Musical Chairs – Chapter 3e – The First Date

Chapter 3e

Then out of the corner of his eye he saw a plump red head tottering on stilettos flanked by her parents a plump man in a black fedora and an even plumper woman in a red wig walking in behind him.

Pity the poor guy who would have to meet her but then he heard the fat father calling his name. Was she his date? He wanted to bolt, to run away but before he could the father extended his hand .

“You must be the famous Asher Tumim I’m Moish Klein Pleased to meet you. ”

Asher’s stomach began to bounce again as . Moish quizzed him on the Talmudical tractate he was studying. That sort of questioning was standard. Rav Benzi had even mentioned it in his class. Asher couldn’t answer. It was as if all the Talmud he ever knew had been deleted from his brain.

What a great scene. “Sorry, “He averted Moish’s glace, certain that his date’s father thought him a dolt.

Instead, Moish winked and rubbed Asher’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry. I’ll faher you later. ”

Then Moish kissed Aliza on her forehead, and waved goodbye his wife following behind him.. Now Asher and Aliza were alone and Asher could have a good look at her. She was very round;, her stomach ,limbs even her hair were puffy and plump. Her face was pleasant, even pretty but she’d covered it with a thick coating of makeup, way and she’d circled her eyes with thick black eyeliner which extended outward as if she were Cleopatra. Ugh.

She wore a dark red circle skirt emphasizing her already huge hips and a black blouse studded with fake diamonds –he hated glittery clothes. And she stank, not in the way that a yeshiva guy stinks during nine days when you aren’t allowed to shower but like one of those potpourri sachets his mother left in the bathroom.

He took her to the farthest reaches of the lobby, each of them occupying a couch with a an oversized coffee table in between. The Arab waiter who took their orders seemed to snicker at them. It appeared that he was used to these nervous and overdressed youngsters, who never ordered more than a coke.

“I’ll have bottled water, “said Aliza. “I’m on a diet. “She giggled.

A smile played on Asher’s lips but no words came out.

She smiled back at him. It was his turn to talk he couldn’t think of anything to say so she jumped in.

” My cousin Ruvy Brecher is at your yeshiva” .” Asher frowned. It was an instinctive reaction.

“He was my chavrusa.” Asher actually disliked the guy. Ruvy was challenging, combative to the point of obnoxiousness, never willing to admit that anyone else could be right.

“Wow. How did you survive that? .”Aliza giggled and Asher laughed and from then on the conversation flowed. Aliza was a great talker and he found himself smiling at her, laughing at her jokes and enjoying her little insights. By the time Asher glanced at his watch it was nearly eleven. They had been together for three hours, more than twice the length of time that Rav Benzi said that one should spent on a first date.

Aliza was nice, really nice….if only she had another body.

As she got up to leave he snuck a look at her rear end just to make sure he was right. It was really large and it jiggled as she moved. What a shame. If she were fifty pounds lighter, he might have even proposed. It wasn’t as if he was prejudiced against all fat people. Some of his best friends were fat—Ezi for example, but a girl, a wife was different. He had to be attracted to his wife, even Rav Benzi conceded that. To see her as beautiful, so beautiful that no other woman could ever tempt him, not even in his thoughts.

As he walked through the dark streets to the light rail station his feelings turned to anger. Why hadn’t his mother figured this out? He had explicitly told her that he didn’t want a fat girl but his Mom was clueless. That’s how American parents were. His mind flashed back to the time in fourth grade when his rebbe actually read one his mother’s notes out loud.

“Dear Rav Kaplan may you be blessed with length of days….
We are so thankful that you are bringing our son may his light be illuminated to the Holy Torah. Please know that he wanted to go to school yesterday but he was incapacitated with a stomach virus. He’s better now and ready again to learn the Holy Writ.”
With Torah greetings and gratitude
…Malka Tumim

His Rebbe thought the note was sweet but the entire class roared with laughter. After that Asher refused to take a note his mother wrote until he read and approved it. He knew that was obnoxious, even disrespectful but he had no choice. And now she was messing his life up again. The fact that she meant well but that didn’t change reality. She was still messing him up and now she was messing up someone else too.

Poor Aliza.. He could see that she was thrilled to be out with him, a normal guy, from a good yeshiva, not bad looking, not a nerd or a dork and now he’d have to let her down.

Molly stared at the kitchen clock. “Asher been gone for more than two hours . Do you think he really likes her?”

Nahum picked his head up from the open volume of the Talmud. “Maybe?’

“Oh my goodness,” Molly clasped her hands together against her neck. “Do you think this is really it. I mean it could happen?”

“Well maybe… but then again did you marry the first guy you ever dated.”

“Oh heavens no. I was only twelve. There were a bunch of us. We went skating but everyone quickly paired up except Mindy Roth, she the odd person so she swooped down and stole my date away..”

“Ugh” Nahum feigned a frown.’

“Yup. I was devastated. When my father came to pick me up I was in tears. He bought me a hot chocolate with whipped cream but it didn’t cheer me up. Thank G-d Asher doesn’t have to go through that. Just think, he’s twenty two . He missed out on all that drama.”

