It is Erev Rosh Hashanah.
It has been a while now that my desk evolved into a kind of a community center, where letters, emails and calls ask for the help of Hamodia as the voice of the community.
Let me share with you, readers, three of those issues.
Monday night, the phone rang.
It was my very close friend, a distinguished mechaneches, a personality, who raised a family to be proud of, until the youngest child.
The first five are married, built beautiful homes, and give her and her husband a lot of nachas.
The mizinik ‘balances’ the picture.
Every possible aggravation that the parents can have, she and her husband had with him.
It didn’t start yesterday and not a year ago.
This is a story that goes back 15 years, when their son graduated Talmud Torah and had to go into a mesivta.
Moshe (name was changed) was cute, friendly, not a big masmid but smart enough to overcome all obstacles till then.
The first mesivta parted with him after a year, the second one lasted three months.
With the issues in school, came the friends.
Later on, his behavior.
Moshe turned into a bitter teenager.
There was nothing that could be done by the parents that was not done. They could not imagine the descent.
They understood him, they did not pressure him, they worked with him, they worked with the yeshivos, they brought a therapist into the picture.
He wasn’t yet 17 and no yeshivah was found that worked.
An idea came up to send him to Eretz Yisrael.
“I was one of the naïve ones who believed that the yeshuah will come from there,” said the mother.
Not only did it not, but it was a way out to the street; drugs came very fast.
Should I tell you how much money they paid people who led them to believe that they would supervise him?
They fooled themselves that their son was in good hands.
Well, he was not.
When they traveled to Israel a few months after he left, it was just too late.
They lost him.
“It has been 15 years,” she says.
“My son is not only not shomer Torah u’mitzvos. He is an official mechallel Shabbos and eating treifos and neveilos.
“He moved to one of the states where you do not see too many Jews.
“Not that he looks Jewish, but he doesn’t want to have anything to do with Jews.
“As long as I live, I will continue to believe that one day he will come back to us.
“Sometimes he answers my phone calls and sometimes he doesn’t.
“But one thing he makes sure, to call a week before Rosh Hashanah.
“I guess he knows how important this is.
“Sometimes I come across other boys in his class, former friends who already made bar mitzvahs for their children and who will soon be marrying off their children.
“I ask myself, why me, why us?
“What is it that we never managed to find out about him?
“What is the straw that broke the camel’s back when he left?
“He called Monday night.
“I was very happy.
“Somehow, he sounded different, like he wanted to talk.
“‘Moshe,’ I said, ‘what’s new? Maybe you’ll come for Rosh Hashanah?’
“‘Ma,’ he said, ‘stop it. I am not coming. I just got a piece of information and I wanted to share it with you. You see, I got an email from a friend from the past. He sent me a picture of my eighth-grade Rebbi and he wrote: “You see, he became a Menahel. Where are you and where is he?
“‘You know Ma,’ he said, ‘this is the part that I never shared with you.
“‘I was in eighth grade and I was beaten by this melamed regularly, on my hands, in my face, on my head. I was embarrassed by him. Every single day he called me names that you, Ma, would not have let anyone in our family use, not about me and not about any human being.
“‘You want to know if he did it to other boys? Yes, but not to the degree that he did it to me. He promised me that he will make sure that everyone will know who I am. So now, everyone knows who I am.
“‘You see, Ma, I want you to find him and to tell him that every time I am mechallel Shabbos it is due to him.
“‘Every time I eat treif it’s because of him.
“‘And he is the one who became a Menahel?! And I exiled myself from my family and my community and live the life that I live?
“‘You want me to come for Rosh Hashanah? What for??
“‘What do I want from him? That he should apologize. That he should call me and acknowledge everything that he did to me.
“‘I don’t need him to go public. I need him to apologize to me. Only then will I decide if and how to respond.’”
I hope that I transcribed the words of the mother correctly.
What I cannot transmit is her heartbreaking cry.
She challenged me to publicize her plea.
Perhaps it will save other Moshes.
The following letter was received from Devorah.
(I thank Mendy Klein for sharing it with me.)
This is the hardest time of the year.
The transition from summer into the new school year.
The whole world around me seems so busy with new school shoes, uniforms and orientation.
I’m left out, waiting in the dark.
The summer came. The summer went. It didn’t make much of a difference to me.
But oh, how I yearn to be part of it all, the seasons, the meaning, the transitions! To also shop for uniforms and new school shoes for my kids.
To add further salt to the open wound, Rosh Hashanah is around the corner. Followed by Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and then another restart into the school year.
It’s all about families, spouses, children.
That’s what Yiddishkeit is!
But where do I stand?
Where do my fellow single friends stand?
My roommates and I discuss this all the time. What is our purpose in this world? It has to be significant, despite the lack of husband and children. We ponder and contemplate. What is our tafkid?
My emunah is being tested to the highest degree.
I am asked by the One Above to pass a nisayon so great, but I need all the help and support I can get.
Rosh Hashanah is laden with intense emotion.
