Bread Givers

by: Anzia Yezierska

Sara Smolinsky

The driving force in Sara’s life is her desire to find her own version of the light she sees radiating from her father. As a child, she yearns for something that will inspire her, such as Morris Lipkin’s poetry briefly does. As a teen, she dreams of becoming a teacher so that all eyes will be on her the way they are on her father when he preaches. Later, she finds books that fuel her from day to day. When she gives up Max Goldstein because he would have stopped her education, she comforts herself with the thought that her sacrifice is like her father’s rejection of worldly success in order to study the Torah more fully. When she begins to understand what it takes to find an inner light, the first thing she wants to do is share it with him, believing he’s the only one who will truly understand. Knowledge, she decides, is what she wants more than anything in the world, and she devotes the same time and energy to obtaining it that her father does to studying his holy books.

During her quest for an internal flame, Sara hones her sense of fury at the injustices committed by others. Though she has no backing, she has the courage to protest at the restaurant when the cook gives her less meat because she is a woman. She is furious with both Berel and Jacob for hurting her sisters, and her hatred for her father begins when she sees the way he denies his daughters any chance to have lives of their own choosing. This need to fight injustice, however, is also what helps her reconcile with her father, and the first steps are inspired by her mother’s promise and the guilt Sara feels at returning home just as she is dying. Later, when Sara sees the way her father’s new wife treats him, she considers the possibility of once again living under one roof with her father, despite the tyranny she fears will re-enter her life. Her father’s light is threatened, and Sara knows better than anyone the importance of keeping it lit.