“Good “Nahum nodded.

“I didn’t even know that this kind of dating existed until I was in seminary. then Rebetzin Rosengarten gave a talk about it. She described it as a developd form of dating for civilized people, that is dating platonically without any messing around. I couldn’t believe that anyone dated this way until my roommates got engaged to a really nice guy whom she never held hands with . She told me that she’d never connected so deeply with anyone else before. She felt like she really knew her fiance on a soul level.”
“Are they still together?”

“Yeah. I think they live in LA and last I heard they had nine kids.”

Just then Asher walked in . He was smiling.

“So you liked her?”

“Yeah. She’s cute . She’s fun.”

“Great I’m so happy.” Molly and Asher started to hum the Jewish wedding song..

“Hey Mom and Dad not so fast.”

“Of course not You take your time. This is a huge step. Go out as much as many times as you need to “said Nahum. He patted Asher on the back….”

“Do you want the next date to be this week or after Shabbos,” asked Molly

“Mom, Dad, wait a minute. There’s not going to be a next date.”

“But didn’t you say you liked the girl,” said Nahum.

“Mom, Dad, She’s a nice girl but she’s not for me.”

“Why not? asked Molly.

Asher blushed . “Well for one thing , she’s a gootzeit.”

“A what?” Both parents stared at eachother their faces registering the immigrant’s puzzlement at the unfamiliar slang.
‘She’s chunky..”

“”You know that looks come and go. Aliza could lose the weight . On the other hand you could end up with a skinny girl and then she could get fat. What would you do then? I don’t think weight is a criterion.”

“But Mom, I didn’t find her attractive”.

“Molly lay off, ” said Nahum. He had put his arm around Asher’s shoulder as Asher looked off into the distance.
“Please….give it one more chance. Her look may grow on you. You can’t rule her out after just one date, especially after you said you liked her personality.You know there are things she can wear to hold her in, to make her look thinner . I’ll tell the shadchan.”

“No, Mom Please don’t.” Asher’s voice was deep and firm. He turned around and went to his room leaving his parents alone.

“So this was it. The culmination of hours of phone calls, reams of notes”

“I guess we aren’t meant to become , Miriam Ehrman’s relatives” said Nahum.

“It’s my fault. ” Molly hung her head down like a rag doll.

“What? How could that be?”

“I’m weight obsessed. You know how I’m always watching my calories, weighing myself. He picked it up from me.”

“So you’re going to get fat now?”

Molly shook her head. “No but I’m just saying that maybe if I werent so insane with my weight he wouldn’t be running away from Aliza.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Nahum, Please speak to him. Tell him to give it one more try, Just one?”

“Okay, tomorrow” said Nahum. ”

Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT family’s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son.
You can read Chapter 1 here,
Chapter 2a here,
Chapter 2b here,
Chapter 3a here,
Chapter 3b here
Chapter 3c here
Chapter 3d here

Musical Chairs – Chapter 3d – Preparing for the First Date

Chapter 3d.

One morning shortly after the holiday ended Shulamis appeared at her door holding an an article which she’d clipped from one of the Jewish magazines and encased in a plastic sleeve. “. I thought you’d find it helpful.’ It was all about coaching your child through the dating process. Until now it had never occurred to Molly that she’d need to play dating coach. Wasn’t she doing enough just finding him dates but the article made a convincing case.

“Think of how scared these kids are sitting opposite a stranger and wondering if that stranger should be their partner for life—for keeps ! Think back to how scared you were!

“Be your child’s dating coach,”

By the time she’d finished she was convinced. The article had a side bar containing sample questions.
1. What does marriage mean to you
2. Where do you see yourself in one year, five years, ten years, at the end of your life….

What amazing questions. She’d never asked them, never been asked them, never even thought of them until now but she wanted Asher to go into his date with this list. But how? If she’d hand the article to Asher he’d smile and then shove it into a drawer but maybe Nahum. Nahum could get through but Nahum was on a plane now heading for New Jersey. She scanned the article and sent it to him.

In the evening his response appeared in her inbox. . “Trust Asher. I think has enough sense to date without reading this article.”

Molly shook her head and typed . ” I think this could have helped. ”

And the Nahum typed back “So then you do it.”

Asher was in the kitchen wearing his bicycle helmet, his trousers tucked into his socks filling up his hydration pack from the filtered tap.

“Please give me just five minutes. It’s important,”

“Later…I’ve got to go Mom,they’re waiting for me.” He sprinted out the door.
She followed him.

“This won’t take long….”She handed him the article .

“Ma, I know all of that. Trust me, I get an earful in yeshiva. They have classes about this stuff.” He bounded down the stairs leaving.
She closed her eyes. “Oh G-d” she moaned. How in the world will this ever work out?”

Asher came home at midnight on the day before the date sunburned falling into his bed exhausted but unable to sleep. His parents thought he didn’t care about the date but nothing was further than the truth. He was terrified. How would he get through this? Some of his friends were jealous of him. Ezi his morning study partner for example. A short ruddy fellow with a boxer’s physique Ezi was stuck in a matrimonial traffic jam . His parents wouldn’t even consider letting him date until his four single sisters were wed.

