At morning services, during the silent amida the solution appearedâ€”. Rav Benzi . Lots of guys turned to him for dating help.
As soon as he unwrapped his tefillin and put them away in their velvet pouch he headed to Rav Benziâ€™s office. The door was open, the desk cluttered with open volumes of the Talmud, legal pads, pencils, a pen and a highlighter. The Rav Benzi arrived slightly out of breath. “Iâ€™m running to my next class but Iâ€™ve got a few minutes. Now what can I do for you?”
Once again, Asher opened his mouth but nothing came out. Why did his throat constrict whenever the subject matter of the conversation became uncomfortable. Would it clamp down when he had to ask his bride to marry him. He nervously fingered the loose change in his jacket pocket.
Rav Benzi tapped his pen on the desk. “Problems with shidduchim.?”
Asher’s face turned hot..
“Did you meet someone.â€™
Again he nodded. Rav Benzi dropped his pen and looked into Asherâ€™s eyes.
“And she said no,”
Did Rav Benzi have, ruach hakodesh, a mystical sixth sense?
“I told my parents I didnâ€™t care but I really do care and I canâ€™t figure out why this girl doesnâ€™t want to go out with me again. I hope Iâ€™m making sense”
“You didnâ€™t want to tell your parents so as not to hurt them?”
“I guess so.”
“And you want to understand why the girl rejected you,â€™
“The shadchan said she wanted someone more spiritual.”
The rabbi chuckled.
“This girl clearly is not for you. Just be grateful that you figured it out so quickly. You wanted to save your parents from pain. That’s very noble. Hashem will reward you.” The conversation took under four minutes but a huge weight had been lifted.
On Lâ€™ag Bâ€™Omer Mrs. Attiasâ€™s grandson would be getting married on a distant kibbutz. When the invitation arrived a glossy gold postcard with an airbrushed photos of the bride and groom Nahum asked if the postman had made a mistake.
“Look” said Molly pointing to the handwriting beneath the raised gold print. “Please come it will mean so much to me. Miriam Attias.”
“Since when do you keep company with Moroccans?”
“Youâ€™re worse than Donald Trump; I drove Mrs. Attias to chemo. Itâ€™s her grandson. ”
On Lag Bâ€™omer night as the entire neighborhood glowed with the light of bonfires Driving through the smokey streets her windows rolled up to keep out the smell Molly thought about Asher’s recent date. Had he sabotaged himself? Did he open the door for Sarena? Did he let her sit down before he did? Did any of this even matter in shidduch dating?
Waze had offered her a route which cut through an Arab village. Molly drove a different way and got a bit lost. By the time she arrived, the huppa was long over and everyone was eating dinner. Mrs. Attias ran to greet her, smothering with her kisses, seating her at her side and loudly introducing her to the other guest as the “the angel who saved my life”.
When the music turned Middle Eastern Mrs. Attias got up to belly dance leaving Molly alone with a gaggle of French speaking Morrocans. Molly had taken Spanish in high school; she didnâ€™t understand a word so she busied herself with eating â€” there were at least seven different kinds of salads and dips on the table not even counting the first course. The out of no where Esther Bernstein walked into the hall. The last time Molly saw her was that fateful day almost a year before when they met on the bus.
“What are you doing here? ” both women asked each other?
“Iâ€™m mishpoche. My stepson is married to an Attias.”
“Isnâ€™t it min shomayim how we just happened to meet? It always happens to me that way when Iâ€™ve got someone on my mind.”
Molly rolled her eyes. This sounded like a repeat of the Ayelet Gold fiasco. She wasnâ€™t the same naif she’d been twelve months ago. She wasnâ€™t going to go down that road again.
“I know you don’t believe me, but suspend you skepticism. I’m going to make your son’s shidduch and Iâ€™ve got his kallah Rahely Silver and sheâ€™s from Ramot Polin.”
“Have you got a thing for precious metals?”
“Molly you were always a scream. She really is a jewel.” Edie laughed loudly.
