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Second Chances

Tefillos that hadn’t been answered in the way I’d wanted left me scared to try again


2 a.m. and most of the family is asleep;

just my son and I are schmoozing, dressed to the nines. There are delicate chocolates on the dining room table that my new mechuteneste insisted I take home from tonight’s vort. I look at Yossi, the newly minted chassan, still quivering with excitement.

“Ma,” Yossi leans forward across the table, “do you remember last year’s Seder?”

The first Covid Pesach. The lights seemed dimmed then, all of us distressed and worried. We sat at the Seder, just our little family — three bochurim, uprooted from yeshivah too early, and one 11-year-old who was hearing too much. Absent was the rest of the family, holed up in their own bubble of fear.

“What about it?” I ask.

“During the Haggadah, at ‘Vanitzak el Hashem…’ ” he trails off.

Suddenly, I remember it so clearly. My husband had lifted his voice in fervor, held his hands high, and told us that this is a time for bakashah. “Hashem, we ask… Liba bas Malka should be married next year Pesach.” Liba, my husband’s niece, was single and past her 30th birthday. My sons responded with a resounding Amen. I was quiet, skeptical.

My teen experiences with tefillos that hadn’t been answered in the way I’d wanted had left me scared to try again. Of course, I daven for my children, for Hashem’s other children, but never directly, afraid to leave myself open to disappointment and disillusionment.

My husband went on to the next words in the Haggadah, when my youngest piped up, “Also Hindy!” Hindy is my sister’s only daughter, single at 23. My son often runs to their house on Friday nights to play with his cousins. Hindy always saved him chocolates, and she taught him chess moves.

Again, my husband lifted his hands in prayer. “Hinde bas Brenda should be married next year Pesach,” he said. The boys shouted Amen and we continued on. Suddenly, there was another voice. I looked up. “Tatty, what about me?” Yossi said quietly.

My husband and I both raised our brows. Yossi was barely 18. Just two weeks before, on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, we’d hung and popped humungous confetti balloons for his surprise birthday bash, Covid style. We’re chassidish, so boys get married young, but still, this was way too early. The table was eerily quiet. Finally, my husband closed his eyes and sang out, “Yosef ben Baila should be engaged next year Pesach.” The boys’ Amen reverberated loudly.

My mind was whirling with practicalities, “Uh, maybe not on Erev Pesach,” I said. My husband winked and waved his hand in reassurance. The Seder resumed, Pesach ended, and life continued.

I look at Yossi now, in the same dining room, a year after that plea of Vanitzak. Just a few weeks before, we’d sung Dayeinu at the seder. Covid was still here, but a background presence. I mentally scroll further backward. I’d been longing to attend two pre-Pesach weddings, but land border closures due to Covid meant the only way I could get to the other side would be to fly, and tickets were exorbitant.

A few days before the first wedding, there was a slight opening at the border. On Rosh Chodesh Nissan, my husband and I made it across. I danced with my sister and Hindy at her wedding on gimmel Nissan. The next night I repeated the dance with my niece, Liba, at her wedding.

There’s a flutter in my chest, my eyes wet spots. Both girls had gotten married by “next year Pesach,” just like my husband had beseeched at Vanitzak. My heart opens a little, and I start sharing with Yossi.

I tell him what it was like to sit in that large auditorium in high school, crying for the young teen at the brink of death whom I thought I could save with my Tehillim. Subconsciously, I believe, my intense tefillah was an attempt to ease my distress over my namesake, my young aunt, who died of illness. The teen passed on soon after that assembly, sending me reeling, and I never again davened like I did then.

Yossi is nodding along maturely. “Sometimes Hashem says no, and now He said yes. Three times.”

“Three times?”

“Hindy, Liba, and me.”

“You weren’t engaged yet on Pesach,” I say. Suddenly, I feel small about my pettiness, telling my husband that Erev Pesach isn’t a good time for an engagement. But at least it showed that somehow, I believed in my husband’s tefillos.

Yossi’s eyes glimmer, and his voice drops to a whisper. “Ma, I did get engaged on Pesach,” he says. “Today was Pesach Sheini.”

Finally, the wet spots leak down my cheeks, and my heart opens wide.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 792)

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