“If I’m supposed to live a life like everyone else, why did You make me so different?”
ZeeZee pulled her scarf up over her mouth as she stepped out of the cab at Shaar Ha’ashpot. It was late and she knew she was risking curfew, but she didn’t care.
She had no desire to go back to the dorm. There was nobody there she felt like speaking to. No one she felt like calling, either. No friends. No family members. And the only teacher she felt like reaching out to was unreachable. She’d never felt so alone.
She kept walking until, finally, she was in front of the Kosel.
The only One left to talk to.
ZeeZee put her hand on the stone. And the words burst out: Hashem, what’s going to be with me?
She’d always thought it was everyone else’s problem that she was different. That it was exciting to march to a different drummer, and if adults in her life had an issue with that, well, let them. But she was no longer so confident that she could trust her instincts, no longer sure that the adults in her life were all wrong.
When will you settle down, ZeeZee? It was Gitty’s voice, but it was also her own.
She touched her forehead to the Wall. “Hashem,” she whispered. “If I’m supposed to live a life like everyone else, why did You make me so different?”
There was no answer, no major revelation exploding inside her brain. Not that she expected one. Maybe the question didn’t even make sense. After all, wasn’t everyone different from each other? What if her real problem was that she saw herself as unique, when really she was no more unique than anyone else?
That was the most terrifying thought of all.
ZeeZee stood there for a while, eyes squeezed shut, feeling the cool rock through her glove, until the calm of the ancient stones began to seep into her.
The moment was interrupted by the peal of her phone.
She looked down and groaned. Gitty. The last person she felt like speaking to right now. But her sister had come through for her with this campaign. With a sigh, she stepped away from the Kosel and answered the call.
“What’s up, Gitty?”
“ZeeZee! I’m glad you answered. Listen, we need to discuss what to do with the money.”
She could practically hear Gitty’s eyes rolling. “Um, the $100,000 that we raised for Mrs. Edelman’s daughter? I know they wanted the campaign shut down, but if we already have this money, I’m sure they won’t refuse to take it.”
For a second, ZeeZee’s heart jumped as she pictured presenting Mrs. Edelman with a check for $100,000. But it plummeted just as quickly. Would Mrs. E. be happy or mortified? Maybe she’d rather them return it all than accept tzedakah?
“I don’t know,” she said slowly. “We have to think this through. How do we give it to her in a way that doesn’t embarrass her?”
Gitty was silent for a moment. “What if we present it as a gift of appreciation from all her talmidos. To show her that we’re the ones who’ve been on the receiving end all these years, and we want to give something back. What do you think?”
There was something funny about Gitty’s voice, though ZeeZee couldn’t immediately put her finger on what it was.
“That’s nice,” she said slowly. “Although I’m not sure if it’s enough. ’Cuz, really, we all know it’s a joke. A gift of appreciation is, like, a chocolate arrangement and a gift certificate to a jewelry store. Not a hundred grand.”
“Hmm, good point.”
ZeeZee’s eyes widened as she realized what it was about Gitty’s words. For the first time in her life, Gitty was asking her opinion about something, was treating her like an adult, rather than a silly little girl.
Suddenly buoyed, she said, “How ’bout this? We tell her that it’s not a gift, but a loan.”
“We’re going to make her pay back $100,000?”
“No, not a loan to pay back,” ZeeZee said. “To pay — how d’you call it? — forward. Like, in the future, when Devoiry becomes a rich businesswoman, she should help out someone else who’s struggling in the zechus of the Shvilei talmidos.”
“I like it!” Gitty said. She paused. “Listen, I’m sure it’s awkward for you right now, so if you’d like, I’m happy to be the one to speak to Mrs. Edelman.”
For a second, ZeeZee felt resentful. Did Gitty think she’d mess up the job? Or maybe she was trying to take the credit for herself?
ZeeZee glanced at the Kosel in front of her and closed her eyes. Gitty was right; it would be a crazy awkward conversation. It was nice of her to offer to do it.
But she also knew she couldn’t let her do that.
“Thanks, but I think this is something I need to do myself. You know, to apologize to her and stuff.”
“Okay.” And then, Gitty added, “ZeeZee, I must say, I’ve been really impressed with the way you’ve handled this entire campaign.” She cleared her throat. “You’ve grown up this year, little sis.”
Tammy stood outside Rabbi Freund’s door and drew in a slow breath. This wouldn’t be the first uncomfortable encounter in his office this year; why was her courage failing her? Especially since she’d been the one to request the meeting?
Mrs. Brander raised an eyebrow at her and, blushing, Tammy quickly knocked on the door.
“Sit down, Mrs. Hurwitz. How can I help?”
Rabbi Freund’s face seemed friendlier than usual — or was it just that she was so used to seeing him gravely disappointed?
Tammy gripped the sides of her chair. It was probably a bad idea to be holding this meeting on zero sleep; she’d been so shell-shocked after her conversation with Rikki yesterday that she’d spent the rest of the day and night thinking, questioning, deciding, talking it out with Yehuda, and then thinking some more.
Her eyes burned but her mind was unusually clear. And she knew that if she didn’t say what needed to be said now, she just might lose her nerve.
“Rabbi Freund, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what you said the other day. That it was my lapse of judgment that put Mrs. Edelman’s reputation — and the entire school’s future — at risk.”
The menahel nodded silently, waiting for her to continue.
Tammy took a breath. “That really shook me up. And I realized that it’s true. I haven’t been showing good judgment.” She swallowed. “So I decided that it just wouldn’t be responsible for me to continue in this position. Not until I — I work on this.”
As soon as she’d come home from the Yad b’Yad center yesterday, she’d called up the therapist Rikki had recommended and made an appointment. Not that she knew where she’d get the money to pay for it, especially if she was quitting her job. She had not appreciated Yehuda’s joke that she start a crowdfunding campaign — but the fact that he could joke about it had meant the world to her.
Rabbi Freund was still silent, and she added, awkwardly, “Of course, I’ll stay as long as you need me. Until you find someone else.”
Rabbi Freund nodded slowly. A part of her was holding her breath, hoping that he would protest, that he’d say, “You’re a wonderful eim bayit and we don’t want to lose you.”
But he didn’t. After a pause, he said, “Mrs. Hurwitz, I appreciate this decision. It reflects a lot of courage and honesty on your part. I agree it’s the wisest decision at this point. How about you stay on until Pesach vacation? That should give me enough time to find someone new.”
He tugged at his beard then added, “I wish you much hatzlachah in the future. You have a lot of talent, and I believe you can go far.”
“Thank you,” Tammy murmured, wincing inside from the platitude. Was that the best he could say about her?
Slowly, she stood up. As she turned to leave, she was sure she caught a look of relief flit across Rabbi Freund’s face.
So that was it. The end of her dreams, her fantasy of being the great spiritual influencer of the next generation of seminary girls.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 776)
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