Dear Mrs. Bluth,
Where have you gone? Just when I needed you most, you vanished. I’m hoping that you get this letter and can send me some idea of how I am to handle a very sensitive issue that if not addressed correctly could change my entire relationships with those in the community I considered to be my close friends! It has been such a blow to me think that the people whom I considered close and loving friends are actually just the opposite.
Two weeks ago we celebrated the wedding of our youngest son and this being the last child to leave home, we went all out for the affair, at least that’s what I thought, and invited everyone we knew, past and present, to share in our simcha. We are not well to do, so we decided to be creative in different ways to show how grateful we were to everyone who came and shared in our joy. With the help of our other daughters-in-law and some of our older grandchildren poems were written to convey those sentiments and placed at each table setting. In place of real or artificial flower arrangements for the tables which were costly, bowls of multi-colored chocolate roses and other sweets were placed ant arranged so everyone could take them home and enjoy later on. My wife spent endless hours with other projects lovingly worked on until the wee hours of the morning, just so everyone in attendance would feel our happiness at their presence. All the women got handcrafted lovely mementos and the men got small bottles of wine with a special bracha printed on the label. The wedding was wonderful with our neighbors and friends in attendance and I could not have been happier at their response and reaction to all the work poured into making this event feel like we were all one family. Or so I thought until yesterday!
As was standing on line in the pizza store yesterday, I heard the voice of my next-door neighbor. Looking past a few people in front of me and just about to call out a hello, I heard her say how ridiculous and childish the wedding was and it was then that I saw her speaking to three other ladies from shul who were standing with her and they too were laughing and deriding the event and concurring with her as they burst out in gales of laughter. They continued to mock all that we did loud enough for me to hear, as well as all the other people standing in line, and I wished the earth would open and swallow me. I was so mortified I left without getting the pizza just to not have to hear the terrible sound of their laughter. When I got home, my wife noticed my broken spirit, but I could not tell her that we were the laughing stock of our community, it would have crushed her that these women for whom she worked so long and lovingly to please, were the very ones she called her nearest and dearest friends with whom she sat in shul, goes to yeshiva luncheons, shiurim and tzedaka meetings. So I just said the lines were too long at the pizza store and I was tired so I came home without the pizza.
So what am I to do? I can’t look these people in the eye without hearing those sounds of vile laughter and degrading comments. How do I sit next to them in shul without feeling like the community fool who was too cheap to have real flowers on the tables and little wine bottles in place of benchers. Purim leftovers they called it! How can this ever be fixed or made right so it can go back to being as before? I am sick over this and I need your sage advice on how to deal with this and overcome the anger and disgust I feel towards them?
First, a hardy mazel tov upon the marriage of your ‘mezinickle,’ may they build a bayis ne’eman b’yisrael and may you see much yiddish nachas from them and all your children and grandchildren. I’m so sorry you thought I abandoned my readers, that was never the case. I have answered each and every letter I received, yours being the first one on my return to The Jewish Press after a much needed hiatus. I have missed my readership too and it’s good to be back.
I am so sorry you had to hear such hurtful and cruel words from people you considered close ad dear friends. Sad to say this is not always the case. You and your wife seem to be truly good and trusting people who open their hearts and home to everyone who appear to extend the hand of ‘friendship’ and then, behind your back, spread lashon hara to entertain themselves. From where you stand, you see them as being cruel and not worthy of your close and true friendship. But, if you choose to return to before the pizza store visit where you heard, perhaps in a callous and too loud review of your loving efforts to show your gratitude in this unique way, that obviously fell flat, there is really only one thing that you are left to do and that is to confront them and show them the damage lashon hara can bring about.
Give them the opportunity to apologize and ask your forgiveness because we are all guilty in some form or shape, in most every day, of being a party to speaking or listening to lashon hara! It is one of the hardest and most accepted transgressions we make. Perhaps, had these women known you were standing in line behind them, would never have stooped to the low level that they did, and you would have gone on being good friends and neighbors to this day. So, you might consider giving them back a little shame and embarrassment by showing them that they were caught in their transgression and that you heard every hurtful word they said and a little Divine Justice is due here in the way of apology and retribution. Should they apologize, stipulate that they should be m’nader a sum of money or do a mitzvah of their choosing and then they will have earned back both your forgiveness and your friendship. Make something good come from something bad and it will serve to alleviate your hurt and anger to a vast degree. They may not be such ill-meaning people and probably never meant for their verbiage to reach your ears and cause you pain, shame and anger, and if this ever happened to me I would truly take my own advice and confront them, not in anger but with the objective of making them aware of what their lashon hara brought about, and give them a chance to redeem themselves and earn your forgiveness.