Pre-flight jitters

In a few hours, I will please G-d fly off to New York for the annual “Kinus” conference of Chabad rabbis. Historically, that would have excited me. Considering I haven’t been there since 2019, I anticipated being pumped for this inspiration-filled mega reunion. Instead, it has triggered a series of unanticipated memories and emotions. 

Perhaps, I should have seen it coming. 

November 2019 was rotten. Monday, the 13th was the day I stumbled upon the genetic screen results I wasn’t meant to see. That Thursday, we met with Shaina’s neurologist, who explained that she had been diagnosed with BPAN- something she knew precious little about. We staggered through the weekend, convincing ourselves we were masking our panic from our kids. 

That weekend was the Shabbos Project. A family from our community had arranged to host a Friday night get-together after dinner. As I walked in, the host asked me how the week had been. Behind her, I saw people laughing, chatting and sipping whiskey. All I could offer was, “We had a pretty rough week”. It would take almost a year before we would explain to the community how rough.  

Most weeks, I’m the one who reads the Haftorah at Shul. That week, I sang the blessings and started to read as usual. Then it hit me. The storyline felt familiar. The Haftorah tells of a childless woman blessed by the prophet Elisha to have a son. Years later, the son collapses and dies. The distraught mother runs to Elisha, who arrives and revives him. My voice cracked as I read the part about a mother’s panic over her sick child. I must have covered up well because only one person asked me afterwards if everything was alright. 

That Sunday night, I was on a plane to New York to what would be a challenging Kinus. There, I would confront the reality of “joining the club” of parents of children with dread diseases at a get-together in Crown Heights. A day later, I would join friends and acquaintances for our annual Shabbos lunch and farbrengen. We would sing and share inspiring stories and jokes while my insides were screaming that everyone should pause to pray for my little girl. I remember feeling detached from the celebrations at that Sunday night’s gala banquet, the climax of the Kinus weekend. 

Kinus usually invigorates me. Not in 2019. 

Thanks to Covid restrictions, we had no option of joining a Kinus 2020 or ’21. This week will be my first time in New York since that difficult Kinus of ’19. Yesterday was the Shabbos Project. Yesterday, I again read that Haftorah about the sick child. Surprisingly, it triggered me afresh, reawakening memories I’d dodged for three years. Elements of the upcoming Kinus will probably revive other repressed recollections and feelings.  

I will board tonight’s flight in the hope of recapturing the inspirational experience of the Kinus. Maybe these buried memories and emotions have resurfaced to allow me to recalibrate them and transform them into positive energy. 

I guess we’ll have to see how it all plays out.    

Published by rabbiarishishler

Husband, father and rabbi of Chabad of Strathavon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

3 thoughts on “Pre-flight jitters

  1. GD Bless Rabbi Ari, PG being at the Ohel of the Rebbe and being able to “chat” with him, will inspire you to have a great time at the Kinus. May Hashem’s abundance of brochas lift your spirits and that Naomi and the family at home be safe and sound, Thank you for sharing.


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