“You know how it says in the gemora that if you don’t get married by age eighteen your bones start to rot. Mine are rotting. I can feel it ” Ezi had told him just the day before while they drifted down the Jordan River in a kayak.

Asher couldn’t find much empathy. His own bones weren’t rotting. They felt felt fine, even strong.. He couldn’t imagine a better life than the one he was already living- great friends, great rabbis and his studies, challenging but also geshmack, delicious and yet he knew that the Talmud said a single man lacked joy, blessing, goodness. He wouldn’t have thought so, but maybe this date would uncover feelings he didn’t know he had.
Read more Musical Chairs – Chapter 3d – Preparing for the First Date

Musical Chairs – Chapter 3c – A BT’s Shidduch Search for Her FFB Son

Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT family’s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son.
You can read Chapter 1 here, Chapter 2a here, Chapter 2b here, Chapter 3a here, Chapter 3b here

Chapter 3C

Over breakfast, Nahum texted to Yidy. “I want them to go out next week, during Hol Hamoed.” Hol Hamoed, the intermediate days of the Succoth holiday was prime dating season.

“Any answer?” Molly feigned interest.

“No. He doesn’t get back to me. ” Nahum took another sip of coffee.

As he left for work Yidy’s text came through. “Sorry she’s busy now.”

“Drat,” Nahum’s head sunk into his chest like Rodin’s thinker.

Then Nahum looked up. “Yidy says that Bracha is busy. Its off for now.”

“Wow” Molly hoped she’d expunged any evidence of happiness from her tone.

“Your prayers must carry a lot of weight in heaven.”

Molly smiled wanly. Who would have ever thought that rejection could be so pleasant.

“Was it the money….? She’s not the only girl with money.”

“Well. that was nice but she sounded like a nice girl for Asher. I don’t want to see him hurt.”

“Do you think he built this up in his mind.?”

“It sounded like he did.”

“Guys think about girls. Normal twenty two year old guys, even guys in the Hadar yeshiva.”

“I thought it was all gemara, all the time.”

Molly looked deeply into her husband’s eyes. “Then this will hurt him.”

“Yes, I suppose it will.”

Molly’s early life had been suffused with just this sort of pain—In sixth grade—she cried for three full days when Robert Glen told her that he’d no longer walk her back home from school.

“I thought the parents took care of all this stuff and the kids could be spared the pain.”

“I wish It were that easy but I think he’ll be okay. I’ll call him,”

His fingers were on his phone.

“Right now?”

“No sense letting him build up false hopes.”

As Molly listened she had the same uneasy sensation she used to get when Asher was a baby and she had to take him for shots.

“The shidduch…” said Nahum.

Silence, Nahum listening as Asher talked. Was he devastated? Was he weeping? And then she heard “goodbye and a click. ”

“So” How did he take it?”

Nahum smiled. “How do you think he took it? Like a man.. He knew that Bracha was in high demand these days. He said that if it was meant to be then it would work out….”

“Wait a minute..” Molly’s mouth turned very round. “Does that meant that the guys in his dorm talk about girls? ”

“Of course they do. “Yeshiva boys aren’t Jewish monks. Stop thinking he’s not normal and he was cool. He took it well. What more do you want.”

She just wanted Asher to meet the right one. He’d barely started, had yet to go on his first date and already she felt weary of the process.

“Lets take a break. Let’s just forget about shidduchim for a while– until Hanukah.”

Nahum smiled at her. “This year or next?”
Read more Musical Chairs – Chapter 3c – A BT’s Shidduch Search for Her FFB Son

Musical Chairs – Chapter 3b – A BT’s Shidduch Search for Her FFB Son

Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT family’s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son.
You can read Chapter 1 here.
You can read Chapter 2a here.
You can read Chapter 2b here.

You can read Chapter 3a here.

Chapter 3b

When she got home Nahum was warming up the left over chulent from Shabbos for Melaveh Malka, the meal that King David had instituted as a gesture of gratitude. “Can I warm a bowl for you? It’s really good.”

For a moment Molly almost said yes but then she thought of how her insides would feel if she ate that stuff now.”No thanks.”

“By the way, did you check her out? Asher really wants to date this girl.”

“Yes, I don’t think it’s going to work out .” She rubbed her eyes and began walking in the direction of the bedroom.

“Hey wait a minute. We’re not done. What is the problem with her?” said Nahum.

“Take my word. It’s not for us.”

“Well why not?” Nahum put down his spoon.

“Well, how shall I say this….” Why besmirch Mr. Glick or was it Rabbi Glick’s good name but now she felt she had no choice. “I heard on good authority that Bracha’s father is a very troubled person and her parents are on the verge of divorce.”

“Hey, wait a minute. My parents were divorced and your’s—well you yourself said it was no Hollywood romance.”

“Excuse me.” Molly arched her brows.

“Well sorry to be so blunt but you told me yourself..”

“Yes , so do you want that for Asher? ”

“They struggled and we struggled and Asher will struggle. The lives of the sons echoes the lives of the fathers. Isn’t that what the Torah says?..”

