Blog: For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Jews... Or, Much A-Blog About Nothing...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Shabbos Goy

Editor's note: I had to restart my computer because it spazzed on me so I lost most of this post. Please bear with me as I try to remember what I had written. Enjoy :-)

The inspiration for this post came about 8 minutes before Shabbos. You see, as most of you know, I am observant and religious, even though I am not "technically" Jewish since I am not finished with my conversion process. I don't have a piece of paper that "proves" I'm a Jew, but I am.That does not mean that, in every other sense, I am not Jewish. I am a Jewess. And I know that Hashem knows it. So my question is, why, if almost everyone I know sees my spiritual and religious growth and wants to help me with it, there are still some people who take the opportunity to point out the fact that, indeed, I am not "technically" Jewish?

I am having trouble writing this. I don't know how to say what I want to say without sounding rude or mean or just plain foolish.

Anyway, I guess I'll just get on with it. So 8 minutes before Shabbos, the Rebbetzin calls me. I had no idea who was calling me right before Shabbos, but since I didn't recognize the number I figured it was probably pretty darn important. So I answer, and it's the Rebbetzin. And she's like "Hila, it's is Elana*. I know this will probably sound like a really strange question, but I have something to ask you." At this point, I have a slight inkling of what might follow, but am still pretty much in the dark. She continues "Do you have any plans for tomorrow?" Riiiight, I think to myself, I can see where this is heading. Sigh. "I was wondering if you could come to my home tomorrow and help me walk to [our shul]. I would need you to push the double stroller with Zahava* and Eytan* in it, and Reut* and I would walk with you."

*pause for me to process said request*

Another sigh.

Anyway, the conversation continues for a couple of minutes, with Elana asking me if I mind helping her, and if I have anything going on, to which I reply that I was planning on meeting some people for lunch around 1 but that other than said lunch I was free for all of Shabbat. She continued to explain to me that she and the Rabbi just got the go-ahead from their Rav to (in essence, hire a Shabbos Goy, although those are my words, not hers). She continued by saying that of course, she would pay me for my time spent getting to and from their house and the time walking/pushing the stroller. I said I understood. She then asked if I have a car. In almost utter disbelief, I said no, as a matter of fact I do not. As if that matters? If I had a car I sure as heck wouldn’t be driving it on a Saturday afternoon! *grumble* She seemed a bit taken aback/upset by this, as she further explained to me where her home is located, which is about 1.5 miles from where I live (and I live about a block from shul). I reassured her that it was not a big deal, that I would walk to her house and meet her there. Because at this point, as you can now guess, I agreed. I don’t know why I agreed, it was one of those split second decisions you make where you just go “Ok, sure, yeah.” I couldn’t help it. I’m a helper. And Lord knows that Rebbetzin Elana is just about the most pure-hearted, kindest, warmest person I have ever met. So when she asked for my help, long before she even explained what it was that she wanted me to do, I immediately agreed. Of course, I was disappointed when I heard just what it was that she wanted me to do, to say the least.

Ok, I’ll give. I know that she isn’t around our shul that much, what with three small children and all, but it isn’t as if she doesn’t know me. I’ve baby-sat her kids, for goodness’ sakes! So anyway, I know, she probably doesn’t realize just how religious I am, because I don’t wear skirts and long sleeves every day, I sing in public, and don’t have any qualms about sitting next to men. All that being said, however, I am trying my hardest to be Orthodox. Or maybe I’m Conservadox. Either way, Shabbat is special to me. I do my absolute best, in my own bumbling and accident-prone way, to observe it exactly as it should be. Granted, I know I mess up. Hashem knows I mess up. And I think I’m forgiven. I mean, theoretically it doesn’t “matter” anyway, since I’m not “official” yet. But that’s the thing. It does matter. To me, it matters.

And it almost broke my heart when I realized what she wanted me to do. To break the laws of Shabbat. Oh Lord, oh Lord, what had I done? What had I agreed to? An overwhelming urge came over me to say “Listen, I’m sorry Elana, but I simply cannot do this.’ But I didn’t have the heart, after hearing how it had been 2 ½ years since she had been able to get out of the house on Shabbat, and how she wouldn’t have asked but she was desperate and didn’t know who else to call. Of course the part about not knowing who to call/being desperate was what hooked me in the first place, before I was told just what it was I’d agreed to.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Elana; she is the best. And I am always happy to help her and her family in any way I can. I just never thought this would be one of the ways.

I’m stuck. On the one hand, I am grateful to have the opportunity to help out Elana and her family, because I know that she was truly grateful to me for the help. On the other hand, I am saddened because I broke the laws of Shabbat and it wasn’t a matter of pekuach nefesh, not in the slightest. But then again, I find myself asking “what does it matter anyway?” And then I feel defeated. And small. I feel as if I am back at square one again, asking God what it is I am supposed to be doing and where I am supposed to be going. I’m lost. I suppose it really isn’t that big of a deal and I’m probably just blowing things out of proportion. I know that the Rebbetzin did not mean any offense or insult to me in any way, shape, or form. She simply isn’t capable of it, that much I do know. That still doesn’t change the fact that I was crestfallen when I learned what I had agreed to. But I believe that it would have been far worse to break my promise to such a great family than the injury to what I realize is, ultimately, my pride. But it isn’t just my pride, it’s my soul, my spirit, that have been wounded, if ever-so-slightly. I’ll get over it, and I realize that it is not the end of the world. Yet I cannot help but wonder
“Why did she have to ask me?”

*Names have been changed to protect identities.


JewCess said...

Wow. Sweetheart I totally understand what you're feeling and no, you're not blowing things out of proportion... it must feel pretty darn ugly to go through this situation.

The good thing is you have the emotional capacity to know your rebbetzin meant no harm and that your help was highly appreciated. I would definetely not take the payment... you helped a friend in shabbat, instead of "worked as a shabbat goi".

I was born jewish and have lived around people who are of all denominations and practices... I personally have chosen a Conservative path because usually these Hallachic-related uncomfortable situations don't arise that often in such movement.

For some odd reason the Orthodox say a soon-to-be-jew should NOT be shommer shabbat... in my book, I'm very very very proud of you and the way you care for this day and also of what you did for Rabanit Elana.

Forget the ritual... judaism is in the heart, in the head and in the soul. Shabbat Shalom.

JewCess said...

big ooooops!!! anonimity alert!

i think i just posted my previous comment with my real email adress :os, I'm sure you'll manage to keep me anonymous... pls delete! delete! delete! so, now you know my name :o) nice to meet you Hila.

RaggedyMom said...

What a sensitive, real portrayal of a delicate, complicated situation. Reading about your experiences is personally so eye-opening. Thanks for sharing this so openly and from the heart. Required reading for all of us, I'd say.

PsychoToddler said...

I have quite a few friends who have converted, and from what I understand, they are required to violate the sabbath at least once a week until they officially convert.

Still, seems a little insensitive, what she's asking.