| Calligraphy |

Direct Messages

“If you don’t like my content, no one is forcing you to stay. This isn’t my job job, I post on my account for a fun chill. So please be chill!”

There were days when the stress of her job got Aliza Firestein down, but today was not one of those days.

She was idling, car in park. Her usual spot under the cover of a tree-canopied home four houses before her own was just out of sight of the tiny faces pressed against the living room bay window. Five quiet minutes before the dinner-bedtime whirlwind was so necessary.

She looked down at her phone, opened to her DMs. These kinds of requests were starting to come in more, now that she’d passed the 30k mark.

@st1994:  Sorry to bother you, but could you do me a huge favor and post this link for my sis? She loves your page… She’s a single mother to three adorable boys and one of her kids is dealing with a very expensive medical issue that insurance won’t cover. No pressure at all but it would be such a chesed!

The Chesed Fund link was posted too, and in the thumbnail that popped up, Aliza could see the sweet bloated face of a toddler on too many medications. The caption said, Chaim Deserves a Normal Childhood. There were only $752 raised, out of $15,000. How sad. Least she could do.

Aliza took a screenshot of the message and copied the link. She then clicked her own avatar to open Instagram stories and selected the image from her camera roll. She posted it with the link and typed in some text. A follower asked me to post, and I couldn’t say no to this cute face. If you have some maaser money, please donate!

Easy. TYH for making giving tzedakah so much more convenient these days.

The dashboard clock was showing another few minutes before duty called, so she sent her mother-in-law her usual Wednesday afternoon text to touch base about bringing over a side of salmon for the weekly Shalosh Seudos in her house. Two more minutes to shuffle through DMs before she really had to go in.

And then… classic.

There were days when people’s thoughtless abrasiveness made Aliza Firestein want to scream.

How r u posting this pic of ur kids?? Maybe if you paid attention to them they wouldn’t make such a huge mess in their playroom. No offense but would never hire u to organize my house if ur house is a wreck!

She rolled her eyes and grabbed a screenshot of this one, too, then pulled the image up in her story drafts. The harsh words looked up at her. You’re welcome, she thought ruefully as she scribbled over the account name to hide any identifiers. She added text across the screen: Trolls, do we need to have a talk? She posted it, waited a beat, then propped her phone on the dash and opened her camera. No filter needed in the complimentary late afternoon light.

“Hi, guys,” trilled Aliza in her signature sarcastic, self-deprecating, we’re-all-in-on-the-joke tone. “Just popping on here for a second to say I feel like lately my DMs have been all over the place. If you’re new here, let me just tell you, I am good at home organizing. Part of what makes me so amazing is the fact that my house gets just as messy as yours does, but with my system it also gets unmessy, and honestly, IG-ready, with less than 10 minutes of straightening up a day. I’m not fake, you guys. I have real kids, you’ve seen them. Kids are allowed to make messes. My kids do it all the time. You know why it doesn’t stress me out? Because we have systems. Anyway, to all the people who woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, I totally feel you. Sorry you’re having a bad day. Here’s a thought: if you don’t like my content, no one is forcing you to stay. This isn’t my job job, I post on my account for a fun chill. So please be chill!”

She finished with a carefree laugh.

Aliza posted the whole thing to her stories with a final slide saying, “Now that the trolls are gone, AMA,” the ask-me-anything in a question box that was superimposed on a picture of the bookshelf she had organized for the Starks a year ago in rainbow order.

Aliza eased into drive and pulled 200 feet forward to her own house and into her driveway. The notifications were already coming in, but it was never good to be an eager beaver. She unlocked her front door and paused to smile and kiss the three little faces that ran to greet her.

“People are getting to you today, huh?” chided Yaakov by way of hello. From his makeshift office/workstation off the kitchen she could see her own face on his screen, her voice weirdly distorted from the computer speakers. She gave her husband a weary grin and turned to the fridge to start supper, pulling out ricotta cheese and shredded mozzarella, before pivoting to the pantry to grab the lasagna sheets and foil pans. Everything within reach. Gotta love a system.

“It’s crazy,” she said as she preheated the oven. “Some people really just have no idea it’s a real person they’re being so rude to.” A few moments later the supper routine was underway. Aliza was tempted to film her kids setting the table (hello, colorful silicone placemats in those cute pudgy hands, 3 percent off from Amazon affiliates), but resisted, knowing from experience that it would take her twice as long to get food on the table if she was filming in addition to keeping a handle on the normal chaos blooming around her.

