Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2002 / 7 Teves, 5763


Bread, milk and a rabbi?; 'special status child' cause of fraying friendship


By Wendy Belzberg

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: I read an article about a chain of grocery stores in north London bringing chaplains and rabbis into its stores. The goal: To provide professionals in a friendly and informal setting for customers wishing to talk about topics ranging from the price of eggs to serious relationship problems. Each store will make available a private interview room for customers who want to take advantage of this service and seek the council of a chaplain or a rabbi. Is a supermarket really an appropriate place for Jews - and non-Jews - to seek help?

A: A supermarket seems as good a place as any for a (quick) fix. Just think: Misplaced anger over a can of tuna could lead to an eye-opening conversation about the real source of a shopper's anger: a recent fight with one's child, a dissolving marriage, a longstanding conflict with a boss. There is no right time or place for one person to offer comfort to another. In my view, rabbis are particularly underutilized when it comes to family issues. If a shopper lowers his guard in the frozen-food section, then perhaps there should be a rabbi stationed in every supermarket around the world, offering spiritual comfort and guidance. This grocery store chain is to be commended for taking an interest in the well-being of its community and its customers. Let's just assume those men or women of the cloth are not dispensing recipes.

Q: My wife and I recently had a falling out with very close friends whom we've known for more than 40 years. When their daughter became engaged, they told us early on that, for budgetary reasons, our two older children would not be invited to the wedding. We said at that time that unless our youngest was invited, we would not be able to attend. That child, age 10, was born after we lost our 17-year-old daughter in a car accident. He is therefore very special to us, and everyone in our family knows as much.

We have also never left him with a baby-sitter. Our son was not invited to the wedding. My wife believes that if our friends valued our friendship they would have granted our request. Our friends explained that they were not comfortable inviting our son, given that no other children were being included. They called three times the month before the wedding, and have called several times since, to say that they did not want the friendship to suffer. Who is in the wrong?

A: I don't know how anyone survives the loss of a child. But people do. And somehow you have. By your own admission, your third child is dearer to you for having been born after a tragic loss. But the rest of the world cannot be expected to grant your son similar special status. I would add that your son would probably be bored senseless at an event where he is the only child. You have jeopardized a valuable and longstanding relationship because your friends failed to play by your rules at a time when the only people who really mattered were the bride and groom. Friendships are not predicated on unwavering submission; disagreements, no matter how serious or hurtful, are not grounds for termination. Your feelings were hurt. Your friends have acknowledged this by calling numerous times. Call them back today. If you feel the need to rehash the issue one more time then do so, and put it behind you. Your friendship survived the loss of your daughter. Don't let it fall apart over a simcha.



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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg