T here were just two of us left in the women’s section in shul, that hot Yom Kippur afternoon between Mussaf and Minchah. My mother and sisters had gone home for a nap, but I’d opted to remain behind rather than brave the 15-minute walk in the burning sun.

She was tall, a couple of years older than I was, a well-dressed girl. She had an uncomfortable expression on her face instead of the self-assured one I imagined was usually there. I wondered why. Under normal circumstances, I never would have had the nerve to approach her, I’m shy, but it was Yom Kippur, we were all equal before Hashem, and I wanted to help. Without stopping to reconsider, I approached her.

“You look exhausted. Is the fast hard for you?”

She looked startled. I felt like a fool. “Anyway, so feel, um, good,” I stammered backing away, when she said,” No, it’s fine. Thanks for coming over to talk. I don’t mind the fast. I was just thinking.”

“Nothing good,” I blurted.

She smiled sadly. “Not at all.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” I offered, steeling myself for the rebuff that was sure to follow.

“You don’t mind listening?” She peered at me hopefully.

“I’m a good listener. Everyone says so. By the way, my name’s Rivi.” I fluffed my short, curly brown hair self-consciously, and smoothed my skirt. This girl was the type who made me wish I were more put together.

“I’m Liora. Did you happen to notice the little kid who sat next to me, during Shacharis?”

“Sure. She’s your sister, right? She looks a lot like you.”

Liora looked pleased. “She does?”

“Sisters often do resemble each other,” I pointed out.

She nodded. “Well, that’s certainly encouraging to hear. In our case, you’re the first person who’s ever told me that. Good. I’m on the right track then.”

I looked at her inquiringly.

“I’ve been working on her,” Liora explained. “Combing her hair, choosing her clothing, stuff like that.”

“That’s nice of you.”

“She needed a makeover desperately,” Liora said shortly. Her face clouded over. “Now if only my insides would match her outsides.”

I must have looked as perplexed as I felt.

“Listen, Rivi. Her name’s Ahava. Not Ahuva, get it? She was born right after Tisha B’Av, so my parents named her for Ahavas Chinam.”

“Wow, that’s original,” I commented, impressed.

“Is it? It’s unusual, anyhow. Personally, I prefer to blend in,” Liora said. “Don’t you?” Without waiting for me to answer, she continued.

“Ahava started first grade when I was an eighth grader, and it wasn’t easy. Now I had to be a big sister in school, as if I didn’t get enough of that at home! She wasn’t a cute, cuddly little kid, either, someone I could show off to my friends. Going from Pre-1A to first grade was a big adjustment for her, and it didn’t bring out the best in her, or in me. ‘Be there for her,’ my mother urged, the night before school started.

“I couldn’t be there for her, okay? You know why? My little sister was a threat.” Liora frowned. “What my mother wanted was impossible!” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 678)