It was after the dishes were cleared and three curly heads were bathed, brushed, and in bed that Aliza got back on her phone. She was curled up in the extra wide overstuffed rocking chair between Kaylie’s crib and Rachelli’s toddler bed, listening to the soft, sleepy rise and fall that never failed to soothe her. She snapped a quick photo of Rachelli’s tousled hair, her floral pajama top adorably riding up her back and her arm flung toward the edge of her bed, conveniently pointing to the tidy toy storage system that Aliza had built into the wall. Good to save for a slow news day.

There was plenty to catch up on Instagram — the classic dinner stories and some great shopping stories for kids’ boots on sale that she made a mental note to come back to. Out of curiosity, she clicked back to the Chesed Fund link she’d posted only a few hours before. She blinked. Wait. Was that legit? The red tracker was showing 37 percent. The counter was up to $5,572. Was this a coincidence, or had someone else posted about it? She went back to message the follower who’d asked her to post and saw a message already there.

@st1994 Aliza, I’m in tears right now. I have no words!! You and your followers are so generous. Thank you for posting! You don’t even know how much it means to me and my sister.

Okay. Wow. This was real, then.

Aliza tiptoed out of the darkened room and down the stairs. She settled into her favorite corner spot on the dusty blue sectional where she knew followers could catch a glimpse of the sleek metal prints of her kids on the wall behind her.

She opened her camera and selected her favorite makeup filter. Long day, and all that. She held her phone up, tilting slightly down toward her. Record.

“Guys, I’m coming back on tonight, later than I ever story and in a snood, no less. But for a good reason. I know you heard me rant enough today about how people should behave, and I owe you all an apology. You guys really blow me away. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, I posted a tzedakah link earlier, and in just a couple of hours, you incredible people donated $5,000. Five thousand dollars! I can’t! I just can’t get over it! It’s beyond, beyond special. I am so honored to have you people here sharing this little corner of the Internet. I am on such a high from you guys, and honestly, I am so inspired!”

She posted it, adding the screenshot from @st1994 with her thank you message, and wrote across the top, “Hashem is proud of you!!!!!!”

And that’s how Yaakov found her ten minutes later when he wandered in from Maariv — sitting on the couch in her favorite spot, legs tucked underneath her and a silly smile on her face as she fielded responses and accolades.

“What’s up?” he asked curiously.

“Oh nothing,” she responded. “Just doing good things.”


The first half hour after the kids were finally all out was Aliza’s favorite time of day. She sipped her caramel oat milk latte in the grocery store parking lot and opened up Instagram.

It was funny — she hadn’t really meant to start a business, back in the early days. Besides, like her mother loved to remind her, nobody thought organizing was a job much more than five years ago, it was just a thing you did on Sundays when the kids’ closets became unbearable. But then her sister Chava’s best friend Tzivi saw the job Aliza had done in Chava’s new basement (it’s astonishing what you can accomplish with a label maker and an unlimited budget at The Container Store), and Tzivi was one of those people who told everyone every thought in her head. And the thought in her head was that Aliza was the be-all and end-all of organizing.

And then Yaakov had finished his last actuary test, so it was easy to say goodbye to the ridiculous workplace drama in the real estate office where she’d been an executive assistant, and try to make her hobby into a job. Using social media — free, easy, and fun — to show people how she made messes more manageable was a no-brainer at first, and as her platform grew, her business grew with it. And yes, when opportunities came around to make a difference outside of deciding if onesies should be stacked normally or folded vertically, she jumped on them. It was really nice to be able to elevate her interactions on social media.

Speaking of which, people were still heavily responding to the previous night’s story, and Aliza decided to skip her usual #morningmess before-and-after posts to focus on responding to the endless replies and comments.

She slid through her notifications, responding with a heart to a couple of them, and finally headed to the AMA that she’d posted the afternoon before.

They started off predictably. A nice Where did you get that coat from? Been looking for a good Sherpa coat all season and a few iterations of No question, just saying I love your content and don’t listen to the trolls! and some standard questions about organizing and household cleaning that she answered on her stories. She was getting close to the bottom of the sticker replies when she saw something that caught her eye. What’s your take on that crazy voice note that’s going around? I feel like you have such a normal relationship with your husband, interested in what you think. She tapped the user handle, recognizing the name as a long-term follower who was usually active in her comments and replies. She hit reply.