“If they live In Ramot Polin can they help with an apartment?” It didnâ€™t seem possible that a family that lived in that neighborhood of bizarre beehive shaped apartments could be come up with serious sums.
“You never know what people have. I’ve seen families survive on bread and leben buy apartments for their kids but I know for a fact that they have $100,000. They’ve come up with that for the all the other kids.”
“So theyâ€™re Israeliâ€™s.” Molly took a sip of water and looked away. ” Asher will only consider a girl from an Anglo home.” She hoped that would scare Esther away.
“Oh, heavens no.” Esther shook her so vigorously that the curls of her wig broke open. “Theyâ€™re English, From Manchester. ”
Molly removed a pen from her evening bag and scribbled the name on a napkin. and then she left. She’d congratulated Mrs. Attias, discharged her social duty. Now it was time to get home. She put the napkin into her purse and forgot about it until the following morning. Then during her daily walk with Shulamis she asked Shulamis who was from Manchester. She’d know and she did.
“Fine family, lovely girl but the parents are very yeshivish people,” and then Shulamisâ€™s voice dropped. “Not really your type, Molly”
“I didnâ€™t really expect that she was.”
When she got home Molly threw the napkin away. Then Esther called.
“So did you look into this girl.”
“This just doesnâ€™t sound right .”
“What? The Silvers want an answer. They heard about Asher and they think he’s perfect for Rahely. Please get back to me as soon as you can.”
“Boy,” she told Nahum. “That Esther is so pushy. She’s giving me the hard sell on this girl Rahely Silver from Ramot Polin”
“Oh yeah. I’ve got some contacts there from Rav Amram’s hevra. I can find out for you.”
That was a change. Nahum doing the legwork. Molly happily relinquished control. Despite Esther’s hard sell she still wasn’t convinced that this would go.
At dinner Nahum reported back. “I heard a lot of good things and I got a confirmation of the $100 grand. I vote yes.”
“Fine but you are in charge. You sell this to Asher.”
After Nahum went out to evening services Molly rifled through the file of resumes she had in her desk. She had four of them, two with pictures attached. She glanced at the resumes and picked the one that sounded the best. Avigayil Ginsberg aged 21 occupational therapist from Ramat Beit Shemesh. She picked up the phone to call the first references. “Oh didnâ€™t you hear. Avigayil just got engaged last night.”
“Okay. I guess that wasn’t meant to be.”
She tossed Avigayil’s and picked up the next one. Yosefa Katz, aged 20 social work student. Ramat Shlomo. A helping profession–that meant that she was good hearted but also possibly neurotic and codependent. She’d make a note to ask about that but meanwhile she looked and sounded good enough to check out . She took out her notebook and wrote Yosefa Katz on the top of a clean page. Then she called a reference. “Sorry, she’s engaged.” Her too? Was having one’s resume sent to her a segula. Were the other girls engaged too?
She still had two left. Atara Braun aged 19 from Neveh Yaacov, studying architecture and a flaming red head. Asher didnâ€™t like red heads and Shani Hochhauser, no photo, no profession, no age. She called Atara’s first reference only to be told that Atara and her family had relocated–to New York .”Well I guess that wasn’t beshert either,” she mumbled as she balled up the resume and pitched it into the trash. And as to no photograph Shani, the erstwhile matchmaker said that she’s presently busy. “I’ll phone you if she can date.”
So that left Esther Bernstein’s girl, Rahely. Nahum had volunteered to handle that one. That pleased her–a few less phone calls to make, a bit more free time on her hands. Nothing would happen. She was sure.
But Nahum came home from shul with a surprise. “That matchmaker, Bernstein texted me. She says the Silvers agreed. Asher and Rahely can go out.”
Now Molly was besides herself. Was this good news? She’d scarcely done any research. Should she ask for more time? Even though it was nearly eleven pm she phoned Shulamis Black. “They said yes.”
“They. Cant this wait until tomorrow”
“No, The Silvers said yes. for Asher.”
“Well mazal tov. I guess they are more open minded than I thought. That’s wonderful news. Baruch Hashem. I hope we hear good things. ”
Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT familyâ€™s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son.