Most of you know my father. You know him as that happy, warm and welcoming Shaliach. Always ready to lend a hand no matter what, from helping shlep boxes to having a deep meaningful conversation with a congregant at 3:00 in the morning. Our home was perpetually open, literally filled with every walk of life no matter what time of day. Songs were sung, L’chaims poured, a revolving door of of uplifted characters. This is the the man you all know and love, this is the man I never knew.
When the bottles finally empty and the unannounced guests have long gone, there would sit my father the Shaliach, unrecognizable. That toothy smile but a memory. Smiles, songs and kinds words were only reserved for people outside the family. Blessed by the Rebbe to go on shlichus, his mission, his children but a stumbling block to his happiness. We were never enough, we could never compete with that euphoric addiction of lighting the Yid’s holy spark.
Ten kids in 10 years, my parents were seen as the ultimate power couple. How they raised us, how they managed on faith of GD alone. But the secret is they they never managed. When my parents managed to find the time to spend with us, it was usually when we were getting beat. I lived abuse, I witnessed abuse on a daily basis. Between the beatings, the L’chaims, the unsavory guests, my home resembled a frat house, high on GD, but mostly the Rebbe.
I love you. This phrase never uttered by my parents. Terms of endearment are reserved for their students, campers or chabad house kids. When my first child was born, my father refused to hold the baby, but gladly held a congregant’s child on his lap through the duration of the shabbos meal. The hardest was watching my parents hug and be affectionate to congregants, especially when the only physical contact I received was when I was being scolded. Once my father the Shaliach beat me so badly, I could not go to school for a week. Neither him or my mother ever talked about what happened. My safe haven, in that loud over crowded home was a closet, where I would hide and listen to my goyishe music on the walk man that I stole. We lived in chaos, not enough bedrooms, I slept in the laundry room. Fabregens, impromptu walk ins from newly released convicts to homeless people would keep me up all hours of the night. Between hosting and managing a chabad house, there was only time for me to take one shower a week. I was constantly surrounded by people but I was always alone.
We were never allowed to go to friend’s homes, since no home was as chassidishe as ours. My life consisted of being home or hanging out by the chabad house, usually left to my own devices. Seven, the age I had my first shot of vodka. Nine the age I had my first cigarette given to me by a member of the shul. Eleven my first time reading Playboy. I found a stash of dirty magazine’s in the shul office, when my mother caught me I was beat. The subject was never discussed and only now, decades later do I wonder why there was pornography in the chabad house office in the first place? Eleven the age I was raped by a congregant. Twelve the age I was locked in a room every night until I learned the Rebbe’s Maimer. A towel given to grip and twist, to stop me from shaking whenever my father tested me. Thirteen, I became a man, all gifts and checks were kept to pay for the party. Fourteen given pot by a close friend of my mother’s. Fifteen old enough to be sent to Yeshiva and the last time I ever slept in my house since I began to wear jeans. Twenty the age I decided to take hold of my life and apply to college and the age where I found out that I already had school debt, loans taken in my name to pay for the Yeshiva education that I never wanted.
As I try to physically distance myself from my abusive past, moving across the country, never visiting home and never expecting a visit or a call, my last name keeps me tethered to my abusers. My ever recognizable last name. From Bal Teshuva hippies to children escaping their abusive homes, they all have a story of how my parents helped them. My Gd forsaken last name, is a cursed reminder of the love I never and will never have. The loss of love is a constant reminder whenever my father the Shaliach gives a parenting lecture, whenever an article is posted on a Lubavitch site of their recent accomplishments, whenever strangers finds out that my father is THE SHALIACH and how wonderful it must be to be born from greatness.
Everyone else has always come first and now my heart aches when I see my own children being rejected and yearning for attention from their famous grandparents. Youtube lectures of their Zaydie the Shaliach is as close as they will get. My Gd forsaken last name tied to them forever reminding me of the love and approval I will never have.
I can assuredly say my parents are the definition of the best shluchim, but they sacrificed their children on the Akeidah of shluchos. Maybe their cold neglect was the only way to push forward with their mission? Maybe they were overwhelmed with lack of money and the overabundance of children they faithfully produced? Did my mother love me? I don’t know, but I do know that she loves my father the shaliach more. For decades I wondered how such loving and selfless people could open their hearts to strangers but not their blood. Years of self medicating, therapy, rejecting GD and back again, I still have no answers.
The question that I carry with me and burdens my faith more and more, is why Rebbe? Why Rebbe did you bless my parents with shluchos and to have more children? All those times we went to see you, did you not see me? Did you not see my pain? Did you not see the abuse? Your picture religiously carried with me forever but still wondering why? Tears fall uncontrollably when remembering my younger self getting all those dollars, through those painful years, waiting for my miracle Rebbe story. My parents are truly amazing people, I just wish I got to know them like the rest of the world does. Despite it all I still love my father the Shaliach even though I know he does not love me.