| Outside Chance |

Outside Chance: Chapter 15 

They wanted to pay me to speak? Funniest thing ever

"Can I take three styles in a size 13, 13.5, and 14, and then bring them back tomorrow?” I asked the shoe salesman, who looked as though only his professionalism was keeping him from rolling his eyes.

He probably thinks I’m “one of those women,” whoever those are. But really, how do other people shop for boys’ Shabbos shoes? Bring them there after school? Where are all the other kids supposed to be? Don’t say Sunday, boys always have yeshivah.

“I can give you one pair of shoes in two sizes, I can’t do more.”

Wonderful, they have policies to accommodate people like me. But doesn’t he know one style is not enough? One shoe will be my style, one will be what Tzvi likes, and the third will be the happy medium. Tzvi needs to see all three or it won’t work.

I wish I could say Zappos, here I come, but they don’t have the “Jewish” styles. And since we’ve moved, the Jewish styles have become more important. Oh, well.

“I’ll take these, thanks.” I smiled, pointed to the happy-medium pair, and sent up a little prayer. My phone vibrated just as I left the store.

“Hi! Rebbetzin Schwartzberg?” Wow, she was enthusiastic.


“My name is Leeba Grunhut and I run LOL, an organization for teens who need a little more TLC. I heard you speak at the Neshei panel last week and you inspired me. I think your message and approach will really connect with my girls. I’d love to have you speak at the beach event we’re having in two weeks, Sunday the fourth, at noon, do you think it can work?”

I stopped in the middle of the street, people walking around me; someone bumped into the bag of shoes draped over my arm. It seems people were watching me and I hadn’t realized. But this could be fun.

“Oh, wow, that sounds wonderful. Let me just get back to you on the timing.”

“Excellent!” Leeba paused. “Rebbetzin Schwartzberg, I know your time is valuable, but we’re a small non-profit. All we can offer at the moment is a $100 honorarium, can you accept that?”

I paused. Leeba misinterpreted my silence.

“I can speak to a donor and see if I can improve the offer a little, but I wouldn’t know for a few days.”

“No worries,” I assured her. “A hundred is more than enough. It’s my pleasure and a real privilege to speak to your girls.”

“Thank you!” Leeba enthused. “Be in touch about the timing.”

I hung up and continued standing still, the Fashion Footwear bag weighing on my arm. They wanted to pay me to speak? Funniest thing ever.


“Excuse me!” I whirled to follow the voice, then moved to the side as two women with matching strollers walked past. Maybe me and Leah would do that.

As I made my way back to my car, I wondered what I’d talk about. What do teens who need TLC need to hear? Don’t we all need TLC? What do we all want to hear? I walked past my car, only realizing that when I clicked the remote and it beeped 100 feet behind me. I laughed and scurried to my car. Once seated, I pulled down the sun visor, peered in the mirror, and made a wacko face in the mirror. Sunday, two weeks, does that work?

No, it struck me, it does not. I’d have to leave in middle of my Neshei shiur. Could I cancel for the day? Was I allowed to? Was it right to? My phone vibrated. Saved by the buzz. I glanced at caller ID, Yehudis. What Hashgachah pratis.

“Hi, Yehudis!” It was quiet a moment longer than I’d expected. She must have been bowled over by my enthusiasm.

“Hello, Rebbetzin Schwartzberg,” Yehudis responded. “So glad I caught you.”

“Yes, perfect timing, really, I had a question for you.”

“Sure, you first!”

“An organization asked me to speak, but the timing doesn’t work perfectly, I’d have to leave the Sunday morning shiur a little early, maybe miss it that day, is that something we can work out?”

Yehudis exhaled loudly. Was it asthma? Relief?

“It’ll actually work out just fine. I was calling to tell you I’m reconsidering the shiur schedule, the timing as well as some topics don’t seem to be working for many women. I’m contacting shul members for their take, and I’ll work from there to reconstruct a schedule and program that accommodates all.”

“Oh.” Weird. We just set up this schedule, how is it not working already? And content, am I in trouble? “So that means what?”

“I’m putting your shiurim on hold until two weeks after Yom Tov.”

“Got it.”

“Great. Thanks for understanding.” She hung up. Am I done? Just when I was getting into it? At least I had an answer for Leeba Grunhut.


“They’re beast, Ma!” Tzvi crowed as he examined his feet in the new Shabbos shoes. Thank You, Hashem, I shouted internally, and almost broke into high kicks.

Then Chaim slunk into the kitchen. He glanced at Tzvi and wrinkled his nose.

“Such a Harry,” he said, and continued on into the living room. I don’t think he even saw the shoes.

Tzvi’s smile evaporated, and he kicked the shoes off. Seriously? Square one? Why did Chaim do that? And why are big brothers so influential?

I bent down and picked up the now-rejected shoes, nestling them in the box and wrapped the crinkly tissue paper around them. Blech, this would’ve never happened if Chaim was dorming.

I shooed Tzvi out of the kitchen and started on supper. The mindlesslness of breading shnitzel always helps me think. Flour, egg, crumbs, flour, egg, crumbs, Chaim had told me the other Shabbos that between having a tutor and being out of the dorm he feels like a floater, not really part of the yeshivah. I hear that. Flour, eggs, crumbs, flour eggs, crumbs. I think that’s what made me so happy when Leeba Grunhut called. I’m not just a new person here, but a person that people want and accept. I should call the rosh yeshivah. Flour, egg, crumbs.

My phone rang hours later while I dozed on the couch waiting for Chaim to come home after night seder.

“Rebbetzin Schwartzberg, is this a bad time?”

It was the rosh yeshivah. Did I sound that bad? Guess so. I bolted upright and blinked rapidly, then waved my arms around and swung my feet up, not sure why I think that’ll make me sound alive.

“Great time, thank you for the same-day service.”

He chuckled. Good sign. “What can I do for you?”

“It’s not for me, it’s for Chaim. I know you sent him out of the dorms with good reason and I completely respect your decision. I was just hoping we could revisit it.”


“Yes, reconsider letting him back in the dorm.”

“Rebbetzin, Chaim is a good bochur. He’s also very popular, a real mashpia, so I can only reconsider my decision if I think that whatever made him pull the fire alarm is batul.”

Uh… not.

“Rabbi Pinkowitz, Chaim has been doing a lot of soul-searching and work. I’m sure you see improvement yourself.”

I think I heard a strangled harrumph there, but he didn’t correct me. I’d better try again.

“Yes, he had a rough start,” I conceded, “But we’re all working together to make this a great year. I think putting him back in the dorm will signal the confidence we have in his abilities. Also I think it’s important to weigh the benefits and costs of his being out of the dorm.”

“I hear, I hear.” There was a moment of contemplative quiet. “I need to think about this, Rebbetzin Schwartzberg. You’re his mother, so your concern is him. In my position, I need to consider about how it’ll affect the other bochurim.” He paused. “I need to talk to some other rebbeim who know him well.”

“Of course,” I said. “I didn’t expect an answer right away.”

“Good, we’ll be in touch then.”

I hung up, and davened. Hashem, I know Chaim isn’t really doing better. But for his sake and my sake and his younger siblings’ sake, please let the rosh yeshivah buy it.

to be continued…

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 702)

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