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The Debt

Copyright 2016 Ian Hochberg

The following is an email I sent to the Rabbi of my synagoge in late October of this year. I changed the name of my friend in respect for her memory. She would have wanted it that way:


Lisa Jones was a dear, sweet, soft spoken and innocent friend I knew from High School days.

She was informally adopted by her childless aunt and uncle who became her parents. Eventually they died and she was on her own.

Lisa worked for many years at The Hecht Company Department Store and then for Macy’s when the latter absorbed Hecht’s.

Lisa had a challenging time getting by financially and asked if she could work for me part time around 2004 which I readily agreed to. She asked me of I could loan her $500 which I just as openly did without any terms of repayment established.

Time went by and Lisa didn’t repay any part of the money because she couldn’t. At that time I was in a troubled state, recently divorced, confused and frightened as my life was in flux in my newly single state and uncertain in general.

One day Lisa came to work and I exploded at her in strong accusation about the money. She was no longer going to work for me and trembled when she returned the key I gave her to my shop. I destroyed the friendship we had.

Lisa gradually paid back all the moiney, under duress and fear. I told a woman who I was in a relationship with about what had happened and this person told me in her strident unfeeling voice that Lisa was wrong to not pay the money back. I felt urged on to call Lisa at that moment and ask for the repayment. She answered the phone and I knew how feightened she must have been to hear from me, her once very close friend demanding money to be paid back.

Lisa died of cancer in the months that followed and out of awkwardness, conflicting feelings and confusion I didn’t attend the funeral.

Yesterday you gave an address to us during a High Holiday service about not hounding someone who owes us a debt. At that moment I decided I would make an amends to Lisa by giving $500 to those who need help, however long it takes me. I started yesterday by giving $1 to a man begging on a street in the city.

By this effort, there will be times when I will give you funds to be distributed at your discretion to anyone you know who is desperate for financial help in the community or anywhere else. Now you know the reason why. Whether I say so or not, know I am always going to offer it by intending that “This is for Lisa Jones”.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 at 9:40 am . Both comments and pings are currently closed.