@Alizaorganizes: Hi there! I saw your sticker reply. What voice note were you referring to?

@mstein222: Hi!

@mstein222: Well it seems like a teacher in BY had an open forum class about dating for a short time vs. a long time to get to know the person better. Anyway the clip speaks for itself. Can’t forward a VN to insta so I’m recording from my husband’s phone.

Aliza’s phone was connected to the Bluetooth in her car, and a tinny voice, distorted by the recording of a recording, spilled out of the speakers.

“Girls, it comes down to your bitachon and emunah. If you believe that this is your bashert, and you have a healthy relationship with your parents, and they’re on the same page as you, then there is absolutely no reason to prolong dating. Look at the marriage rates in America! They date for years and years and half of them still end up divorced. We do things differently.

“Girls, no calling out, raise your hand for questions! One at a time please. Blimi?”

“But it’s easier to hide things when you haven’t spent that much time together,” a new voice emerged from the speaker. “How can we know that we won’t pick someone we think is nice and then once the dust settles everything is totally different?”

“Good question, Blimi,” the first voice was back. “And the answer is, you can never be 100 percent certain. That’s why you have bitachon. How can you know that chas v’shalom someone in your family won’t get hit by a car or get sick? It can happen. And as much as Rachmana litzlan someone being in a car accident is their pekel, a nisayon Hashem gives that a person can get through, being married to a difficult person is the same thing. Tzaddik v’ra lo, it’s one of those things we can never understand. I’m telling you this because you’re a mature class, and I think you can understand some nuance. There are people who are in difficult or even abusive marriages their whole lives. There is something very serious to be said about holding onto a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael; a broken home is not a simple thing. The Gemara says that the Mizbeiach cries when a man gives his wife a get. And as women you have a special koach to be the arbiter of shalom in your own homes, and you should use that power to the best of your ability.”

Aliza played it again in her airpods as she left her car, and she listened again as she bagged apples and limes in the produce aisle. There are people who are in difficult or even abusive marriages their whole lives. There is something very serious to be said about holding onto a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael; a broken home is not a simple thing.

She pulled into the driveway a half hour later, still thinking. Yaakov was finishing an eight-minute daf video at his desk, which she knew meant his next client was probably running late.

He ambled over to the fridge to help her put away the perishables, and she played the recording again. Something about the way the teacher was speaking stopped her from just letting it go. And knowing Yaakov, he would have something to say.

He looked up from the yogurts he was stacking in her favorite lucite fridge organizer.

“Who is that?”

“I’m not sure, a follower just sent this to me and wanted my take. What do you think?”

Yaakov closed the fridge. “It sounds dangerous. Who is she talking to?”

Aliza grimaced. “I think it’s a class. Bais Yaakov. Probably twelfth grade, if they’re talking about marriage. I should ask Miriam if she knows who it is.”

Yaakov’s sister was that teacher in the local school, the one the kids clamored to have a kesher with, and one of Aliza’s best friends. And if Aliza privately wondered — good naturedly — how many girls dramatized their normal lives to be able to chap Miriam for a DMC, that was neither here nor there.

Yaakov grinned. “It’s during the day, not even my mother can get her when she’s at school.”

“You’re right.” Aliza fell silent for a minute. “Honestly, this is what scares me: It sounds totally normal if you don’t think about it too hard. It’s like a pink flag. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s an issue. We have three girls who might hear this one day in school. And then what? What if they internalize this message, that shalom bayis is more important than their personal happiness and maybe even their safety? I would never forgive someone who taught this to our kids.”

She went back to the AMA reply, and hit post. “Help me draft a reply, okay?”

Yaakov, back at his desk in the kitchen alcove, settled back against the desk chair and closed his eyes. “The problem is that presenting ‘shalom bayis’ as a reason to put up with abusive behavior sends problematic messaging to girls, especially ones who might get married very young or are very naive,” he said.

“Especially… ones… who… might… Hang on, slow down. Repeat that last part,” said Aliza, typing furiously.

She turned the screen so he could see.

You guys, I know posting two stories that have

nothing to do with my business back-to-back is

bad for the almighty algorithm, but I don’t even care.

Just got this from a follower, and the voice note

(will post it in a sec) is honestly just not okay.

Presenting shalom bayis as

a reason to put up with abusive behavior

sends a completely inappropriate message to girls

who might stay with an abuser because

they think that it’s their responsibility

to bring peace to the relationship.

As a wife,

as a mother of girls,

I am frightened that this

messaging could become normalized.

