The 2 Obnoxious Women at the Elul Conference

The 2 Obnoxious Women at the Elul Conference

Yesterday I attended a huge Pre-Rosh Hashana event sponsored by a magazine for religious women. It was incredible! Over 3000 women in the audience from all over Israel, Rabbanit Yemima! Rav Shmuel Eliyahu! Top Israeli singer Yuval Dayan!
So, it’s admittedly weird that instead of the powerhouse program, what remains most prominent in my mind and heart today are 2 encounters I had with fellow members of the audience.
The first encounter wasn’t a pleasant one. When my oldest daughter and I arrived (b”H, she’s home from India:) there were two women sitting in our seats. I reserved those specific seats over a month ago because I like sitting right on the aisle.
But when I asked the women to move, they just brushed me off: “Nobody’s sitting in their seats! What? You’re going to make every woman in this whole hall get up?!”
“Geveret, I reserved these seats over a month ago. These are our seats. And we want to sit here.”
At that point, the women decided to completely ignore me, looking straight ahead as though I didn’t exist, like I was a crazy person ranting and raving on the subway.
So I said, “Either you will get up now, or I will bring an usher here to make you move.”
And they continued to look straight ahead, ignoring me, so I found an usher, and they tried to convince her as well that nobody was sitting in their places, so why should they? But the usher insisted, and they finally, reluctantly, relented.
But instead of sitting in their own seats (which I assume were in the nosebleed section) they sat in 2 empty seats further down my row. And when, a few minutes later, the women who’d reserved those seats arrived, they repeated the same routine again.
That was the first story I’ve been thinking about. And here’s the second one.
A few years ago, one of my daughters had a teacher. She was a good teacher, but she criticized me on several occasions (for example, when I requested permission for my daughter to leave school early one day to babysit because my husband and I wanted to go away for our anniversary). So while I felt grateful to her, I also felt quite resentful. Angry, even.
And then, last night, who was sitting in the seat directly in front of mine? That teacher! I hadn’t seen her in a few years. But I told her that my daughter loves her high school. She’s really thriving there, it’s a perfect fit.
The teacher looking genuinely happy to hear that, and said, “That’s wonderful to hear! You know, the principal of that school is my first cousin. So after your daughter’s interview with him, I called him and spoke with him at length about her, and told him what a great addition she would make to the school.”
“What?! The principal is your cousin?! I had no idea! And you called him?”
“Of course, for your daughter, I did everything I could!”
How incredible, I thought. Just days before Rosh Hashana, and out of all the people I could have sat behind out of the 3000 women at the conference, I sat behind a person against whom I’d held a stubborn grudge for years. Because I didn’t know the whole story. And how much gratitude I owed her.
What a lesson to remember when I will stand in judgment this Rosh Hashana, and still feel judgment in my heart against others.
And what about the 2 women who wouldn’t get up? Why did Hashem send such obnoxious women into my life? To learn what!?
I was thinking that over today. And I was stumped. But then I realized that in my own way, I’m a lot like those women. Not with other people. But, at times, with Hashem.
Those women claimed over and over, “Who cares if we’re sitting in your assigned seats? Nobody here is sitting in their seats! Why should we? What’s the big deal?”
But for me, it was a big deal.
And when I cut corners in my observance? And think: Nobody could possibly keep ALL these rules! What’s the big deal if I don’t do a few or break a few?
Will I just look straight ahead and ignore what, deep down, I know is right? Or will I stand up and say, “I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”


  1. Wow, I’m floored!
    I really like how you’ve interpreted your messages from Hashem.
    This is exactly the message I needed for Elul.
    Thanks for waking me up!

  2. Beautiful!

    I want to thank you for your emails/website/writings. They are beautiful, wise, inspiring and full of pick-me-ups! When i receive the emails i feel excited and curious to read it.
    Shana Tova to you and your loved ones!

  3. Your writing is also genuine, vulnerable, deep and diverse.

  4. Exactly:)!

  5. I have to admit, the headline of this piece enticed me to click and read what could have been juicy and cynical. After all, nobody likes obnoxious people.
    And as I read, line after line unraveled a story which, through your pondering, leads to some very important messages how imperfect we all are, and maybe a bit unforgiving. Your insights here are a fantastic way to cap off the year.
    Wishing you a Shana Tova u’metukah Chana Jenny!
    XO XO

  6. Debbie Miller

    I don’t always have time to read all of your posts but am sure glad that I read this one. Shana Tova!

  7. Oh! You got it! Great message- thanks! Shana tova!!!

  8. Thanks for this article. I clicked on it because of the headline and was so curious, knowing your positivity, how you would turn this situation around. What a beautiful message and lesson. It gave me a lot of chizuk regarding a very difficult encounter I had with an obnoxious person just this morning! Thank you. Wishing you a shana tova that’s truly metukah!

  9. A truly inspiring insight.
    One of the things that ticks me off most is “chapping” – people who brazenly and publicly take over communal property for own private benefit.
    So this is some excellent food for thought for me.
    Thank you for your beautiful blog and newsletter, which I read every week.
    Shana tova!

  10. I love your insights and the way you gave this over – such a major important lesson… and perfect timing – can’t thank you enough for this one – and all those you have written over the years.
    May the Aibishter grant you a fabulous joyous fruitful year of happiness success in all areas in ruchniyus and gashmiyus – shetichasevi vesichasemi l’alter chaim tovim uleshalom – Simchas nachas and Geulah!

  11. thank you so much for this article,
    and for all the rest.
    i dont remember how i found your website
    but i’m sure happy i did…

    shana tova !

  12. This is just so good. I love how you elevated an ordinary unpleasant situation to learn something about our relationship with Hashem.
    Ksiva vachasima tova and keep sharing your thoughts feelings and experiences, there is much relateable depth and wisdom in your writing.

  13. Thank you, I REALLY needed to hear that this morning!

  14. and after reading these comments, NOW you know why you had to experience this obnoxiousness!!

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