us to eat. Anna observed all this and looked at me in wonderment. “You have all this?”

What did I have? A treasure in my hand that someone had to point out to me before I could see it. I had the holy Shabbat. I had a community, a tradition, a way of life, a people. When I returned to the States after that summer, I started keeping Shabbat. My German friend Anna unlocked a treasure chest within my heart—my soul—that made me realize, Yes, I have all this . . .


I go through my day. There are endless piles of laundry that need washing or putting away. I sweep the floor for the 20th time; I cook and cut and chop. This child has a test tomorrow, and so we sit down to review together. Another child needs me to read him a story, and another one wants to jump and dance. The baby needs to be changed, nursed and put to sleep. It seems like every day is like the day before.

But when you have a baby, almost every day also consists of “firsts.” Today I gave my baby his first “finger food.” I put a piece of cereal into his mouth to see if he would like it. He did. Excited by the new adventure of eating something harder than mush, he squealed and smiled. I took my cue and put a few pieces of cereal in front of him on his tray. His little hand grabbed at them, and he managed to pick them up. He held on to them tightly, and then he succeeded in putting one in his mouth. The rest stayed tightly in his hand.

Suddenly he got distracted and looked up at me. I smiled. He smiled. I laughed. He laughed. He looked back down at his tray, and then, as though a bit confused, he started looking for the cereal pieces. He had already forgotten that they were in his pudgy hand! I opened his hand for him to show him the treasure that was already his, and once again he smiled and squealed with A few hours before Shabbat, I get a calldelight. What a blessing—to recognize, to see the treasure you already have . . .

Back to my routine. Wednesday, shopping for Shabbat. Thursday, cooking. Friday, baking and cleaning, and getting the kids bathed and ready for Shabbat. A few hours before Shabbat, I get a call. “Elana?” I hear an accent and try to place the voice. Who is this? A client?

“Yes?”

“Elana, it’s Anna. I’m in Israel.”

My mind travels back to nearly two decades ago, and I see my tall, beautiful friend Anna. After we first met that summer in Switzerland, we wrote letters and kept in touch. We had a rendezvous in Amsterdam two years later. A few months after my wedding, Anna showed up in Mexico, where we were living. She stayed with us for a week. That was 15 years ago, and as time went by, the letters became less frequent, our lives became so drastically different, and we lost touch.

“Anna?”

“I know that it’s almost Shabbat, but I’m here on a trip with a delegation, and I want to see you. I can come to Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon. Does that work for you?”

In Israel, Sunday is like a Monday. It’s a regular day of the week. The children go to school. I work in the morning. They come home, we eat lunch, and the sweeping and cooking and chopping begins again. The phone rings. It’s Anna; she is on her way. I go to the street with my little ones to meet her. This one is on a bicycle, this one on a scooter, the baby is in my arms. There’s my tall, beautiful Anna. She looks the same.

“Anna, you look beautiful.”

“Elana, so do you!”

I take Anna up to my home, to my piles of dishes and laundry. We take Anna to the market, because I’m out of eggs and cucumbers. I make eggs and whole wheat couscous for my kids for dinner. Anna tells me that she works for a German embassy. She’s always traveling around the world. She takes it all in as I bathe my little ones. My daughter helps me with my I know she’s right. I have a treasure.4-year-old, and my oldest son helps me with the baby. Anna watches and she listens. Like always, she observes, and then, what does my beautiful German diplomat friend tell me as she departs with a hug and kiss? “Elana, you have all this? Elana, I’m so happy for you! I feel the peace in your home. I see you happy. Your husband and children are wonderful. Elana, you have it all . . .”

I look at my home, and I know that she’s right. I have a treasure. I have holiness and peace and noise. I have a messy floor, and I have singing and laughter. I have Shabbat, Torah, a nation and a tradition. I have it all.

On Shabbat, something very special happens. We have no guests for dinner, and I look at my children and lovingly drink them up. We all sing together. We eat. We talk. I tell my husband, “Wasn’t it such a beautiful dinner?”

It was a gift, this visit from Anna, because once again she pointed out the treasure that I get too distracted to see, but that I have held within my own hands all along.