This is crazy! Middos and shalom bayis are a

two way street!

I stand against abuse and against abuse apologists.

Seek help if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship.

She set her phone to screen record, recorded the voice note playing, then added closed captioning and uploaded that too.

It only took four minutes for the responses to begin rolling in.

@shirap43: This is sickening

@frumibutnotafrummy: Insane!!!! My friend was in therapy for eight years before finally getting out of her messed up marriage because she was always taught that she needs to be the one who should de-escalate everything and keep things calm. How are you supposed to de-escalate being married to a psycho exactly?

@bkleined2ppl: How is this ok? I do not get it at all.

@tovrose: Thank you for posting this! This is the messaging I heard in HS and it’s so damaging. Took me years to realize I wasn’t the problem.

The comments and messages piled up in her inbox as Aliza sat, glued to the screen in her hand.

Yaakov got up to peer over her shoulder.

“Whoa,” he said, impressed. “This is crazier than the comments you got on the giveaway contest. The Aliza Army is fired up. Sell them something, quick.”

Aliza rolled her eyes. “Hilarious. Obviously, people care about this, and they should. This is worth caring about.”

Yaakov grinned. “Listen, I knew you were changing the world with your label maker and your neat pantries but good to know you’re a thought leader too.”

She laughed, but it felt nice. Yes, it was an insipid Instagram page, but there was a certain satisfaction in knowing you could be a voice of normalcy in this crazy world. And people obviously liked it.


Later that night, after the potato kugel was in the oven and the London broil was marinating, Aliza settled back on her favorite spot on the couch. She opened Instagram. Screen recording herself scrolling through the replies, she was shocked at the sheer volume. She posted that, then picked a few to open at random and posted screenshots of those back to her stories. Some other Instagrammers had reposted her stories, with their own commentary, bringing even more people into the conversation. She flitted through the stories she posted, pleased with the traction she was getting. For a good cause, of course.

A message caught her eye.

@ffreund: Tachlis, how can we prevent this from being taught in our mainstream schools? Should we start a petition and show the hanhalah how strongly we feel about this?

She posted it with her own “Food for thought…” as a caption. @ffreund responded right away. “I’m a graphic designer, and honestly? This is personal for me. My first reaction was that I wanted to make you a few slides. I saw a few other influencers posted about this also and it might be good to have cohesive messaging.” Thirty seconds later her inbox pinged with a flier declaring, Shalom Bayis is a Two-Way Street. Teachers: Teach Our Children that Abuse is Wrong. She posted it to her feed and stories, no caption necessary.

@ffreund replied again. “I know that voice note triggered me because of some events in my life and how they tied to what I was told as a kid… but I can’t stop thinking about it. Like honestly, how can anyone trust any teacher to take care of their kids? I feel like I need to keep my family in a box and throw away the key. There’s no one normal out there anymore, and for sure not in positions of influence.”

Aliza took a deep breath and typed a response. “I’m so sorry you went through that. Listen, not everyone is like this. I know incredible people in chinuch, and I’m sure you do, too. But of course we need to be involved in our kids’ chinuch as much as possible so we can give them clear and consistent messaging at home.”

@ffreund: I don’t really know people in chinuch, but yeah, I’m struggling.

@alizaorganizes: Well, I have a sister-in-law who’s a mechaneches in BY and a kallah teacher, and she talks to and mentors all types of people. I’d be happy to put you in touch, I’m going to see her on Shabbos and talk to her about it then.


The five-block walk to her in-laws on Shabbos afternoon was Aliza’s favorite part of the day, especially in jacket weather. But as soon as their coats were hung up in Mommy’s cavernous closet, stuffed with outerwear from three other siblings and their kids, and the girls had scampered downstairs to play with cousins, Aliza knew something was up. Why was everyone being so awkward? They had this Shalosh Seudos practically every week, and it was always fun, friendly, maybe just a touch below too loud. When she’d gotten married eight years ago, this had been the most intimidating part of getting to know the new family, they were so close. So why was it feeling like an uncomfortable first date?

She walked into the kitchen to grab her famous maple bourbon salmon out of Ma’s fridge, relieved to see Miriam — a guaranteed friendly face. “Hi, Mir,” she said. Her voice was lower than usual in an attempt to push past the awkwardness in the air. “I’ve been dying to get your take on that crazy voice note that’s been going around. And one of my followers is looking for someone to talk to about it; I told her I would ask you. Honestly I feel like a lot of people need someone to talk to. You should start a side business mentoring people on social media who get triggered. Anyway, did you hear the clip? Is it someone in your school?”