“But I don’t want them to struggle.” Molly’s voice thickened with emotion.

“Well maybe they won’t and anyway, the father isn’t the girl”

“Yeah but this is bad news and we know about it. I don’t want to go near this girl Do you need a neon sign saying that?” Her voice had turned high pitched and shrill.

“Yeah but Asher really wants this. Just do a little bit more research. One or two more calls. Maybe that will put a different spin on this.”

“No. I fill like I’ve done enough.”

“So I’ll do it . I know how to ask questions” Nahum stood up from the table as if he were speaking in court.

“Are you firing me?”

“No, but I don’t want to overburden you.”

“Okay. I’ll do it .”She sounded like a trapped animal.

When she finally lay down to sleep she felt sick.

Molly spent Yom Kippur at the synagogue. On other years she’d enjoyed the holiday especially the feeling of community as the fast ended, and the spontaneous at the end of the end but this year she began the fast feeling anxious her anxiety only increasing as the day wore on.

In a way tomorrow would be the real day of judgment for Bella and by extension for Molly. Until now, Bella’s disciplinary slights had been the province of the vice principle, Rabanit Mor a small stout woman with a high voice and thick French accent who handled them by telephone. . The conversations had a set time for them 10 am–Molly wondered if Rabanit Mor had blocked out those moments anticipating the need even before Bella commited her crime

“I’m sorry to bother you, ” Rabanit Mor would begin which always tempted Molly to say, if you’re so sorry then you don’t have to call, but she never did. After that Rabanit Mor would describe the offense of the week–such petty crimes. Why couldn’t they cut the girls a little slack? . After several weeks of these calls Molly could hardly hold herself back from asking the Rabanit whether if was about the nail polish, the blouse button or the cell phone

Rabanit Mor would apologize again–the woman seemed to have a need to apologize profusely and then she’d end the call with blessings for ” sach nachas, a Yiddish expression meaning denoting a potent blend of love and pride and peace of mind that was akin to nirvana

Molly eventually became so accustomed to Rabanit Mor’s calls that she didn’t even break a sweat but a summons to the principal Rabanit Stark implied a new level of severity. Beit Rinah was a huge school–over five thousand girls. Rabanit Stark didn’t have time to mess around. Would she give Bella the boot? And then what? Beit Rinah was the least selective and also most tolerant of the mainstream schools, that is schools for regular girls. After Beit Rinah the only place to go was to a school that specialized in problematic girls. It was hard enough that Elazar had fit himself into that category, but Bella too. As the congregation recited a long litany about the ten holy martys Molly visualized her sweet beautiful daughter with her tiny upturned nose, Molly’s green eyes and Nahum’s thick dark hair in dirty torn jeans , track marks on her arms and a silver ring hanging from her nose.

It was only Molly who had freaked out. Nahum was his usual blithe self . As he left for services looking angelic in his crocs and white kitel he told her not to worry. “I’m going to daven and it will be fine. ” If only she had his faith.

When Molly appeared at Bella’s door to wake her for services she claimed a headache. “I’ll get there later, I promise, “she said. Did she really have a headache or was it that she just didn’t care about t Yom Kippur, or school?

Why was this all so hard? Years ago, that is when she was peering at the orthodox world form the outside one of the things that impressed with her was the lack of a generation gap, the lack of generations. Rav Muti’s children seemed to move seamlessly from childhood to adulthood to parent hood walking in the shadow of their elders. Why hadn’t that happened to her?
Read more Musical Chairs – Chapter 3b – A BT’s Shidduch Search for Her FFB Son

Musical Chairs – Chapter 3a – A BT’s Shidduch Search for Her FFB Son

Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT family’s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son.
You can read Chapter 1 here.
You can read Chapter 2a here.
You can read Chapter 2b here.

Chapter 3a
The day before Rosh Hashana, Molly stood alone in the kitchen kneading dough to bake challahs which she would shape into circles, shofars, even a scale of justice. She’d heard somewhere that the bakers state of mind seeped into the dough. She stared at her hands, sticky and covered. In her present state of mind, perhaps she needed to throw the whole thing into the garbage – otherwise they’de eat her anxiety, which wasn’t inconsiderable.

First there was the matter of her employment — What would she do this year? Advertise to start a new yoga class? Would anyone come? Or perhaps something else. She tore out an ad in a local circular seeking tutors to work with at Ba’al Teshuva woman. Wasn’t she too old? Would they even want her?

And then there were the kids, Asher giving her an unexpectedly hard time and Elazar who just the day before lopped off his hair bizarrely, shaving the sides to near baldness and leaving a mowed patch in the center as a platform for his microscopic yarmulke. His old yeshiva would never take him back looking like that.

He didn’t seem to care at all. He stayed in bed — was he sleeping, playing on his phone? She had no idea — until noon or even later and then went out. To where? She didn’t know and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. Was he on drugs? He didn’t smell, didn’t have bloodshot eyes or a runny nose. When he was awake he seemed cheerful, even pleasant and yet…

And then there was Bella, her only daughter who did go to school but invariably got sent home for wearing nail polish, hitching her skirt too short, being rude and sassy and sometimes combinations of all of the above. It was only a matter of time until she’d been kicked out too and then what would Molly do?

