I t’s Friday afternoon and I’m in my office writing derashos and researching shiurim.

It’s usually quiet in the office right before Shabbos. It’s a time when parents are pleading with their children to jump into the shower or when families are indulging in some Erev Shabbos potato kugel.

I relish this peaceful quiet time immersed in learning or writing.

The phone jolts me back to reality.

“Hello Rabbi?”

I immediately recognize the voice. It’s Mrs. Sylvia Rubin. (Name changed)

I met Sylvia — as she insists I call her — years ago when she was staffing a voting station.

Sylvia was the master of “Can you top this?” and over the years she graced our Shabbos table with a potpourri of true — or apocryphal — stories. If someone said they had just flown to California and were “bumped” to business class for example Sylvia would say “Oh that’s nothing! When I flew to Melbourne I was seated in first class for the entire flight!”

Despite her habitual cavalier air of never having a care in the world the real truth about Sylvia was — as with most of us — far more complicated and troubled than she let on.

Over the years I learned that Sylvia was twice divorced had buried her only son and was not on speaking terms with her only daughter.

Now as Sylvia was in her eighties her mobility was becoming more and more limited. Her old cantankerous yet arrogant personality was disappearing and a more somber and sad Sylvia began to emerge.

It was this Sylvia Rubin the subdued sorrowful wistful Sylvia who was calling me 20 minutes before lichtbentshen.

“How are you Sylvia? What did I do to deserve this honor of having you call me before Shabbos?” I asked.


“Sylvia? Are you there?”

Then all I heard was sobbing and crying.

“Sylvia are you all right? Should I call Hatzolah? Should I have one of my daughters come over to your place?”

“No I’m fine ” she said pulling herself together. “I don’t need Hatzolah and I am all right.”

“What can I do for you?” I pleaded.

“Rabbi I was just looking around my house. I have no pictures of grandchildren like so many of my friends and I have no husband to share my golden years with. I have few people I can call. There are even fewer people who call me. I know this is my fate and I generally cope as best as possible with my situation but today for whatever the reason an overwhelming feeling of loneliness took hold of me.

“And I began to cry… and as I cried I realized that there was not a single person in the world to comfort me as there was no one here who could even have heard me cry.

“I’m sorry to bother you but that’s why I called you Rabbi. I called so that at least one person in this entire world would hear my cry.”

Somehow writing derashos and preparing shiurim were no longer important; all of the things that just five minutes ago I was convinced were so critical and vital to accomplish just no longer mattered.

There was only thing in the world worthy of my time and that was listening to Sylvia Rubin cry.

And as she cried I cried with her.

From that week on until her death two years later Sylvia Rubin and I spoke every Erev Shabbos.

Sometimes she cried and sometimes she didn’t but at least from that Friday on someone always heard her crying.

We all cry sometimes; that’s how life is. However if at least you have someone there to hear your crying you have something to be thankful for. (Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 675)