Miriam — one of her closest friends, star teacher, devoted wife, incredible mother, and all-around nice person — looked at her and turned away.

And in that second, Aliza knew.

“Miriam?” she whispered. Her stomach heaved, but Miriam didn’t turn back to face her.

Aliza sagged against the counter behind her. She felt dizzy. It couldn’t have been Miriam. There was just no way it could have been Miriam.

Aliza swallowed hard. “What happened?”

Miriam’s voice was tight. “We had an open forum discussion, I do them at least once a month, and I let the girls pick the topic. It’s everyone’s favorite class. The first question was about sending pictures with a shidduch resume; we had a great back and forth.” She sucked in a breath. Her voice was shaky and small.

Aliza passed a hand over her eyes. It couldn’t be.

“And then someone, a sweet girl whose sisters I’ve been teaching since my first year, asked about dating for a long time, and I told them my opinion. I think what I said is right, girls should lechatchilah date for as short as possible. I had no idea someone recorded it, and I have no idea how a clip of it got out. It just turned into this whole… nightmare. People saying that I think abuse is okay? Obviously that couldn’t be further from the truth. You know me. I’m a kallah teacher, I help my girls through all sorts of difficult relationship scenarios, including some abusive situations! After what you hear on that clip, I went on for about five minutes straight explaining how to identify red flags that could indicate abuse and how abuse should not be tolerated, ever. That part was conveniently left off.”

Miriam’s forehead was creased with worry and distress and fear. “And then the board president called me yesterday to say that it would be better if I laid low for a few days until they sort things out. So yeah, people think I’m an abuse apologist, and to top it all off, I have no idea if I have a job anymore.”

Aliza struggled to calm herself. This couldn’t be happening. What had she done? How could she not have realized it was Miriam? How could she not have realized there was a context? And worst of all… did Miriam realize she was the reason the recording blew up? She shook herself mentally. Those details absolutely did not matter right now.

Miriam’s eyes flicked to the doorway, and Aliza turned woodenly to see that Elisheva, Yaakov’s youngest sister, had slipped into the kitchen. She was usually a vocal supporter of Aliza’s, on and off Instagram, but now her face was fierce and furious. “This whole nightmare would never have happened if some people hadn’t taken it upon themselves to influence the whole world,” she hissed, her tone and intention unmistakably pointed.

Miriam’s face registered her shock, her jaw slackening and her hooded eyes aghast. She definitely hadn’t known.

Aliza scrambled to make it better, her panic scattering her speech. “Miriam… I… don’t know what to say. I had no idea. I am so, so sorry. You have to believe me. I had no idea it was you in that clip, it didn’t sound like you. I would never have… I never meant to…” She took a steadying breath. “I was trying to do what was right.” Deep breathing was not helping. “I need to figure out how to fix this.”

Miriam took a ragged breath. “Listen, I—”

But Elisheva hadn’t been the only one to overhear. Yaakov’s mother had been straightening up in the den right off the kitchen, and now she stalked over to their anxious little group, her face pale and tight. She didn’t say a word, but Aliza couldn’t bear those accusing eyes boring into her soul. She mumbled a hasty and desperately apologetic farewell and fled through the dining room and out the front door, pausing only long enough to hurriedly ask Yaakov to tell the kids it was time to go.

Not to make this whole thing about her, but it had been a rough couple of days for Aliza. She’d taken a few days off from posting, not trusting herself to react properly in the moment, not trusting herself at all, in fact, and desperately unsure of how to mend the rift with Miriam. She hadn’t even turned her phone on until Sunday morning, at which point her mother’s 30 WhatsApp messages loaded, starting from Hi sweetie gv how was Shabbos and ending with ARE YOU OK??, and she almost turned it right back off.

Rachelli and Kaylie deliberately made a mess on the playroom floor on Sunday afternoon so they could play organizer, and Aliza had surreptitiously grabbed her phone with a grin. But then she remembered, and she couldn’t bring herself to film it, even for evergreen material.

She’d drafted a dramatic “Cancel me instead” post in her head about a thousand times, but honestly, using her phone and her platform to exonerate herself — when her misuse of it had been her downfall to begin with — felt off. It all felt wrong. But like, what, was she going to knock on Miriam’s door and deliver a speech to her? Well, maybe.