I don’t feel up to walking back into my childhood shul and getting the staring, pitiful eyes from family friends.
The thoughts they are thinking are palpable, tangible, heavy and real.
“Oy, here she is, another year and single.
“Nebach, I don’t know how she does it, poor girl. Now she has to pour her heart out and beg for a good year. I hope we can dance at her wedding soon.”
It’s not an option to go back there!
It’s not an option to be home with loads of married siblings and kids.
But no one invited me. Or at least not yet! Rosh Hashanah is almost here and my blood pressure is rising. I’m worried.
I have a few friends where there’s an unspoken word of an open invitation, but that’s not a specific invite for this holiday. For the most part, we singles aren’t thought of or remembered. My apartment mates say the same. They are from out of town and don’t know where to go. We want to be invited for a meal. Remembered, thought of. Cared for.
I muster up courage to make some calls and invite myself. Just to be away. Somewhere that feels more safe. Where I can be myself, my raw whole self. Accepting and embracing my current status, but also allowing the embers of hope within me to ignite, to concretize my faith.
As I scour the earth for a place to go, I suddenly come to a stop and allow myself to revel in a reverie. I have such sweet dreams of my own home with my own husband running the Rosh Hashanah Seder. I can taste the homemade challah and hear the laughter of my children in the background singing, “Dip the apple.” It feels so real, so tangible, so authentic. I want to stay in this idyllic state for a few moments longer, forever. It’s my own home. My own family. Part of ME built into the fabric of those two entities. I’m in a trance-like state. It feels warm and containing. Maybe it’s even real.
Then the doorbell rings and it’s Mr. UPS delivering an Amazon package.
I don’t want to let go, but the bubble bursts and I have to open the door. Here I am, Mr. Reality. It’s plain old me. Still single! Still with no place for Rosh Hashanah.
I’m in a daze. It seemed so real. So riveting, to dream like a 19 year old in a 36-year-old body.
I want to have guests.
I want to bake my own round challah and sing with my children.
I hope you understand.
Rosh Hashanah is mostly centered around shul.
Friends whisper how they wish they can go to shul to daven. I say loudly how I wish I can not go to shul.
Not because I don’t want to daven or connect to G-d. But because I yearn for my role as a Jewish woman in the home, where I belong.
I have no shul to go to now, but the reality is harsher than that.
I can’t do it anymore. I can’t sit in shul, single, at 36. Year after year. I am not supposed to be in shul. I am supposed to be nurturing my children at home. Breaking up their quarrels. Building Lego. Reading books. Figuring out if the “time out” technique is suitable for toddlers. Setting the table. Trying to say the words of Unesaneh Tokef from my upside-down, chocolate-smudged machzor in the midst of that all.
Instead I am supposed to be, and expected to be, in shul for the entire davening as I always have been the last many years. Too many years.
I am a sincerely devout Jew, but I will say it bluntly: I dread Yamim Tovim, Rosh Hashanah the most.
It’s a struggle to connect to Hashem in the face of such adversity. He has a plan for me. I don’t know what it is.
But right now, I am still single and am crying that Rosh Hashanah is drawing near. I am also crying because I want to stay strong and not cave in to the pain.
I’m not letting go just yet. Hashem knows my intentions, thoughts, feelings and loneliness.
I am holding on tightly.
Riding the tide.
Believing a miracle can still happen any day. Can it? Will it?
Till then, I’ll pen my emotions and thank whoever is out there, listening and caring.
For starters, please invite a single man or woman for a meal!
I’ve had people tell me, “Oh sorry, we don’t have company for Rosh Hashanah.”
It’s a stab in the heart. They are believing it’s a time of seriousness, and guests would distract from the eimas hadin. They have it all wrong. What greater time to reach out to those less fortunate than on Rosh Hashanah, when our fate is being decreed? We need all the zechuyos we can get. Actually, on Rosh Hashanah we coronate Hashem as our King. We are one Kingdom. His children. He never closes the door in our face. I think Rosh Hashanah should be synonymous with hachnasas orchim.
That’s my humble opinion. No blame. No anger. Just a message to people on the other side. Don’t forget about us. It’s an opportunity to internalize the meaning of the Rosh Hashanah theme, Zichronos.
I feel a sense of connection to all those reading this. It’s important that you come with me on this journey, inside my heart to see what’s it’s like; to know the unfiltered truth of a day in the life of an older single.
Blessings From a Broken Heart,
A call came in this morning:
Is this Mrs. Hamodia?
Yes, it is.
I want to share good news with you.
My daughter was accepted to high school.
Thank you for your newspaper’s hishtadlus.
Two are challenging us, the third gives us hope that if we do our hishtadlus, we can change things, one child at a time.
So, to all of you who are reading these lines, who are preparing for Rosh Hashanah spiritually and physically, please do remember Moshe and his mother.
Please remember singles like Devorah.
Please realize that “it could happen to me,” it could happen to every single one of us.
Kesivah vachasimah tovah.
May Hakadosh Baruch Hu lead us in the right way.
Ruth Lichtenstein, Publisher