By Rabbi Simcha Backman, Glendale, California
As the Kinus HaShluchos concludes and Shluchos get ready to return home re-invigorated, inspired and motivated from five days spent with their fellow sisters from across the globe, we decided to give them a “behind the scenes” look at what their husband’s lives were like over the weekend.
The following is a compilation of first-hand experiences, email exchanges between Shluchim (reprinted with the original authors’ permission), text messages and phone calls.
The odyssey began last week.
It’s that time of the year again when Shluchos journey to New York from all over the world leaving thousands of their precious little children in the hands of their husbands. Across the globe Shluchim are faced with the daunting challenge of playing mommy for five very long days.
The tip-sharing, texting and information swapping on our internal forums begin on Wednesday morning for the unlucky few whose wives left on Tuesday. By Thursday however, we are all in the same sorry boat and the “home alone dad” conversation has reached full-throttle.
It seems that all our friends and congregants are thoroughly worried about my children’s fate since my wife left. I’m getting several calls per hour inquiring about them. I’m starting to wonder why there is so little confidence in my child rearing abilities. My neighbor’s wife checked in on us to make sure “we were OK.”
She seemed thoroughly shocked to see that we were all alive, breathing, dressed and well fed. OK, 3-year-old Leah only had one shoe on (I think she left the other one at Starbucks where we bonded over coffee) and 6-year-old Chana’s socks didn’t match.
But hey, I managed to get 9-year-old Mendel to take care of supper all by himself by telling him that “Mommy will be so proud of you” (and throwing in an extra flash pop and a ten pack of bubble gum).
Supper consisted of potato chips, onion rings, orange soda, chumus snack dip and on my insistence french fries — ensuring that at least one item on the menu was healthy. But my neighbor had no way of knowing all that — unless of course she took a look at their shirts.
A colleague of mine told me his wife called and asked how the kids are doing to which he responded “the kids… I thought they were all with you!”
Friday morning the magnitude of the challenge suddenly hits me like a ton of bricks. How am I supposed to make Shabbos? I call my wife and try to keep the tone of my voice calm, projecting confidence that everything is under control. Doesn’t work. She instantly senses my panic and assures me not to worry “just turn on all the fires on the oven and stove before you leave and Margarita will handle the rest.” Phew, what a relief!
At about 2pm I get a text from a fellow Shliach, “I can’t seem to remember my wife’s instructions – does the bisli go in the chulent and the bamba in the soup or is it the other way around? Does COLlive have any recipes?”
When I come home Friday afternoon I am greeted with the scent of Guatemalan cholent and gefilteh fish wafting through the house. Miracles of miracles, Margarita got it all done! I dutifully did my part by making sure there was enough herring and Crown Royal to sustain a small army.
We’re getting closer to licht bentchen and I get a call from a neighboring Shliach in distress “do I cover my eyes when I light the candles?” That’s a great question — I’m not sure what to say, but then quickly respond that it’s probably a good idea to do it so that the kids sense familiarity and some kind of normalcy. As it is, they seem to be slightly shell-shocked due to all the changes they are suddenly experiencing.
During the meal, when it came time to serve the gefilteh fish, I discover that Margarita seasoned it perfectly, but inexplicably didn’t cook it. Can you blame her? This must be the oddest dish she’s ever seen — let alone attempted to prepare.
4am I am awakened by the 3 year-old who complains that she can’t find the lollypop she went to sleep with and she’s insisting that I get her another one. I’m thinking what would Mommy do — then it occurs to me that the child would never dare ask my wife for a lollypop at 6pm let alone 4am. What am I doing wrong? I knew I should have stopped with the diet coke in the sipee cup.
It’s time to go to Shul and I am seriously considering reciting the hagomel by my aliyah thanking the one above that we have made it this far.
