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If the Shoe Fits

Libby Berg

I will not allow Renana’s searing gaze to show me up as an overworked and underdeveloped frum mother

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

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NORMAL “Seriously,” Renana looks up, picking up the thread I thought we had dropped. “Your boys have an insanely long school day, they don’t have a gym or anything like that, chas v’shalom” — she waves dramatically — “and then they have three weeks off? Is that normal?”

I t’s true that it makes no sense for Avigdor to come to the weddings — the atmosphere is not for him, and it’s my family, not his. But at a levayah there’s no food, no mixed seating, and not much conversation. Avigdor agrees to accompany me.

I tell him to take his nice raincoat, and I wear my good sheitel, even though it’s raining on and off. It’s probably even worse in Haifa.

The rav is already speaking when we arrive. I love the pulpit rabbi’s Hebrew — it’s rich and poetic and sizzles off his tongue. I don’t know how well he knew Dod Avram, but the platitudes sound nice anyway.

Nediv lev… Ichpati… Ish haruach…

My cousin Tova looks up and gives me a gracious nod. She’s supporting her mother’s arm. A scarf is loosely draped over Doda Perel’s hair. She looks so frail as she grips the wad of pink tissues, and heaves to the rabbi’s words.

Someone brings a chair for Doda Perel, and Tova stands up to speak next. Her voice is strong. Abba was a family man, was always worried about Ima and the children. Everyone loved him.

Renana steps forward, accomplished Renana with the high-powered job in the Technion. She speaks smoothly about Saba’s pioneering spirit, how he loved opera, how he cared about animals. I guess she’s representing her father Dani’s branch of the family, since he doesn’t offer any hesped at all. I’m not surprised. We don’t ask too many questions about Dani.

The rabbi helps him say Kaddish into the microphone. Likely the only Kaddish Dod Avram is going to get.

Then it’s over and there’s a slow buzz of conversation. Tova gives me a kiss, Doda Perel offers a sad smile. Avigdor hovers next to me rather lamely, nodding politely and trying to say the right thing in his choppy Hebrew.

Tova’s kids are standing together, and we wave warmly. Renana is off to the side with her husband, Dvir or Kfir — something like that.

It is liberating, this reprieve I’ve been granted from playing perfection, from working so hard to exude invincibility

I feel like we should say hello.

I speak to Renana in English — it gives me the upper hand, and she’s fluent. She nods graciously at Avigdor. “Ah, so you have a husband? I thought maybe he lives in the yeshivah!” She chuckles.

“Yes,” I respond brightly. “Baruch Hashem, I have a husband, and he’s very much a part of my life.”

Excuse me, we have very satisfying marriages.

Avigdor shifts his feet and gives an awkward smile. Not the unflappable kiruv smile I would have wanted, but okay. I know this is hard for him.

I steer the topic to my US citizenship, and whether the embassy will relocate to Jerusalem. I can sound intelligent. But Renana’s phone rings and she ends our conversation without formally acknowledging it. I would schmooze with Tova’s kids but they’re already getting into their cars. We head back. I climb into the taxi so tired. I spend part of the way being upset at Avigdor for forgetting to tell me his coat was missing a button. I tell him it’s a chillul Hashem. Deep down I know that’s not really it.

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