She dug her hands into the dough, The mystics said that one could pray while kneading. What would she pray for? The kids? Even Moshe, the youngest who seemed like Asher the second worried her. He disliked his new teacher and in seventh grade that could spell problems.

This was the season to introspect. Where had she gone wrong? Had she been too lenient, too easy going, not strict enough? The first time Bella was sent home to remove her nail polish she’d giggled. Did that demonstrate a lack of respect for authority? Was that the problem?

Maybe she needed to start with herself. She looked down at her skirt, white denim barely below her knees and above them when she sat down, and her blouse, that lightweight denim colored rayon that was so popular these days. What if she’d lengthen the skirt and put away the blouse?. Would G-d care about that? As frightening as it felt to think that G-d was observing her and recording all of her deeds into His supernal computer the opposite idea, that is that He didn’t care or even worse, didn’t really exist was even scarier. She’d banked her whole life on G-d, that He was there, that even as He made demands on her, He was her loving father. She’d adjust her wardrobe; this would be her sacrifice, certainly easier than the sacrifices Jews had made through the ages. Maybe then G-d would hear her prayers.

Rosh Hashanah passed quietly. Asher remained at yeshiva where the prayers were recited with extreme slowness. For the first time in his life he prayed to find his bride. His prayers didn’t have a real intensity. He wasn’t desperate; just as everything else in his life had fallen into place this would too but for the first time he identified a part of him that was scared. One of his friends was an alter, that is an elderly student, a guy in his mid twenties who’d gone on hundreds of dates and had yet to find his soul mate .For the first time in his life he asked G-d not to make him an alter.

The rest of the family attended services on time.— no small thing as most Shabboses she couldn’t peel some of them off of their beds. The family attended a small synagogue in a basement really a converted storage room, simple undecorated.

Molly poured herself into her prayers which offered a long litany of possible disaster. “Who by sword, who by fire, who by fierce animal” as well as an antidote. “Repentence, prayer and good deeds would annul the evil decrees” Could that really happen for her? Perhaps.

The day after Rosh Hashana, Molly attended an adult ballet class. She’d done ballet as a child but now it felt too hard on her knees but while she was changing she overhead a woman in pink flurescent yoga pants raving about a new yeshiva where the boys weren’t hassled about having the wrong haircut.

“Excuse me, I overheard you Would a boy with a short mohawk be accepted.”

The woman laughed. “Mohawk, rastas, ponytails. This Rosh Yeshiva looks beyond the hair at the real boy. “

Molly took his phone number and he accepted Elazar as a student. All that week Molly noticed that Moshe wasn’t complaining and Bella’s expulsions ended. “I gave my nailpolish away. I don’t want to get in trouble all the time.”
Read more Musical Chairs – Chapter 3a – A BT’s Shidduch Search for Her FFB Son

Musical Chairs – Chapter 2b – A BT’s Shidduch Search for Her FFB Son

Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT family’s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son.
You can read Chapter 1 here.
You can read Chapter 2a here.

Chapter 2b

Rebbetzin Brill was a skinny woman with a pinched face she wore a dark formless dress and an old fashioned foam lined headscarf, which gave her head a Spongebob look Her thinness was really quite astounding because she was always cooking. Did she diet? Did she suffer from stomach problems. Her husband was a Chassidic Rebbe, the Rebbe of Hohok, Nahum called it Ho-Ho-Kus after the posh New Jersey suburb, which caused her to chuckle even though it wasn’t the funniest of jokes, was even thinner. But they were good people, sincere, kind, the real deal.

After her ectopic pregnancy, when her fallopian tube had exploded leaving her close to death, Molly went to see him. The doctor who had saved her life, declared her child bearing years over. ‘Just be happy with what you’ve got, “but Molly was unspeakably sad and weepy Nahum brought her to the Rabbi Brill, a feat which required no small amount of cajoling as Rabbi Brill didn’t usually see women. He sat the head of the dining table, a huge bookcase filled with Talmudic tomes behind him looking down at the stone matza patterned floor to avert her gaze. His voice was so soft that Molly strained to hear him but he promised that she’d have a baby within the year and the next month she fell pregnant with Elazar.

On the morning of Molly’s visit the Rebetzin and several of her daughters, were peeling potatoes and the apartment was redolent with the scent of potato kugel baking in the oven.

“We’re celebrating my grandson’s bar mitzvah tonight. Would you like a piece?” said the Rebbetzin.

“No thanks. I just wanted you opinion, about a girl for Asher.”

“Of course… “

Rebbetzin Brill titled her head upwards as if she were inviting G-d into the conversation and she smiled.. “Ah…..You couldn’t do better. Such a girl, such a family…,.”

“You’re very lucky to have such a good suggestion but then Asher is an excellent boy.” Molly looked around at the Brill’s apartment, the worn carpet, the sagging bookcase and broken furniture. How could she dare to ask about money? She didn’t want Rebbetzin Brill see her and Nahum and even Asher as gold-diggers.” It’s so hot today. I’ll get you a drink.” The Rebbetzin motioned for the smallest of her daughters who appeared with a tray and a large bottle of cold water. “No, no thanks.”

