A Closed Mind // My sister-in-law did not want to know the truth

As told to Meira Nissel

“So we decided to send Moishy to Eretz Yisrael,” my sister-in-law Frumi informed me over the phone.

Oh, boy, I thought to myself.

“That’s nice,” I said aloud. “We’ll be happy to host him.”

Honestly, I wasn’t so happy. I’d already been there and done that and it hadn’t been pretty.

Three years ago my brother’s oldest son, Asher, came to learn in Yerushalayim. He would visit us regularly for Shabbos meals and was fun to have around. The kids loved him, and he sometimes roomed with them whenever he needed a break from dorm life.

Unfortunately, as the year progressed, my husband and I started noticing little warning signs. When sitting at the Shabbos table with us, he’d sometimes talk about inappropriate places he had gone to and bragged about how much fun he was having.

On Purim, Asher came to spend a good part of the day in our house. He was really drunk. Lots of interesting information was shared. I had to send my very shocked kids out of the dining room.

For Pesach, we went back home to Europe. Asher had come home too, so we got to see each other quite a bit. He looked and behaved like a real ben Torah. It was difficult to think he was anything but a typical fine bachur home from yeshivah.

On the second day of Yom Tov my sister-in-law came over to chat before the men came home from shul. My mother was sitting with us on the couch, so it wasn’t a good time to bring up the subject. But when she stood up to leave I offered to walk her home.

“That’s so nice of you!” she gushed.

Well, she didn’t think I was so nice by the time we finished our talk.

We walked out into the chilly night. Her children skipped on ahead. We walked side by side.
“It must really be hard for you with Asher in yeshivah so far away,” I began.

“It is,” she replied. “We miss him a lot.”

“We’re glad we can host him, though. My children absolutely adore him. He’s going to make a fantastic husband one day.”

She nodded, quite delighted.

I looked at Frumi’s face. Was now the right time to plunge right in? My husband and I agreed that it was only right for his parents to know that Asher was going through a rough patch. But how much should I say?

“I’m sure that he’s calling you all the time and telling you where he spends his time and stuff, right?” I said.

Frumi continued smiling. “Oh, he doesn’t call home nearly as much as I would want, but I’m sure he’s busy shtaiging away and doesn’t have too much time for his old mother.”

“Um, maybe you should ask him for more details, like how he actually spends his day.”

My sister-in-law laughed. “Nah, he wouldn’t share. I’m just glad that he’s a good boy and serious about his learning. What more could a mother ask for?”

“Frumi,” I said, deciding that it was now or never. “Asher is an awesome young man, but it seems that he might be going through a phase of trying to find himself or experimenting, I’m not really sure.”

She stopped walking. “What do you mean?”

I shrugged. “As I said, he’s a fantastic young man, but if I were you I’d keep a closer eye on him or even get a professional opinion.”

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