“I think I’m going to stay alone for Yom Tov,” I said, shivering with the frightening finality of the words.
The rav sprung into action. He pulled open the fridge and pulled out a small tin of sliced gefilte fish. He pulled open the freezer and pulled out a pan of roasted chicken.
“Yitzy!” he called, “go down to the basement and bring me a box, please.”
Cooked potatoes were sliced and added to the pan.
“Sruly!” he called. “Go downstairs and get two bottles of wine from the Pesach room.”
The Rebbetzin’s tins were covered and stacked and arranged into the box. Two bottles of wine were deposited neatly on their side.
My heart shivered with the finality of it as the possibilities slipped from my fingers. It was set; I would be alone. I had options, but I felt too insecure and threatened in a home anywhere but this one. And they could not have me for Yom Tov. It was my decision. But I was afraid.
Sruly came up the stairs once more, carrying a silver plate and kos in his hands. A big smile crossed his face. “I got this for you,” he said.
I took the dishes from his hand. They were plastic, but looked like real silver. The black-silver shine sparked in my hands, ignited a twin spark in my heart. My face dropped the anxiety and twisted naturally into a smile. “Whose idea was that?” I asked. My heart paused its fluttering.
“Mine,” he responded easily.
This time I grinned. “Thank you so much, Sruly!” I carried my becher into the kitchen and placed it carefully in the box.
The Rebbetzin turned from the stove and returned my smile. “It really was his idea,” she confirmed.
The spark in my heart grew in strength, slowly warming my cold veins.
Hasty best wishes were sent my way, the taxi was called… it was time to leave. I lifted my box and walked out the door.
It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done.
The box was much heavier than its light weight. Only the silver, shimmering in my mind, helped me open that heavy door, walk down the path, and slide into the car that would take me away.
I placed my precious burden on the clean floor of my kitchen. The silver plate was there, shining happily, but there was no kos. I looked frantically for it, lifted out the tins, checked through my bags… It wasn’t there. Later I would find out that the baby had toddled over and lifted it from the box in the minutes before I had left.
At the moment, I felt devastated, cut off from the one tie that sparked a connection of caring… an extra special unnecessary something that came with a big smile crossing a small face.
The Yom Tov food and the small silver plate would be my consolation.
I did my best to set up nicely for Yom Tov, to make this festive night special.
It was hard. All I felt was sadness, and anxiety, and the fear of the unknown. When one is so small inside, it is hard to be alone.
The silver plate lay on the white china dish on the white lace tablecloth. I was exhausted, completely gone… Thoughts came and went, tormenting thoughts, of fear and threat and helplessness and sadness and aloneness and – and what do I do, and why am I left alone… why am I left alone??? Tears of anger and pain rolled down my cheeks.
Just make Kiddush, Tirtza… just make Kiddush.
I poured the wine and raised the clear plastic cup. There was the silver plate, shining to me in a beacon of shimmering connection. In the mirrored surface shone the murky depths- of people, far away perhaps, who could not be with me, but who sent me strength, and caring-
There was depth in the shimmering mirror, even if my foggy mind could not fully grasp its meaning.
Yom Tov was hard, but I pushed, pushed beyond my felt abilities – because I knew I was not alone.
This Shabbos I was alone again.
Not just by myself. Alone. This time I felt totally… bereft, abandoned…. I had not been able to hear from my support and I was… all alone.
The hurt was terrible.
I cried my pain, and then I stopped, and moved on, because Shabbos was coming. I turned on the flame and spread a clean tablecloth. I put out two candlesticks.
My thoughts moved to the silver plate in the cabinet. Then they turned away. I couldn’t bear to look at it. To see it would be the cutting knife of warmth remembered… of caring cut, stopped… a cruel slap in the face, that’s all it would be. I couldn’t take it.
And yet…. When I was all ready for Shabbos, rushing and scrambling to make up for the time lost on tears… and my fingers shakily screamed to light the match in time… lit the flames, made the bracha, Shabbos was here…
And I opened the cabinet, and took out a nice dish, that Shabbos might be beautified…My hand reached once more onto the shelf, and took out the small silver plate.
I put it down on the table, on top of the white china dish, on top of the white lace tablecloth.
It was Shabbos.
I barely made it through davening. I was exhausted. Kabalas Shabbos. Ma’ariv. There was no strength for Shalom Aleichem. But… if I would say Shalom Aleichem, I would get to say barchuni l’shalom. The thought helped me get through it. Barchuni l’shalom, angels of peace… barchuni l’shalom, barchuni l‘shalom! I closed my eyes in a stolen moment of concentrated agony before the white oblivion of exhaustion returned. Eishes Chayil would have to wait. I was finished, wiped.
I poured the wine into the plastic cup. The weight of the heavy task before me rolled over my shoulders. I lifted my kos in my hand-
A siddur. I put down the cup, grabbed my siddur, and fumbled for the page. Memories came back, memories of kideishim past. Of being alone, in the semi darkness of my room… or alone, in some corner, stolen away…. Of times when I was slightly at peace, able to retreat into myself and my own small corner of life… of making my own Kiddush and holding onto that tightly.
Something felt, a spark of something special, something incredible jumping off the page, into my eyes and into my heart. I touched the memory of eyes closing in surprised concentration, of repeating words that contracted my chest, squeezed my heart, flooded golden awareness through my mind.
But I had no mind now. I didn’t. There was nothing…. Nothing here for me.
But I would try. I looked at the page and mumbled through the words.
They slipped through my lips and tumbled through my foggy mind. The words were nothing to me. They did not hold me, and I could not hold them. They were words, only words, and I could not know them.
Something held me, stopped me – my lips were silent, I looked back at the page, I had to- Be’ahava.
Yes, that was the words I had just heard, a whisper of a mumble, a black blur on white page.
What is this… what was this…
The word caught me, held me, and- I had to know its meaning.
I looked back at the beginning of the bracha, a fierce appeal of desire cloaking the paragraph that began who has sanctified us with his commandments, and desired us, Desired us???
Yes. Desired us.
The words fell heavily into my brain, tickled my veins and tumbled into my heart. He… He wanted us.
And… and His holy Shabbos, with- with love and desire, he has bequeathed us,
I stuttered and stopped again, disbelief turning the fog to confusion. Say it again, say the words again.
Yes, with love.
Yes, Tirtzah, with desire.
With love and desire He has bequeathed to us.
My eyes moved over the phrase again, and my lips repeated the phrase again, and- And again, and again, and again…until my ears heard the words, and my mind understood, and-
And my eyes suddenly knew what my mind barely could, and they filled, with pain and agony turned to terrible release-
He gave us a gift, this gift of Shabbos, out of love. Because He wants us – Me, Tirtza.
I stood there with my cup, holding it in a moment of forever, the siddur in my hand, my eyes only seeing those words. The fire of felt abandonment flared, crackling with the cool water tossed upon it. Each time I saw the words once more, tears sprung up again and rolled down my cheeks, telling me, again and again…. Love… and with desire….
People may come and go… and I never know, and I can feel so much pain…
But in this one small moment, I know that in an eternity of forever, my Father in heaven is telling me that, no matter what….
He is sending me a gift of love.
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