“You didn’t just come to smell the kugel. What else do you need to know. Money?”

Even though it was summer goosebumps appeared on Molly’s arms. Rabbi Brill had mystical powers but until now she hadn’t known that his wife had them too. “Yes,” her voice was so choked she could hardly speak.

“I can’t give you a figure but I can tell you that they live very nicely and I’m sure that they can help very nicely.”

Molly smiled. That sounded like enough.

“Call me to share the good news, “said the Rebbetzin as she waved goodbye. As soon as she left the apartment she texted Nahum with the good news and he gave the match his blessing.

How many dates would they need? Molly and Nahum had dated for six weeks before he proposed but with these couples things could move more quickly. It was July now. Tammuz. A month long courtship would bring them into the summer yeshiva vacation. Maybe they could have an outdoor ceremony in a garden? She imagined a chuppah covered with flowers, Asher and Ayelet tying the knot on a late summer evening the sun setting in the distance.

The next day the sky was a murky grey even though the temperatures were hot. Bella woke up with a headache and then vomited all over her bed linens and bedroom floor. Moshe complained of feeling sick too and Molly a bucket next to his bed.

The malaise extended to inanimate objects. The drier broke and the dud shemesh, the water storage tank which attached to a solar panel that sat on the roof of their building, to harvest the sun’s rays to heat their bathwater, malfunctioned.

Still Molly’s mood was bright. Soon all of the broken things would be fixed. Soon, the children would get better and soon Asher would meet a Ayelet Gold and marry her and she’d become a grandmother, an experience which everyone she knew insisted was the pinnacle of life.

In between calls to the various repair people and the doctor Esther phoned.

“Sorry to tell you this.. they said no”

Molly’ felt a thud in her chest. “Why?

“What can I say? They didn’t think it was right for them.”

“What does that mean?” What did the Gold’s find out about them? Was it Elazar’s yeshiva troubles, Bella’s rebelliousness or was it them. Nahum’s alcoholism, his years in AA or perhaps Molly herself. How much did anyone know about her past? She didn’t see herself as secretive. She wasn’t ashamed, after all once a person repents, his sins are transformed to merits but she did have experiences she wished she could have deleted from her life. Could it be that someone knew?

Sh*t she yelled. Sh*t Sh*t Sh*t.. She rarely used four letter words but then again she rarely, indeed had to deal with her son’s rejection by the girl who was surely his soulmate…She slammed the phone down hard against the table which caused the battery to pop out. She nudged it back in.

Just then Bella came into the kitchen. “Ima….”

Molly suddenly came to. ‘Did I hear you?”

Though she was generally careful with her speech Molly did use bad language, very rarely , in traffic or under situations of extreme stress of which this was one.

Molly didn’t’ respond hoping that would make the question go away but it didn’t’.

“It’s tough Mom,” said Bella putting her arm on Molly’s back. “Everyone knows that the Golds are super picky. They turn down almost everyone.”

“Huh?” Molly “How did everyone know except her.”

When she called Nahum he said the same thing. “I knew it wouldn’t work.

They are a line of Rabbis. Thirty five consecutive generations..”

“So our genes aren’t good enough? How could people be so prejudiced? They they want us to become like them and then they they refuse to let their kids marry kids. They probably wouldn’t have allowed their child to marry any of the patriarchs either, Okay maybe Jacob but certainly not Abraham and Isaac would have been iffy. How can they be such prigs!”

“Can you turn down the volume My ears are getting sore.”

“Calm down.” said Nahum “Remember rejection is G-d’s form of protection.”

Almost reflexively, Molly cracked a Gold smile. It amused her to hear her own bromide coming out of Nahum’s lips


Later after the day was finally over and everyone asleep Nahum and Molly sat alone on the porch.

“What do you really know about the…


“I could think of a few more questions I bet you never asked. “

“Such as……”

He dipped his head down as if reading from his cell phone but Molly noticed that he had a gleam in his eye.

“I want their complete financial, medical and genealogical records.”

“Come on….Where on earth to you expect me to get those.”

“I don’t know but get them and there’s something else I want to know. Do they chain their children to the bed at night?”

“Yes that is something we need to know—we don’t want Asher marrying a girl who was chained to her bed.”

“Do they belch at the table?”

Do they cover their faces when they sneeze? “

By now Molly laughed so hard she couldn’t speak.

“Molly, these people are crazy, If they don’t want Asher it’s their problem.”

Just then Molly stopped laughing. “I just thought of something.”

“What?” Nahum tilted his head toward hers.

“Something really remarkable just happened. We need to take note of this. Our son Asher had a romantic rejection and he didn’t even know about it. He got hurt without feeling any pain or having a bruise.”

Nahum nodded. “I had my first heartbreak in third grade. I still remember her Judy Katz. She was the prettiest girl in the school.”

