empty Slice of Life

Hunger At My Door

I don’t recall exactly how old I was when “the man in the car” showed up on our street, but I was...

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 Shellshock. Disbelief. How? Why? When we surrounded our bonfires in celebration of Lag BaOmer on Thursday night, none of us were in any way prepared for the events that tragically unfolded just a few short hours later in Meron.  Many were awake all night trying to track down their family members, but my family didn’t hear the news until the next morning, when we woke up to a message from our son telling us that he was fine, baruch Hashem. I had been in touch with him at midnight the night before after he had already left Meron, so we didn’t understand why he sent us this seemingly superfluous message. But my husband then saw the news and actually thought he wasn’t seeing properly.  Maybe he needed a new prescription for his glasses. What he saw made no sense.  How could it be?  

When I sent out a message sharing the news of my son’s engagement, I was inundated with requests for pictures of the young couple.  People love to see the glowing chosson and kallah, grinning from ear to ear. When boys propose in public places, even strangers who are lucky enough to be within earshot are charmed as they get caught up in the simchah that’s totally contagious. A smile can be seen on the faces of the spectators who can’t help themselves and stand around and watch, often applauding when the girl (hopefully) says “yes.” This fascination with the couple continues throughout the engagement, and those who meet them take pleasure in adding to the joy of the already blissful couple.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve never been very good at goodbyes. I recall crying the entire ride home from my first summer at Camp HASC.  My parents thought they would cheer me up by taking me out to eat.  Yummy food does tend to have a soothing effect and their strategy actually worked until a camper from HASC entered the same restaurant with her family.  The quaint café quickly turned into an offshoot of Niagara Falls.  But Camp HASC is one of the greatest places on earth. After working so closely with the special campers for a whole summer, strong connections are formed, and counselors and campers become very attached to one another.  So, the last day of camp is a bit sad for many who attend the camp.  I was far from the only one who had an emotional outburst. But I have also been known to cry at the conclusion of five-day-long outreach seminars that I attended as an advisor in my college years.  I would leave NSCY shabbatons with a huge lump in my throat.  And these days, sometimes I even get a bit teary eyed when my kids leave home after Shabbos and head back to their homes away from home.  They don’t usually notice this (and please don’t share this piece of information with them if you know who they are) because they are eagerly looking ahead towards their destination.  But I look towards them from behind with a mixture of happiness, pride, and longing. I hate saying goodbye.

They say men are from Mars and women are from Venus. How true it is.  I’m talking about the day-to-day experience of being a woman as opposed to a man.  I believe that in some ways, we women may enjoy the world around us more than men do because of our sensitivity to our environment. We perceive and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.  We take in the details, the colors, the sounds, and the smells. In separate seating affairs, one can often notice that much more effort is put into decorating the women’s side than the men’s.  The colorful napkins will be folded into interesting shapes and patterns. You don’t always see this on the men’s side because most of them won’t even notice.  Kiddushim in our shul are totally different events based on which side of the mechitzah one is on.  The setup in the women’s section begins during davening, as it takes time to properly place all of the mouthwatering petit fours and scrumptious salads which will be eaten on beautiful plates, perfectly coordinated with vibrant tablecloths and napkins.  As the latecomers walk through the door, wide-eyed smiles can be seen on their faces, and softly whispered “wows,” which they’re unable to suppress, can be heard.  They are awestruck by the display of sheer beauty in front of their eyes. Men just don’t care about these things.  After davening, they spread out a few plastic tablecloths and haphazardly throw some kugel, cholent, and herring on the tables.  They’re thrilled.  For men, it’s all about gustation.  For women, it’s all about presentation.

This column is typically meant to be a warm and fuzzy feel-good article. But I’m not feeling warm nor am I feeling fuzzy right now. I generally like to stay away from politics and other controversial topics, but I’m about to explode. I’m hoping that writing this article will be some sort of catharsis for me.

I used to jokingly tell my husband over the years that one summer we should rent a house in Israel and give our family a genuine experience of living in Israel.  I mean it’s true that we made aliyah and we have our Israeli identity cards, which we were able to procure through our blood, sweat, and tears in the days before Nefesh B’Nefesh streamlined all the bureaucracy. But the Anglo ghetto of Ramat Beit Shemesh has such a comfortable and familiar American atmosphere, that sometimes it feels like we don’t actually live in Israel.