6 Teves 5779 / Friday, December 14, 2018 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
 
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African Queen    

African Queen



After the astronaut fiasco, I still dreamed of roaming the bushveld of Africa with the lions, leopards, cheetahs, white rhinoceroses, blue wildebeest, kudus, impalas, and hyenas…

 



After the astronaut fiasco, I still dreamed of roaming the bushveld of Africa with the lions, leopards, cheetahs, white rhinoceroses, blue wildebeest, kudus, impalas, hyenas, hippopotami and giraffes. I had no way of getting there, but when the matchmaker set me up with a guy from Johannesburg, I suddenly did.

 

The first two years we hung out in Brooklyn.

 

One year after our first child, I gave birth again and two weeks later, my father-in-law sent airplane tickets to Johannesburg, just in time for his 50th birthday celebration. Wow! Do you believe that?

 

And then some things just happened from nowhere:

 

* The airline stewardess saw me struggling with my kids and my new coat; she took the coat and just never gave it back.

 

* On the 26-hour plane trip, my one-year-old got an ear infection and a high fever and cried nonstop all the way from Kennedy Airport in New York to Jan Smuts Airport in Johannesburg.

 

* My suitcase got lost and I had nothing to wear but the stained and crumpled clothing I wore on the trip.

 

* Grannie Tillie, whose apartment we used on arrival, had a suspicious-looking statue in her living room, and I quickly remembered my rabbi’s instructions to break a chip off its nose, but accidentally broke the whole thing.

 

So, in my dreams I arrived in Africa like the African Queen, but G-d had other plans and made me bumble in like a space cadet.

 

When we got settled at our sleeping quarters, my father-in-law walked in and silently took note of the broken statue. He said, "Hurry up!" The creditors for his radial tire business, plus the bank manager, had already come to the birthday party, and they wanted to meet the American daughter-in-law, which was me. We had to leave now!

 

I objected: I had just come off the plane on a 26-hour flight, complete with screaming babies, crumpled clothing, and no coat. And the girl had a fever! The boy needed to nurse!

 

“No problem,” said my father-in-law; his son-in-law from Israel was ready to babysit.

 

I flat-out refused. I didn't trust Israeli paratroopers then as much as now.

 

Over the next six years, that argument gained momentum within and without the family and stampeded out of control like a herd of wild animals.

 

So: what do you think? Was I right?

 

I’ll tell you: after many children, many tears, many therapists, one divorce, a second marriage, and some thirty-odd years, I still think I was right.

 

What do you say, Rabbi Shalom Arush?

 

I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you, but this is what he says:

 

“What did she gain with all her ‘righteousness’ and the fact that she was ‘right’? Hashem had actually given her exactly what she deserved, and she did not deserve more than she had received…Surely, she would have been better off being content with her lot and seeing the good in her situation.” (Women’s Wisdom, p. 151)

 

So, I was wrong. I closed my eyes to the tons of good anyone else would have noticed:

 

G-d granted my longtime dream and gave me a ticket to Africa.

 

Nobody forced me to go to the party.

 

We had two lovely children.

 

We had a place to sleep.

 

I could have reconciled with my husband’s father and admitted that in a certain way I was wrong. After all, the reason for the ticket was to be at the party!

 

And lots more.

 

But hold on. Now that all this happened already, before I say why was I so stupid, let’s check with Rabbi Lazer Brody:

 

Never say, ‘Why was I so stupid?’ …Such expressions are the destructive advice of your evil inclination, which wants to keep you depressed, suppressed, and far away from G-d.” (The Trail to Tranquility, p. 226)

 

And as Rabbi Shalom Arush says, “The grateful person knows the truth: HaShem is completely good and merciful, and…everything is for the best.”! (The Garden of Gratitude, p. 300)

 

And that’s so true. Because even if you don’t get all those wild animals in Africa, you get exactly the wild and exciting life that’s right for you!

 

 

* * *

Alizah Teitelbaum was an actress, an editor’s assistant at Random House, and a columnist at the Jewish Times of Johannesburg. Her stories appeared in Hamodia, Ami, Mishpacha, The Voice of Lakewood, The Jewish Press, and other places. She edits fiction and poetry  for https://sassonmag.com/ and blogs at http://alizahteitelbaum.weebly.com/blog . Alizah lives in the Negev Desert. Write to her at teitelbaumalizah@gmail.com





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