Molly hated Nahum’s uncanny ability to recall old flames—why was his memory so perfect when it came to women as opposed to say grocery lists, but she knew what he meant..

“I’m so glad that Asher can learn in peace. That he’s never even heard the name Ayelet Gold.’

It was true. Asher had been away at yeshiva the whole time. He hadn’t heard one word about Ayelet.

Nahum smiled. He leaned over and kissed Molly

“What was that for?” Molly smiled.

“Hey honey this is a moment to celebrate. To Asher. Le’chaim. May he find his kallah his bride without pain.

Nahum nodded. Then he yawned and stretched his arm to turn out the light.

Musical Chairs – Chapter 2a – A BT’s Shidduch Search for Her FFB Son

Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT family’s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son. You can read Chapter 1 here.

Chapter 2a

Late Saturday night Shulamis Black’s son Ari took the family’s ancient Citroen for a spin and totaled it. Thankfully he’d come out unscathed but now Shulamis needed Molly to drive her to the “shops” her quaint English way of referring to the supermarket.The day broiling hot-that doesn’t change until well into the fall. The the sky bleached out and white, the sort of weather that middle eastern connoisseurs of heat called Sharavbut Molly’s mini van and the supermarket had good AC.

Physical opposites, Shulamis, was pale faced, round and frumpy to Molly’s slender elegance but the two women had been the best of friends since they both moved into the apartment building on the end of Kablan street in in early nineties, with newborn babies in tow. Shulamis was FFB frum from birth, that is born into the religion, the fourth daughter of Manchester’s best loved cantor whereas Molly was the only child of a businessman a wheeler dealer who’d made and lost fortunes in real estate, construction and the commodities market. Where Molly had four children, three sons and a daughter, Shulamis’s brood numbered fifteen, an eyebrow raiser even in Har Nof. Nine were married which meant that she’d earned her PHD in the shidduch process.

“I got my first shidduch offer. What’s the word they use red.”

As the two friends stood by side at the supermarket entrance admiring a colorful pyramid of imitation crocs for Tisha B’Av, the supermarkets even managed to commercialize the saddest day of the year the words slipping from Molly’s mouth like ice cream dripping from a popsicle on a hot day.

“Not red the color. Redt, It’s Yiddish. Welcome to the club, girl.” Shulamis laid a hand on Molly’s shoulder.

“I thought the shadchan took care of everything but Esther read me references.”

Shulamis chuckled.” Don’t you know that joke in Hebrew sheker dover, speaks lies, kesef noteil, takes money.”

Molly’s jaw went slack.” Does that mean I can’t trust Esther?”

“No, Of course not. Esther is a fine shadchan but you are in charge. You need to do your own investigation.”

“Huh…Do I really need to call strangers.” Molly’s voice trembled with nerves.

“It’s not rocket science girl. Just think of everything you’d want to know about the girl and her family, and then call anyone and everyone you think might be able to help you oh and the last bit.”

“Me? I can’t do this.” The impact of the Dena Maisels fiasco suddenly hit her like a punch in the stomach. Why couldn’t that have worked out? It seemed so simple so, perfect, so much better than this.’

“Listen to me, Get a notebook and write everything down.” Shulamis sounded like a general giving orders to a buck private.

“Any special kind?”

“I use a loose-leaf with a new tab for each girl but any notebook will do The main thing is to keep a record of your research.”

The two women returned to their shopping but then as they were filling bags of nectarines Molly tapped Shulamis on the back. Her voice was shaky, trembling and her eyes were trained to the floor like a small child who’d been sent to the principle’s office.” But you don’t understand I can’t call strangers. I once had a summer job cold calling and I got fired. I just couldn’t do it. Couldn’t I just hire someone, a private investigator, someone from the Mossad…”

“Nonsense.” Shulamis loaded her bag of nectarines into her cart. Then she looked Molly straight in the eye.” You’ll rise to the occasion. Everyone does.” I’ve got a list of questions.I’ll send it over. Just read it out to the the people the shadchan provided and anyone else you can find who really knows the girl and her family. Write down everything they say and read it over. You’ll figure it out.”

“Yeah, Easy for you to say.”

Shulamis put her hand on Molly’s shoulder.

“I’ve got a list of questions I use. I’ll send them to you and ring me whenever you like. I’m happy to help.”

It wasn’t almost midnight by the time Molly sat down to read the list. She was alone at the kitchen table, seated in one of the blonde wood Windsor chairs she and Nahum had imported from the US in their lift, an entire household stuffed into a freight container. In the nineties, they didn’t sell Windsor chairs in Israel. Her fingers were curled round a glass of water filled to the brim with ice cubes and lemon slices.

The list began a single word. “Smoke?” When Molly was a teenager, she had smoked. becoming expert in the art of blowing smoke rings, a talent which impressed children and increased her social currency She’d quit of course, when she took up yoga—the two were incompatible and she never picked up again.. In the circles she moved in today only men smoked in public. Molly remembered that Shulamis’s last child to get married was a daughter–many yeshiva students still smoked. That was probably why she asked.

