5 Shvat 5781 / Monday, January 18, 2021 | Torah Reading: Bo
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Reflections of an Uman Wife    

Reflections of an Uman Wife

A candid account of the feelings of an “Uman wife” who’s left home for Rosh Hashana, while all the other husbands seem to be happily helping their wives...


Since we made aliya five years ago, we haven’t had many three-day yom tovs. In Eretz Yisrael, the only time you ever get a three day holiday is when the two days of Rosh Hashana fall either before or just after Shabbat. Like they did this year.
Usually, I don’t get so stressed about preparing for festivals, even Pesach. But this year, there was a kind of ‘three day yom tov panic’ going on, and it was infectious. The local convenience store ran out of milk by 7am erev Rosh Hashana, as every housewife in the country woke up and immediately rushed out to buy 10 pints of extra milk, ‘just in case’. Rami Levi sold out of chicken a whole week before; and there wasn’t a challah to be found by midday in pretty much any bakery – which meant that some poor souls actually had to start baking their own three hours before yom tov started.
For us ‘Uman wives’, the three day yom tov had an additional dimension; it was an extra day of not seeing our husbands. And for the first time in three years, I was a bit sad that my husband wasn’t with me.
As I rushed to the store to buy the last pint of milk, I saw all the husbands who had been sent out to pick up the eggs, or the lettuce, or the ‘new fruit’, or whatever other last minute errand they were doing.
And I felt a small pang that my husband wasn’t with me.
As I dropped off flowers and food to the various people who were kindly hosting us over Rosh Hashana, I saw husbands mopping the floor; husband’s setting the table; husband’s getting their kittles sorted out.
And I felt a small pang that my husband wasn’t with me.
As I called round the neighbours to find out how the heck you do an ‘eruv tavshilin’ to enable you to prepare for shabat when the day before is still yom tov, I felt a small pang that my husband wasn’t with me. That was usually his job.
I wasn’t miserable or sad that he’d gone to Uman, G-d forbid. I just had an unexpectedly strong sense of missing him, and for five minutes, I felt as though letting my husband go to Uman for Rosh Hashana was actually a much bigger sacrifice for me than I’d realised.
I continued to miss my husband in small ways all afternoon, like when I was cleaning and preparing the candlesticks (his job); filling the water urn (his job); ringing round all the neighbours again to find out when yom tov actually started, and the local shul davening times (his job).
The kids obviously took their cue from me, and for the first time in three years, the oldest one asked me why Abba had to be in Rosh Hashana for Uman, instead of at home with us. I sighed, and told her that Abba was davening for us, and it’s hard, but it’s where he needed to be.
But then, Hashem showed me just how true it really was.
In the home of one of our neighbours, the Abba didn’t spent the afternoon bathing the kids, mopping the floor or running out for more milk; he spent it in accident and emergency, having one of his children attended to. Thank G-d, it wasn’t a serious incident – just a few stitches – but it completely changed my point of view.
All of a sudden, I realised that I take so many hidden blessings for granted. There I was kvetching and moping because I was having to prepare for yom tov all by myself, and look after the kids all by myself.
The yetzer hara had carefully arranged a ‘perfect picture’ for me of what would be happening if my husband was home, instead of in Uman; my house would be cleaner; I’d be less stressed; I wouldn’t have recited three pages of brachot by mistake when making the ‘eruv tavshilin’ because I had no idea when to stop…
But then, that carefully-constructed bubble burst, and I realised that it was possible that I’d be even more stressed, G-d forbid. If my husband didn’t have the dedication to pray in Uman on Rosh Hashana, and to make his best effort to ‘smooth the way’ for our family with his prayers, who knows what I could have been dealing with?
Maybe I would have got a flat tyre, on the way back from the shops? (G-d forbid). Maybe, the toilet would have blocked two hours before yom tov, as has happened to us in previous years? (G-d forbid) Maybe something even worse, that doesn’t bear even thinking about? (G-d forbid).
I’d forgotten, but the incident with my neighbours reminded me, about all the ‘hidden’ blessings that Hashem does for me all the time. ‘Blessing’ doesn’t just mean the obvious addition of ‘good’; it also means that avoidance of ‘bad’. Thank G-d, everyone in the house is healthy – what a blessing! Thank G-d, there’s food on the table and in the fridge – what a blessing! Thank G-d, I even have a husband in the first place to miss – what a blessing!
All of a sudden, I went from being quite stressed and a bit resentful, to extremely grateful that my husband was in Uman. Ok, it was hard, but what better way to show our thanks to Hashem for all the ‘hidden’ blessings He does for us all the time?
I heard a rumour over chag that we are due to get a whole load more of three day yom tovs over the next few years. I haven’t checked to see if it’s true, but I already know a few things for next time round:
1) I will stop after the first page in the Artscroll siddur, when making the ‘eruv tavshilin’ bracha; 2) I don’t need six pints of milk clogging up my fridge; and 3) I will feel very pleased, privileged and blessed if, Bezrat Hashem, my husband is in Uman, and is praying his socks off instead of mopping my floor.

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