I'm Still Waiting For You, Rivki

I'm Still Waiting For You, Rivki

Shluchos at the annual Shluchos Convertion in New York

by Chani Lifshitz - Katamandu, Nepal

December 7, 2008

Chani Lifshitz, Chabad representative in Katamandu, Nepal, wrote a letter to her close friend, Rivkah Holtzberg, following the tragedy in Mumbai. Lubavitch.com presents a translation from the Hebrew that appeared in the Israeli paper, Yediot Achronot.

(lubavitch.com)--"Write," you told me only two hours and ten minutes before they entered your home. "It's been a long time since you wrote anything about shlichus," you noted. "Write something, Chani, for me!"

So I'm writing you, Rivki. For you, my confidant for the last four years.

Only for you, my twin soul.

The tears burn my hands. My heart is torn into small pieces. The screen is a blur. Yet I write, because you asked. After all, when did we ever say no to each other? My Messenger is open, as usual. Yours suddenly went blank. Where are you, Rivki? I'm waiting for you to connect. It's been three days since we last spoke, and for us that's like forever. I began the morning with you, I ended the day with you, and I have so much to tell you. Where are you, Rivki? You can't suddenly disappear on me. This is not what we agreed upon. We're supposed to be together in this. You and I. It can't be that you have forgotten. You never forget.

Four hours after we spoke for the last time, my husband, Chezki, quietly woke me. "Don't panic, but . . . something happened in India," he whispered gently, knowing the special bond between us. "Something is happening in Bombay . . . let's check if they're all right."

The stars studded the night sky while I left a message on your answering machine every hour on the hour. Dawn rose between the narrow lanes, and with it the worry. Drops of dew coursed down my window and my messages cried and pleaded together with them ("Rivki, answer me, please. Answer the phone. I don't want anything to happen to you. Please!")

In the morning I made you a cup of jasmine tea with spearmint  leaves, the tea that you love. I waited for you to connect to the Messenger, so that we could have coffee and a croissant together in front of the screen, as we've doing for the last four years. A sort of private virtual joke. You prepare the morning pastry on a plate, with a detailed description of taste and texture. And always something different: one day apple pie, one day jelly cookies with cream. I prepare the drinks.  In the summer I would offer you fruit juices and in the winter I would roll tea leaves from Dodover Square and Geiyah Bazaar market.

I'm waiting for you with the tea, Rivki. Waiting for your cake. I want to taste your sweet chocolate muffins, because I have this very bitter taste in my mouth. I am sure that you would come outside to check what is it that happened near your Chabad House last night.

But you're not coming, Rivki, and your tea is getting cold . . .

Yesterday evening when we spoke you told me that tomorrow you have a quiet day, no special events, and if I didn't mind we'll discuss possible colors for the upstairs rooms of the Mumbai Chabad House. I thought about it a lot and I have a color that might be right. I know that every few minutes you will interrupt our conversation and ask Gabi what he thinks and if he has another idea. That's how it is between you--everything is done together.

So I sat and waited for you, Rivki, all day long. Because you always keep your word. I made you another cup of tea and the steam burned my eyes, my soul. Remember how we would laugh and say that our lives in India and Nepal were like a movie? Nothing can surprise us anymore. "Everything's possible," the locals say, nodding their heads in a circular motion. On any given day we meet someone who is a little lonely, someone who is hurting, someone who wants to hear a friendly word and a woman who needs a warm embrace. Our shlichus is never boring, not even for a second, right Rivki? This is an enchanted place--everything is possible, right?

Everything, besides this. It is simply unthinkable, a sheer impossibility! It is inconceivable that you fell at your post. You are stronger then them all. Streams of pain washed over you daily, as I know only too well. During the day you would share your life story with me--and at night I would cry your tears. I cried, you comforted. Absurd, isn't it? But you were rock-solid. No storm could knock you over. Nothing could stop you. So where are you, Rivki? Why aren't you coming out?

I was sure that you would come out. That they too would fall under the spell of your charm. That you would hurry up the stairs before them, thin and wisp-like, and with your soft baby face would offer them a plate of hot soup. You would tell them that Chabad House has nothing to do with whatever they are after, and that you don't mind contacting the authorities, if that's what they want...but maybe they should leave because it's getting late and Moshe'le just fell asleep. "Even without this ruckus it's not easy to put him asleep at night," you would say in your slightly hoarse voice, and "here are cheese blintzes for the road," and "make sure to stuff them deep inside the knapsack, so that they don't fall out."

How is it that you didn't come out, Rivki?!      

We have received dozens of calls and hundreds of  emails since the attack, all of them trying to console and comfort, and at the same time asking: What will be? What do we do now? This is the question being asked by 3,500 of the Rebbe's shluchim worldwide. I know what you would have answered, Rivki. You would have told us to take the massive outpouring of empathy and unity that was created in the world and draw from it as much strength as possible for the coming days.

Despite the profoundest of pain, I promise to try, Rivki!

--Translated from the Hebrew by Eli Friedman, for lubavitch.com

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