I t was days after Hurricane Harvey poured out its wrath on Houston.

One of our local kosher establishments, along with other organizations, was collecting food staples and other essentials to be transported via large trucks to Houston.

On the very day that volunteers were packing the truck, I received a call from Mrs. Esther Trieburg (name changed). She asked if she could come see me about a very important matter.

When Mrs. Trieburg arrived, she was clearly upset, and before she could even manage to say a complete sentence, her tears overwhelmed her. As she began to speak, her words came out in a torrent of emotions and palpable pain.

“I’m so sorry for crying.… It’s about my husband, Shloimi.…”

Shloimi was particularly known for his chesed. It was known far and wide that if you needed a favor, you called Shloimi. He seemed to always be there for everyone, anywhere, anytime.

“Rabbi, I’m so sorry to complain,” Mrs. Trieburg said. “I’m so embarrassed to be here, and I feel so guilty speaking about him, but I have nowhere else to turn.”

After I allayed her fears about speaking to me, Mrs. Trieburg regained her composure. “Rabbi, it’s really very simple. Shloimi is there for everyone and anyone except for me. I know I was trained to be an eishes chayil, and to be his eizer k’negdo, and that a good Jewish woman does her husband’s bidding. However, there has to be a limit and I cannot live like this anymore.

“Hurricane Harvey may have destroyed homes and possessions, but it also destroyed my marriage, as I have reached the end of my rope. I cannot manage the house alone anymore!”

She was beside herself in profound and undeniable pain.

“Shloimi is out packing boxes for Houston while I’m home alone with four small children. I’m six months pregnant, and I cannot even lift the packages from our car to the house, and as usual, he’s out helping others. I appreciate the chesed he does for others, but what about for his own wife? I need him at home to help me stock our pantry with food, not helping restock other people’s pantries.”

Psychologists have recently coined a term for individuals whose ostensible chesed activities are in reality often more detrimental than helpful. It is referred to as “pathological altruism.”

That’s what Shloimi was, a “pathological baal chesed.” He would help all others to the detriment of his own family.

I told Mrs. Trieburg I would take care of this immediately. I jumped into my car and headed off to the parking lot where the goods were being loaded onto the trucks.

“Where is Shloimi?”

“Shloimi is in charge of the loading of the truck.”

I found Shloimi and breathlessly said to him, “Shloimi, you must come with me right away. There’s someone who needs help right this minute, and you’re the only one who can do this.”

Of course, Shloimi jumped into my car immediately and off we drove.

As we neared his house, he said, “Is the emergency at my home?”

“Yes, Shloimi, it is!”

“Oy, which child is it? Are my children all right?”

“Yes, your children are fine.”

“Then what’s the emergency? I just spoke to my wife five minutes ago and she knows I am out helping others. I don’t understand who exactly needs me at home.”

I parked my car outside Shloimi’s house. With controlled emotions, I moved my face so close to his that I could see the beads of perspiration forming on his upper lip.

I looked him in the eye and said, “Your wife needs you, and you are the only person in the world who can help her.”

“I don’t get it. What does she need from me?”

“She needs you to be her husband.” (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 681)