o it wasn’t like this whole tension matzav, I hear, but l’maaseh, she was pushing you around, right?” Wagner furrowed his brow, like a therapist waiting for the patient to finally get it.

“She was annoyed. My in-laws are a type — they don’t make demands, but most times, they get their way. That’s just how it is.”

Kivi didn’t expound, because he didn’t have to.

“Look, Kivs, you get what you pay for. Your in-laws pay, they take care of you, and in exchange, they want something. They’re entitled. The big fear of all gvirim,” said Wagner, whose father managed two soda machines and did occasional long-distance driving, “is that they’ll lose their kids. They need everyone in sync. You’re threatening that. Your wife is the youngest, your shvigger wants her in the loop, and you’re being annoying.”

“I hear, but that’s an oversimplification. I’m very happy for my wife to be part of the club with her sisters.” Kivi said nothing about the undercurrents of rivalry. “But we’re bnei Torah, we don’t come back and get WhatsApp on our phones just so we can join the family group. It’s nothing personal.”

Wagner looked at him pityingly. “Kivi. You married rich, sorry, buddy. You climbed on the roller coaster, got belted in, now it’s moving. Don’t be like that.”

Kivi understood. Wagner was right. He’d married Malky Halb, knew what it meant, understood her needs, her identity. Now, by insisting she couldn’t install WhatsApp on her phone, he was holding her back from being part of the family group. (And the sub-groups she’d told him about: one just sisters, one just Lakewood children, and now, a new one helping prepare for the chasunah.)

Deep down, he knew that his reservations weren’t entirely motivated by holiness: he worried about Malky being distracted, about losing her to her family. It may have sounded like a clich?, but he was a poor boy insecure about being forgotten.

In the aftermath of that phone call from his shvigger, he couldn’t explain the formless, dark presence that suddenly seemed to hover between him and his mother-in-law; it was like a vague shadow between them, a not-quite-there cloud over a picnic.

“Kivi,” she’d said, “I didn’t tell Malky I’m calling you, I hope it can stay that way. Tatty and I are so proud of the home you and Malky are building — really, we are. We’re behind you all the way. But Malky is new here, she’s lonely, you’re not in Eretz Yisrael anymore, and she just wants to be part of the club, you know? Maybe ask your rabbanim about being frum on someone else’s cheshbon?”

He remembered once telling Malky, “You know, your mother is really the tough one, I just chapped. And Tatty is more easygoing, she just gets him to do the work.” Malky had waved her hand. “Nah, Mommy is a doll, she doesn’t know how to be pushy.”

He’d wanted to tell her that someone good enough at being passive-aggressive doesn’t have to be pushy, but she was already on to the next thing.

Wagner was still excited about his roller coaster mashal and unwilling to let it go. “Like, imagine if you’re coming to the biggest loop of all and you decide that you’re not excited about it, you think you can just—”

“Okay,” Kivi held up his hand, “I got it.”

“B’seder,” Wagner looked pleased. “Anyhow, I think you can have WhatsApp without a browser or Internet, ask at TAG.”

Kivi felt tired. “I’ll speak to Reb Dovid, I’ll ask him what to do about this whole thing, fine.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 719)