Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Without Pressure

Rabbi Eisenman

(Editor’s Note: The following story is NOT 100% factually true. I did not find Dovid Friedberg in Shul; nor did I have him for lunch. Nevertheless, the plight of Dovid Friedberg and others like him is real and true.)

When I leave the Shul on Shabbos morning I scan the lobby to see if any potential guests are to be had.

Dovid Friedberg was sitting there reading an English biography.

As it was after 12, I knew he was “available” as he obviously had nowhere to go.

“Dovid, do you have a place for lunch?” I asked.

He muttered something about how his plans “fell through”…..And as if on cue he got up and out we walked.

On the way home I innocently asked him where he usually eats on Shabbos.

I knew he was divorced and that he has his daughters every other weekend.

“I have some families who often invite me and I even have some friends who I can call and invite myself.”

“What happened this week?” I asked.

Dovid became very silent and forlorn; tears began to gather in his distant eyes.

He stopped walking and turned to me,

“This week, my host cancelled on me today in Shul.

What was I supposed to do? Who could I impose on at the last minute?

Rabbi, this wasn’t the way things were ‘supposed to be’; I was ‘supposed’ to be hosting others –I was not ‘supposed’ to be the one being hosted!

When I was 24 I was ‘redt’ a wonderful Shidduch.

She was alumnus of a respected Beis Yakov and of the “best” seminary in Eretz Yisroel.

The Shadchanta assured my mother that all would be wonderful with full support and no worries.

She was only the second girl I had gone out with and after 6 dates and a lot of pressure from the Shadchanta and “well-meaning” friends, we became engaged.

The first few months were fine; however, once our first child came, my wife stopped working. There were other problems and challenges and when we had our second daughter things became unbearable for both of us.

I am not blaming my ‘ex’; and indeed, I blame no one; however, “suddenly” at the age of 29 I was divorced with two daughters’ age three years old and eighteen months.

I had never “made Shabbos” in my life and unexpectedly I was thrust totally unprepared into a new world.

I entered a world where I see my daughters every other weekend and if I don’t make intricate and complicated plans I can never go to Shul on the Shabbos I have them.

On the alternate weeks I am alone; I am embarrassed to go ‘home’ to my parents and so I have to fend for myself for meals.

I have to remember who I can call and how some people -if I call them on Monday for Shabbos- tell me, “Shabbos? I am not up to Shabbos yet; call back on Wednesday”. And other people (sometimes actually the same people) when I call on Wednesday say, “You are calling for this Shabbos on Wednesday? I have already cooked and invited people for this Shabbos; why did you wait so long to call?”

What really pains me is when people assume that because I am the father and my children are girls and they live by their mother most of the week that I am a sort of absentee parent who just gets the ‘fun’ of having them every other Shabbos and taking them for Pizza on Wednesday evenings.

Rabbi, please know, my life is not ‘fun’ and it troubles me to no end not being able to see my children daily.

I just wish…. and I know I cannot go back…that I wasn’t so pressured six years ago to ‘break the plate’.

The Shadchanta and all the others who ‘advised’ me to ‘seal the deal’ sooner than later all meant well; however, today, they are all at home with their families while I am all alone.”

Dovid stopped talking and we continued towards my house; and as we walked I could not help but notice the reflection of the sun on the many tears which ran down his face.