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Opening the Drawers

Batya Burd

I recently asked a friend whether she knew the gender of her unborn baby. “No,” she said. “There are so few surprises in life already…” I chuckled.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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I designed my beautiful white desk myself. It was a Ferrari of a desk, the first piece of furniture my parents bought when we moved homes, and that desk was just like the one my rich friend Karen had — — her house had everything, even a pool.

Drawers down both the right and left sides, shelves on both sides, too, connected by a pin board, on which I displayed pictures of my friends and the most important things in my life.

But despite the pin board and books on the shelves, my drawers were a mess — filled to overflowing with random things. Sometimes I’d have to yank twice until they opened, because of the overflow of papers and binders lodged between the seams. I didn’t notice or care, I just prided myself on its existence.

These days I can’t imagine not caring. I recently asked a friend whether she knew the gender of her unborn baby. “No,” she said. “There are so few surprises in life already…” I chuckled. Over the last two and a half years, barely a day has passed without yielding some surprise. Surprises that force me to draw on every ounce of my strength and will.

It’s two and a half years after my husband’s sudden drowning.

It’s two and a half years since I’ve felt like everyone else.

It’s two and a half years since I’ve had the luxury of taking things for granted or feeling that my husband owes me help in the house, help with the kids, or the finances, or the day-to-day affairs of our home.

Here I am. Single, working mother of five kids under 13.

Living in a foreign country, with different norms, personal space boundaries, and acceptable social practices.


It used to be that all I focused on was the brachah of making it in Eretz Yisrael — — the kedushah, the communal love, the messianic feeling of it all.

Real, day-to-day life has settled in. Grocery stores. Banks. School supplies.

If you had asked me three years ago whether this was possible, I would have laughed. I depended on my husband for so much. If I was sick, he could always come home to bail me out. If I didn’t feel like picking up the mail, he did it. Credit cards were hard for me. Mortgage negotiating was impossible.

Are my shoulders just bigger now?

In some ways.

But often times I just have to let go. Rebbetzin Dinah Weinberg once told me that in the place where you were given the greatest lack in your life, that’s where Hashem fills in the most. That would explain why orphans’ and widows’ tefillos get heard first. Where there is no father to turn to, the real Father comes quicker.

So now Hashem is my father, my mother, my husband, and my best friend.

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