By Esther Rapaport
Chaiky sat down near the bags that she had just put on the floor of the kitchen and wondered tiredly if she’d really intended to cook all of this now. Baruch Hashem she’d had enough energy to go shopping, and baruch Hashem she had money for all these things; but the fresh chicken, the ground fish mixture, the vegetables, and all the other ingredients that were supposed to be turned into Shabbos food in the coming hours—they all suddenly peeked out of the bags at her threateningly, and made her feel stressed out. Why hadn’t she started last night? Why did she leave the shopping, and then all the cooking, for Friday morning? What morning—it was already a quarter to twelve! In 25 minutes, half hour at most, the children would be home. And she had so much to do besides the cooking!
She wished someone would invite her for Shabbos.
But there was nobody to invite her, certainly not on Friday at this hour. Menachem and Goldie had stopped trying. Her mother-in-law certainly wouldn’t do it. Her parents had called yesterday, as they did every week, and she had gently refused, as she did every week. Yoel and Shifra never invited her; they didn’t even try. She and Shomo had actually hosted Yoel and Shifra several times in the past, but there was an unwritten agreement between them that while Shlomo and Chaiky would gladly invite the couple from Haifa, the reverse was not a viable option. So there was no one to invite her now for Shabbos. If she wanted to go anywhere, she’d have to invite herself and her children.
After the wave of energy that had galvanized her to go out this morning to shop extensively, Chaiky now felt totally depleted. She just sat and gazed at the shopping bags, thinking about the fish that was slowly defrosting and shedding tears of melted ice. Hashem, please, let someone invite me for Shabbos!
The phone rang.
“Chaiky?” It was Shlomo’s mother.
Shlomo’s mother! How long had it been since they’d last spoken, since she’d sent that message with Goldie? Three months? Less? More?
“Oh, yes, hi…”
“How are you, Chaiky?” She didn’t sound very natural, either. Well, there really was no point in pretending that they’d spoken just the day before yesterday for at least half an hour of convivial chatting. The reality was what it was.
“Baruch Hashem. Uh…how are you?”
“Fine, baruch Hashem. Trying to be strong and have faith in Hashem… You know, Abba just came back from Russia, and he’s planning to go back in another week.”
“Yes, I’m up to date,” she answered in a weak voice.
“Do you…ever get regards from Shlomo?”
“Indirectly. Two weeks after he was imprisoned, we spoke briefly by phone, and about two weeks ago, I got a fax from him. That’s it.”
A moment of uneasy silence followed.
“And how are the children?”
“Baruch Hashem, sweet as always…” So why was she calling? To sniff around as to how her daughter-in-law was managing, or not? Thanks.
“Yes, they really are sweet.” Another awkward pause. “It’s been a long time since we saw them.” Another second of silence. “And you…”
“Yes, true…” Chaiky murmured.
“Would you…would you want to come to us for the meals on Shabbos? We’d be so happy to have you.”
Chaiky looked at the bags still on the floor where she’d dumped them ten minutes earlier. The truth was that no, she had no desire to be a guest at her in-laws’ table for Shabbos. She couldn’t imagine how she would sit by the table with just the children, without Shlomo there.
But his mother had done it—she had taken the step and called.
And just a few seconds earlier, she, Chaiky, had pleaded with Hashem to send someone to invite her for Shabbos.
And He had done just that.
Was it nice now to refuse this invitation? When things were hard for her, she knew how to ask for help. And when things were doing more or less okay? So even if it wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world for her, and she wasn’t excited about the idea, how could she refuse the woman who was waiting silently and patiently on the other end of the line?
“I…I think so,” she said, and then, with the sense of “If I’m doing this already, I may as well do it graciously,” she continued, with effort, “The truth is that it would really be a big help for me, because just now I realized that I really have no energy to start cooking.”
“You work too hard,” Shlomo’s mother said admiringly. “And we’ll be very happy if you come.”
Esther Rapaport is a prolific author whose novels include Diamond in the Rough, Divided Attention, Behind the Scenes, Without a Trace, Dance of the Puppet, Blood Brothers, and The Kenya Conspiracy. She resides in Israel. Stay tuned for the next installment in next week’s Five Towns Jewish Times or visit 5tjt.com for more.