Ruth, Naomi, and Levinas’s Other: Asymmetrical Pastoral Care
by Ruth Gais

I found Shem Nachum, the fifth reincarnation of the Most Royal King David, hunched over the pay telephone.1 She had asked to talk to the rabbi and so I introduced myself. His Majesty was a large, handsome African American woman, dressed in baggy sweat pants and sweatshirt, a dirty white towel draped over her head. She wanted my help; could I help find her wife, Whitney Shilah Houston, who had just given birth to ten thousand babies and needed her? Somehow the two of them had been separated and Shem Nachum had set out to find her—a journey, via bus,taxi, and train, and on foot, that took her from a Bronx group hometo Newark Airport, Lakewood, Bergen County, and finally to the state psychiatric hospital where I work. When I met her, Shem Na- chum was lost, angry, desperate, and in mourning.

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