I’m due to give birth during the last days of Elul. And I’m determined not to let my husband miss going to the Rebbe
n paper, my life is not so different than the lives of many other Belzer families in Boro Park. I teach, my husband is in klei kodesh, we have a beautiful, growing family, kein ayin hara.
Also like many other chassidim, during Elul my husband longs to be in his Rebbe’s chatzeir. What sets my husband apart is his consistency: Since age ten, he’s never once missed spending the Yamim Noraim with the Rebbe in Yerushalayim. Even the year of the September 11 attacks, when only one plane left the US in time for Shabbos Selichos, my husband was on that plane.
Sending the man of the house off for two of the busiest weeks of the year is never simple, but apparently, that isn’t enough for me. It turns out that I’m due to give birth during the last days of Elul. And I’m determined not to let my husband miss his annual trip.
My friends whose husbands are businessmen send them off happily to earn the family’s livelihood, I reason to myself. My husband’s calling is spreading Torah, and going to the Rebbe is his pipeline, where he fills up on spiritual sustenance for the whole year.
Aside from that, I don’t get to shul much during these blessedly hectic years, so I want at least one family representative storming the gates of Heaven.
Believe it or not, this has happened before. My third child was born at this exact time of year, and that year my husband went the same as usual. It was rough. He came home virtually Erev Succos, and he and his hormonal wife fell headlong into Yom Tov.
I’ve come to recognize that the third week postpartum is one of the hardest stages for me emotionally, and not a great time for me to be washing suitcases full of laundry while frantically ordering the last pre-Yom Tov groceries.
This time around, we’ll make sure he goes, but he’s coming back during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. I want to do this serenely.
Every year, postpartum or not, I do everything in my power to make my husband’s trips work smoothly. This year is no different. These are the weeks I treat the family to pizza suppers and hire extra cleaning help.
In a way, his being abroad eases some of the demands of daily routine. Not that he’s noisy or demanding, but without the head of the household around, supper can be scrambled eggs and we can wander in from our excursions whenever we please, instead of working around his schedule.
Typically, the nights are the most stressful. Sleeping in a house with no other adults always spooks me, so I compensate by pulling all-night baking marathons while schmoozing on the phone with a friend in a similar predicament. When we finally collapse into bed, we’re too tired to think about being alone. Plus, we have the whole Yom Tov neatly labeled and stored in our freezers.
This year, though, I’ll be in the kimpeturin home, so no nighttime bogeyman to worry about. Instead, my preparations involve making arrangements to farm out my children to friends and relatives while I recuperate.
Additionally, since a newborn will complicate my usual late-night cooking sprees, I need to make sure all of our food is prepped and frozen well in advance, so I spend my summer stocking up.
How it went down
All my advance work pays off, and my plans run smoothly without a hitch.
My father picks me up from the hospital and delivers me to the kimpeturin home. My children are happy and well-tended to by their doting aunts. While exciting things tend to happen when my husband’s away — one time a child broke a leg and another needed stitches — this year is blessedly boring and everyone is baruch Hashem in good health.
I arrive home on Tzom Gedaliah, just as my husband is disembarking from his return flight, spiritually recharged and ready to celebrate a beautiful Yom Tov with his family.
If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t do it this way — I’d have my husband stay at the Rebbe for Yom Kippur as well. At the end of the day, I regretted taking that opportunity away from him, from us.
My husband’s dedication to being by the Rebbe for the Yamim Noraim has always been a source of pride for my children. They don’t remember Tatty ever dipping the apple in honey, so they have no expectations of any other way.
Is it easy? If I wasn’t so passionate about sending my husband, then sure, it would be a huge challenge. But it’s a matter of prioritizing. Since this matters so much to me, I’ve chosen to make it work, and when you’re all in, the hardest things becomes doable.
My dare inspiration: The year we got married, I accompanied my husband to Belz. Seeing the power and beauty of the tefillos, I knew I wanted him to be there for my family every year.
I dare say: If any of my sons-in-law don’t go to Eretz Yisrael for Rosh Hashanah, I joke that they can’t come to me — on Rosh Hashanah, I get the becher.
I would never dare: It would be too hard for me to send my husband away if I knew he was traveling for business.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 660)