| Shul with a View |

Clean Break

"The words of the Kaliver Rebbe penetrated my heart. If he could be b’simchah, so could I"


With three younger brothers and two younger sisters all married, it was too painful for Chayala to be home for Pesach.

She could no longer endure the look of pity in her mother’s eyes each time her mother looked her way.

She felt she caused her father pain when his face silently asked, Why are you so picky?

So she decided to spend Pesach with her friend Leah on the West Coast.

Chayala and Leah had been friends since high school, 20 years ago. They both knew the pain of being an older single. And even though Leah had married three years before, at 35, Chayala felt safe being at Leah’s Seder.

Devori, Leah’s younger sister, came with her husband and children for the first Seder.

A 60ish never-married woman named Brocha was also a guest.

As the Seder began, Chayala relaxed. There were no pitiful looks from her mother and no silent stares from her siblings, wondering why their geshickt sister was not married.

As the Seder reached Motzi Matzah, everyone watched Leah’s husband, Shimon, distribute the matzah.

First, he gave a piece to Leah, his wife.

He then gave a piece to Brocha.

He then turned and gave a piece to Devori’s husband and then to Devori.

Finally, Shimon gave the last piece to Chayala.

Chayala was devasted; she was eight years older than Devori. She remembered when Devori was born. She remembered babysitting for her.

Chayala had been a master morah for 17 years. Yet, here at the Seder, she was relegated to last place behind the much younger Devori, whose status had been elevated simply and only because she had a husband.

Chayala knew she should take it gracefully. She knew Shimon meant no harm. Yet as he broke the last piece to give to her, her heart finally broke.

Chayala ran from the table, running to the deck as tears cascaded down her cheeks, crying and crying as memories of every segulah she had tried were washed away in her tears.

She recalled all the trips to Amukah and Kever Rochel. She had received brachos from tzaddikim, spent 40 days saying Perek Shirah, and said hours and hours of Tehillim.

For what?

To be relegated to the back of the line for as long as she has no husband?

She sobbed for so long that she never noticed Brocha standing next to her.

Brocha gently embraced her with the utmost tenderness. And then she said, “Chayala, I, too, davened to get married for years. But life did not turn out the way I hoped.

“Ten years ago, when I was in Eretz Yisrael and feeling very low, someone took me to the Kaliver Rebbe. I had never heard of him. When I saw he had no beard, I was shocked. Someone told me it was because he was a victim of the cruel experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele.

“He had no children, but he had a smile that lit up the room. I moved closer to see his shining face, and, assuming he knew no English, I wondered aloud, ‘How can this man smile?’

“The Rebbe heard me.

“Speaking in English, he said, ‘How can I not be b’simchah? I’m alive to serve Hashem! For that alone, I am b’simchah!’ ”

Chayala listened.

“Chayala,” Brocha said, “the Rebbe had no idea I wasn’t married. He knew nothing of me or my life or my struggles. However, more than anyone else, more than any brachah or segulah, the words of the Kaliver Rebbe penetrated my heart. If he could be b’simchah, so could I.”

Chayala embraced Brocha, and with the words of the Kaliver Rebbe echoing in her ears, she returned to the Seder.

Chayala looked down at the piece of matzah.

It was no longer as broken as before.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 913)

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