A fellow Shliach in Florida (who wants to remain anonymous) relates what happened to him on Shabbos morning: Most of us Shluchim serve as the rabbi, gabbai, president and custodian in our Chabad Houses and don’t have sisterhood volunteer kiddush setter uppers. So, with the Shlucha out of town it’s either you or your kids who are going to set up the Kiddush.
We all know that when it comes to presentation women and men see things a “bit” differently. For example, we regularly get the “how can you possibly serve that on Styrofoam?” admonition. If there aren’t 50 pieces of gefilte fish it’s staying in the fridge! This week, it was the 9-year old son who set up the kiddush while I was busy with chazzan/gabbai distractions.
I was in suspense the whole kriah and mussaf. “What in the world will this affair look like?” Will these people come back? Did he wash his hands? Will they contract SARS? Did he use the forbidden Styrofoam? I davened musaf with extra kavana.
Finally, after the last kaddish we all went to the unknown zone. I could’ve stolen second base in the major leagues with how fast I ran.
This is what I found:
1. Cold chicken still in the tray, with a plastic fork stuck in one of them.
2. A jar of gefilte fish with one piece left.
3. A box of crackers with a container of chumus resting on it.
4. Powerade and Snapple.
5. 7 bowls of potato chips.
6. A plate of hard boiled eggs in their shells.
7. A fruit platter = Whole apples and oranges and 3 leftover figs from last week.
8. A jar of peanut butter and jelly.
9. A birthday cake from the freezer. (Since October…)
10. 14 bottles of soda.
I looked at everyone for reaction. They all knew who set it up. I was breaking into a cold sweat.
Will someone tell my wife next week? Did we fail the kiddush test? Suddenly, there was a spontaneous round of applause. They loved it. By the time the last person went home… everything had been devoured.
He continues: By Sunday morning we are all more than ready for the grand homecoming of our wives and mothers. And then, to our horror, due to the inclement weather it seem that the Kinus has been extended for another week.
Authorities are now scrambling to make another flea market, general workshop and banquet.
You must re-register and send a new picture of your spouse (wearing a winter coat and holding a shovel.) Don’t you love the picture thing? Did anybody even look at these pictures? We, Shluchim, sent any picture of ourselves…whichever one was on the computer. Even if it’s a photo in a potato eating contest.
Shluchos? They needed 10gb of camera space until they got the perfect ‘shot’ to upload! It takes them 6 1/2 hours to do the registration. And THEN they have to sit near their best friend and still change tables record-setting times… I think they spend more time finding a table then selecting a spouse!
According to sources, on Wednesday there will be a snowman building session on Winthrop and Troy (right where I picked up a few shidduch dates).
Shluchim have been asked to kindly use this unexpected time to put away the soda cans, Barbecue and wiffle-balls — and begin cleaning the house for Pesach.
Back in Los Angeles: This afternoon, after winging it on their own for the past few days, several Shluchim in Los Angeles decided to get together give our kids at least one wholesome meal before Mommy comes back home.
So, we gathered at Rabbi Nachman Abend‘s home in North Hollywood where he put out an amazing, wholesome and nourishing spread of hot-dogs, canned beans and corn, diet orange soda, barbecued chicken and of course the necessary dose of candy. I actually saw a kid decline the sour-sticks — I kid you not! Must have been an acute case of sugar overdose.
Well, the kids had a great time, the Shluchim got to swap war stories (some of which are in this article) and the rally and recitation of the 12 pesukim gave the kids a 20 minute break from the round-the-clock Uncle Moishy video marathons they were forced to endure (“but Totty we just watched that video — Chana, trust me you missed out some very important points — watch it again.”)
Apparently, several kids were left behind at Nachman’s house — but we’re confident that he will take good care of them until tomorrow afternoon when the Shluchos return home and discover the missing children.
Welcome home Shluchos — you were sorely missed and are now appreciated more so than ever (but don’t hold it against us)!
Please support this organization which helps Shluchim’s day-to-day family needs: The Shluchim Fund