“I think you should,” said Yaakov on Sunday night when Aliza voiced this thought. “You should talk to her,” he said on Monday, more firmly. And on Tuesday, he said to her phone, “Siri, call Miriam,” while her hands were mid-schnitzel dredge, and then he left the cursed thing in front of her on the counter and went to Minchah, that sneak.

Miriam’s “Hello” was quiet. Aliza’s whole self felt like one big cringe.

“Miriam, it’s me. Before you say anything, I need to beg your mechilah. I am so incredibly sorry that I put that audio clip out, and I’m so sorry that I hurt you. My only flimsy excuse for my behavior is that I thought I was doing something good, and I didn’t know it was you. Which is terrible, because I never even considered that the person whose voice I would be posting is someone else’s sister-in-law whom they probably love and admire very much, and that I might be damaging that person, hurting their feelings, possibly putting their livelihood at stake. The story is expired, and I think people have moved on, but if it will help you in any way for me to say all this publicly, I’m prepared to. I don’t care what I have to do, I don’t care if you tell me the only way you’ll talk to me again is if I delete my account forever, I don’t care about organizing houses, I just need you to be mochel me.”

The silence was agonizing. After an eternity, she heard Miriam sigh.

“I don’t blame you, Leez, I believe you that it was a mistake. Gam zu l’tovah. Baruch Hashem, the hanhalah is okay with letting it die down and hoping it blows over, so it would be better if you didn’t post anything.”


Yaakov was at shul, so she had to wait to talk to him, but her relief and euphoria overwhelmed her annoyance. The moment she’d hung up the phone, Aliza felt a sudden lightness spread through her body, almost like she was floating. Things would go back to normal; her relationship with Miriam would be fine. All was right in the world once more.

She couldn’t stop smiling as she bounded down the stairs to check on the girls, who were happily mashing neon green Play-Doh into the basement rug. Aliza didn’t even care. Miriam had forgiven her, that was all that mattered.

When Yaakov finally showed up some 20 minutes later, her good mood hadn’t dissipated, but it had settled down from hyper-relief to a more manageable upbeat happiness. He took a seat at the tiny toddler-sized art table, much to Kaylie’s delight, and, knees almost around his ears, accepted the pot of onion and pretzel soup she’d cooked for him.

He looked at Aliza, sitting cross-legged on the floor with Kaylie back on her lap, flipping through The Going to Bed Book.

“Went okay?” he asked.

She nodded happily.

“Miriam was beyond gracious and understanding,” she said, running her hands through Kaylie’s downy curls. “I am just so relieved it’s over. I feel like taking a break from social has been good for me.”

Kaylie strained for a book that was just out of her reach, and Aliza passed it to her.

“And besides, you know how crazy fast the news cycle on social is; I bet everyone forgot about this whole thing by now anyway.”

She sighed in relief.

“The most important thing is, baruch Hashem we won’t have to have another awkward Shalosh Seudos like that ever again, because last week’s was more stress than I can handle.”

Yaakov’s knee, balancing the tiny stainless steel pot on the side of the kiddie table, bounced nervously, making the plastic vegetables rattle. Aliza tried catching his eye, wondering why he wasn’t responding, but he was studiously looking up and across at the tiny basement window near the ceiling.

Yaakov was many things, but evasive was usually not one of them.

“What?” Aliza asked.

“What what?” he countered.

“You’re not saying something. Do you think I should stay off Insta for a little longer? Because I really feel like I totally gained a lot from this whole thing and I—”

Yaakov glanced at her and looked away again. His face was weird, unreadable, but clearly tense. She could see a muscle jumping in his jaw.

“No, it’s not that.” He looked miserable.

“Well, what? Just get it over with. I won’t yell until the kids are asleep.” She forced the joke out, but Yaakov didn’t smile.

“Ma called before Mincha, and we were talking about — we were talking. And it looks like Ma might not be up for Shalosh Seudos this week.”

Miriam looked at him, hard, but he was still looking away. “Not up for Shalosh Seudos or not up for me?”

Yaakov didn’t answer, which was an answer.

“But… Miriam is mochel me. It’s over!” She tossed her phone down, as if to prove the point.

He shrugged. “The world is bigger than a phone screen. And messier.”

“But the whole thing blew over. Everyone forgot about it on social!” There was a sob in her voice, like she was choking.

Yaakov picked the phone up off the floor and laid it gently beside her. “I guess not everyone is on social,” he said.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 931)

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