Iwas ready for battle. True, it was almost Shabbos, but last night and this morning had been straight crisis with Bug Off. They could’ve started crisis protocol without me, I had created a whole plan of action for them in case of emergency — but there’d been an emergency and everyone drowned.

I’d responded in the 24-hour window, but it had been too late, and without me they did everything wrong: got defensive, denied any wrongdoing, threatened to sue. We’d tried smoothing things over, but the damage was mostly done; now it’s a waiting game.

I was so happy it was almost Shabbos, I wouldn’t be able to think about it for 25 hours. I’d learned my lesson with Abby, business on Shabbos does not turn out well, even with “nisht Shabbos geredt.”

Five minutes to candlelighting, I double-checked that all the right lights were on and the blech in place, picked up a match to light, then remembered I hadn’t turned off my phone. It rang as I grabbed it. Bug Off. I answered.

“Shifra, disaster, our employee who did the spraying got so mad over this lady, he posted a vitriolic rant about her. She reposted it, and is threatening to take legal action us!”

No, not now. I took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry, Stan. It’s my Sabbath in two minutes and I can’t talk on the phone or do any work. Fire the employee, and release a statement to the press that this is not reflective of your company culture and you’ve parted ways. Reach out to the woman, apologize, say you’re sorry, you’re not liable for his behavior, do not offer her anything at this point. I’m sorry I can’t do more right now, I have to go.”

“What am I paying you for?”

“I just gave you instructions, follow them, you should be fine, I’ll be in touch tomorrow night.” I kept my voice smooth. “I have to go now.”

He said a few choice words and hung up on me. He was fuming, but I hoped things would be totally fine by the time Shabbos was over.

I passed out on the couch after lighting, waking only when Ari came home after davening. We ate the seudah. It was pretty basic, Ari’s not a big or picky eater, I’m lucky. Not being able to discuss Bug Off with Ari over Shabbos was both a tension and a relief.

“Wanna go for a walk?” I offered after we bentshed. Ari gave me a look, like he couldn’t believe I suggested it. I’m trying, but judging by Ari’s face, I should have done this a long time ago.

“Sure.” He put on for his coat.

The air outside was brisk but pleasant — no wind, no people. We were quiet at first.

“What’s up?” Ari finally said.

Nothing was up, it was Shabbos, it was quiet, I could breathe. Should I say that? It sounded so stupid. “Nothing much, you?”

Ari stopped walking. “Can I ask you something?” He dug his hands into his pockets.

I froze. “Sure.”

“I’d ask about the ‘emergency,’ but it’s Shabbos so I’ll ask my next question. Why does hosting a Shabbos seudah mean so much to you? Why did you go all out for it? Especially with your emergency.”

Was that a trick question? “It’s Shabbos, I want it to be beautiful.”

“What was wrong with tonight’s seudah?”

Another trick question? “Nothing.”

“So why are you serving on totally different dishes and stuff?”

“It’s not expensive,” I defended myself.

Ari looked at me. “I don’t care about money. I’m a clueless guy, explain how this hosting and Shabbos work. It feels like a production to me.”

“Exactly!” I said. Maybe he did get it.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 633)