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Flying Solo

Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

As Pesach loomed closer, his resentment was growing

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

It was last year one week before Pesach.

The bochur — he identified himself as Menashe — was calling from out of town with a personal sh’eilah he could not discuss with the family’s rav.

His dilemma? His grandfather was comatose, and in a facility located outside the Jewish community. As Menashe was the oldest unmarried grandson, his parents had decided that he must spend Pesach with his grandfather.

Menashe confided in me that although he loved his grandfather and realized how great the mitzvah was, he nevertheless resented how his status as the oldest unmarried grandchild at 28 meant he always got “dumped on” for all the mitzvos the married siblings could not do.

He was guilt-ridden for even feeling this way. But that didn’t change the fact that he felt no joy about going to spend Pesach with his grandfather, and as Pesach loomed closer, his resentment was growing.

What could I say?

I could tell him the standard things, like how Hashem had chosen him. But none of these standard things would be new to Menashe.

I tried to feel his pain and think about how I would have felt needing to do the Seder alone.

And suddenly I realized — I had once been in his position.

In 1977 I was learning in a small yeshivah in Bnei Brak. For Pesach, I was going to my uncle in Jerusalem. I asked my rosh yeshivah how many days of Yom Tov I should observe. He told me to observe two days of Yom Tov including a second Seder. When I arrived at my uncle ’s house and told him the news, he was confused.

This was a man who never left Eretz Yisrael and had never heard of anyone in Jerusalem making a second Seder. Nevertheless, he obliged me and provided everything I needed for me to conduct my Seder alone.

At first, I felt ashamed and lonely as I sat alone at the table. Then I told myself that if I’d asked a sh’eilah and received this answer, then this is what must be. By the time I concluded the Seder, I had come up with the greatest chiddush of my entire life: “It really wasn’t so bad being with me. I was even surprisingly enjoyable to be with!”

I returned to Menashe.

“Menashe, you and I both know what a great mitzvah it is for you to be with your grandfather. However, I want you to know that the person who has the potential to benefit most from this experience is you. As Hashem made me realize 42 years ago at my own solo Seder, when He helped me discover I’m not so bad to be alone with. May you too gain the same insight.”

I didn’t hear from Menashe again. Until last week, that is, when he called to tell me he had just become a chassan and he wanted me to know.

“Why did you think of me now?”

“I went to my grandfather last Pesach. And like you said, I came out with a great sense of self-esteem. I realized I have something to offer, and I’m not such a bad guy after all. It was this boost of self-confidence that propelled me to conquer my commitment phobia and finally become a chassan. That’s why I’m calling you. You were so right. Being with me is not so bad!”

Who could have ever imagined that a young yeshivah bochur’s solo Seder in 1977 in Jerusalem would facilitate the marriage of a 28-year-old bochur in 2019?

I guess that’s why Chazal connected Pesach with marriage as they say, “To match couples together is as difficult as Krias Yam Suf!”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 757)

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