It Won’t Happen to Me

Dovid B.* was a very bright boy. Friendly, good middos, responsible.

His parents were thrilled when he was accepted to a famous mesivta.

They were very proud.

The son was less proud.

He was concerned that the pressure in the yeshivah was too much for him.

In the beginning, things looked excellent — good friends, praise from the Maggid Shiur.

What else can parents ask for?

But things changed.

When Dovid complained about the pressure, he was brushed off.

“Get used to it,” his father said. “It’s always that way in the beginning.”

“That is how it goes,” said the Mashgiach.

By the end of the second year, the crisis began.

On the surface, it was hard to tell, but Dovid couldn’t stand the pressure anymore.

“It will pass,” said the father confidently.

But the mother was more concerned.

She knew her son.

“Look what happens nowadays to boys,” she worried.

“Like one day they collapse and leave,” she whispered.

“It won’t happen,” promised the father.

During bein hazemanim, Dovid met a friend from elementary school.

The friend was not accepted into the top mesivta.

His parents were sad, but didn’t have the right connections.

His friend went to a second-tier yeshivah and enjoyed life.

Officially, he was in yeshivah but he followed his own program.

From one meeting, their relationship blossomed and turned into a friendship.

And from there, the way downhill was swift.

When the Mashgiach called the father to complain, he answered, “It will pass.”

“Well,” responded the Mashgiach, “look for another yeshivah.”

Dovid did not wait.

Dovid or Shlomo or Yitzchak and many more names, are today very, very far away.

From his father’s dream, what was left was only nightmares.

To him, it happened.

They were a cute young couple. Moshe and Leah.

She worked in an office, he was in a kollel.

Not a big masmid, an average one.

The years passed fast, three sweet children were born.

Leah was still working in the same position.

Moshe was trying different jobs.

It was not easy. Moshe was trying his best and the expenses were mounting.

The landlord was threatening to evict them for non-payment of rent.

And the apartment was too small.

The neighbors’ children were dressed beautifully.

Leah was exhausted, emotionally and physically.

She is a good wife usually.

She started to complain, a lot.

In one place, Moshe feels he can relax a bit.

In shul.

He is well-liked, always helps, prepares the kiddush every Shabbos.

He especially likes to try to drink.

What he cannot afford to drink at home, he can drink in shul.

There are always well-off people who are ready to bring expensive drinks to shul.

From his point of view, the kiddush can continue until Motzoei Shabbos.

At home Leah and the children are waiting to start the seudah, but they will have to wait.

The Rav of the shul is trying to keep Moshe in line.

“Moshe,” he says with concern. “It’s too much, you are becoming addicted.”

“Don’t worry,” Moshe answers happily, too happily, and too loudly.

“It won’t happen to me.”

Leah is fighting.

She is trying to keep the house together, the family together.

Moshe starts losing himself, again and again.

In the eyes of the law, it is called domestic abuse.

Moshe is not a bad person.

He simply became addicted; he didn’t mean to.

After all, it is acceptable to drink in shul and at simchos.

Even young adults are doing it more and more.

Something that Klal Yisroel did not know in previous generations.

It is called alcoholism.

To him it happened.

For years, Shayni was home with the children.

Shlomo didn’t make much parnassah but had a stable salary.

Shayni had a dream. One day, Shlomo will open his own business

Shlomo will make tons of money, like the neighbor across the street.

They will be able to afford all her dreams for herself, for her children.

One day, she is going to have a home, a new car, and beautiful clothing.

Shlomo would not have done this if not for Shayni, who didn’t stop badgering him.

He partnered with somebody.

Brought to the business his naivete, and the little savings that he had from years ago.

The partner had no money but a lot of experience with banks and credit card companies.

The beginning was promising.

Shayni was happy.

Her plan started to materialize.

Shlomo had a few credit cards, not one.

And she naively thought that the abundance of cards meant that the banks trusted Shlomo.

And so things went until the house of cards started to implode.

It took time until Shayni realized that Shlomo was very tense and pressured.

It is painful to describe the slow and steady descent.

The first credit card paid the bills of the second one and the third of the second and so on.

When Shayni called Shlomo to say that the credit card was denied, he said, “Try the second one.”

She said, “I tried them all.”

When it didn’t go the right way, according to the law, it went the wrong way, against the law.

To me, it won’t happen, Shlomo said to himself.

Shlomo promised Shayni, Shlomo promised the children.

It did happen to him.

Shlomo is waiting now for the trial to begin.

It is not our way to bring such stories that do not compliment our community.

To say that these sagas don’t compliment our community is an understatement.

So many heartbreaking problems are piling up on our desk.

So many cases of children who said goodbye, and who knows if they will ever come back.

So many cases of homes that fell apart, crushed by drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.

Of prisons, where unfortunately, we have community members.

But when it hurts, you scream. And if not, you cry.

Once, not too many years ago, when people had cancer, we didn’t dare pronounce the word.

We called it in Yiddish, ‘yeneh machleh.’

What happened to us today?

So many people suffer from cancer, yet we are inflicted with a new cancer, a disease in disguise.

Of peer pressure, of competition, of lack of honesty, of couldn’t-care-less attitude.

We are watching children leaving us, teenagers and adults becoming addicted to deadly habits.

Alcoholism, gambling, drugs, financial fraud, abuse, OTD, were almost unheard of in our camp.

The words were not even whispered.

We know that we are endangering our present and our future.

Today, we must put it on the table and admit that they exist.

It won’t happen to me, think people.

It does happen.

If not to ‘me’ then to ‘us’ as a community.

If we want to be considered a responsible community, if we care about our present and our future, if we want, years from now, to be able to say that we took note of the problems and took control of them before they took control of us, then we’d better come together as one camp and start our self-education first at home and then as a community.

We cannot wait any longer.

Ruth Lichtenstein


*All names have been changed to protect privacy.