As to Ayelet Gold, in the highly unlikely event that she did smoke, she’d probably keep it so quiet that no one would ever know. After that came basic questions, age, height and, build which was a coy way of asking if the girl carried excess poundage. She had yet to ascertain a precise definition of Asher’s type but she knew one thing—no fat girls need apply. “No semi trailer,” he said and the unfortunate and shocking vulgarism stuck in her mind.. She continued to read Shulamis’s questionnaire

“ Is he/she easy going/bossy,/demanding.” Select one.” Molly crossed it out and instead wrote.” Describe her temperament.” Open ended was surely better than multiple choice.

Then came a question that made Molly wince. “Did the family yell?”

When she’d returned home weighted down with dozens of pink cellophane bags full of groceries and hardly an ounce of strength to lift them from the car into the house Bella wouldn’t leave the computer to help until Molly let out a roar. Would that disqualify the Tumim’s.

There was a question about siblings, what they were doing. She thought of Bella’s many troubles and about Elazar who’d been had today been sent home to get a haircut. Molly didn’t mind long hair on men. When she’d first met Nahum his hair was longer than Elazar’s. Why did a slight lengthening of the tresses cause the rabbis to get all bent out of shape?

And then the final clincher. “Expecting money?”She neatly folded the questionnaire and slid it into her kitchen desk right next to the slip of paper containing the phone numbers of the references. When would she get to this? Tomorrow perhaps, once Nahum got home.


The morning was bright and sunny and only mildly hot. When she and Shulamis took their six AM walk Molly hugged her arms to her chest to warm herself.–a rare delight during the searing Israeli summer. As they strode back home from the forest Shulamis asked about the questions.” What did you think Were they helpful?.”

“Oh yes but I still don’t’ see myself doing this. But I’ll gladly pay you to do it for me. What do you say about that..,”said Molly.

“No,”said Shulamis. She walked as briskly as she spoke.” You’re not only listening to what people say but to how they say it. You’re the mother, You’ll be attuned to the nuances.”

Molly stopped freezing in place..” But I can’t.”

Shulamis stood next to her waiting for her.

“Come on. Didn’t you once told me that you used to act a bit.” In college Molly been played Big Nurse in”One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

“Oh gosh, that was in another lifetime..”

“Well pretend that you’re on stage, saying your lines.”

When she got home she took out the questionnaire. Was she really ready. She stared at it again and returned it to the drawer. Then she took it out along with the list of references. Such long and complicated names Kopolovich, Genechovsky, Hasonvitch, Wildomirsky and Weiss. Such long and complicated names–would she mispronounce them. What if they only spoke Hebrew. She lifted the receiver. Which number should she dial. Weiss-. Weiss’s line was busy. She put down the receiver and poured herself a cup of coffee. No, she’d wait until Nahum would come home. Maybe he could do this. He was a great talker, but what if these people spoke only Hebrew. Then he’d be sunk. She looked at the calendar tacked above her desk. Today was Wednesday and tomorrow would be Thursday which was almost Shabbos and then Nahum would arrive and she’d need to get ready for Shabbos. She had Nahum had already invited a houseful of guests, mostly students who were visiting Israel on a birthright tour. The Tumim’s regularly had these guests. Molly loved being the one to introduce them to Shabbos for the first time. No , tomorrow she’d be too busy. Shulamis’s exhortation rang in her ears. Be an actor. She straightened her spine and took a deep cleansing breath just as she would before giving a class. Then she punched Mrs. Kopolovich’s numbers into the phone.

She answered and she spoke a perfect Brooklyn accented English.” Oh what a wonderful girl.” .She regaled Molly with tales of Ayelet ; how she had calmed her classmates down on the morning of a big test by treating them cookies she’d baked and decorated to look like accountant’s ledgers.

“You must have davened well.. This is a zechus.”

From Genechovich who turned out to be Genendy Genechovich, Ayelet’s best friend since childhood she learned Ayelet’s schedule. On Monday a Torah class. Every Tuesday she was off to the hospital to help care for a desperately ill infant. Every Wednesday she went to the gym and everything Thursday she mopped the floors for an elderly widow who lived down the block. On Friday she helped her own mother or married sisters.

Just hearing it made Molly dizzy. And from the other references she heard similar tales which she duly transcribed into a notebook. As to money, well, Molly didn’t quite get to that. It seemed a shame to interrupt all of those wonderful stories with such a base question.


Nahum came home on Friday morning, his eyes deeply ringed and his business suit rumped. Molly had gotten up early and prepared his favorite breakfast, freshly brewed coffee and blueberry pancakes but he barely picked at it.

“But can’t we talk just a little bit?”Molly asked.

“Can’t it wait… I’m just zonked.”

“What about just a short talk.” She’d tell Nahum all the wonderful things she’d heard– she’d already undated him through Whatsapp.

“Do this concern that girl, what’s her name”

“Yes, I think we should say yes.”

“I was guessing that.” Nahum got up from the table.

“So,”Molly stood next to him her arms rested at her waist her elbows pointing out.

“So what are they going to live on?”

“What do all couples do? She works. She’s got a job. He learns and we help.”

“Well, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Scott is cutting back on my hours.” Scott was Nahum’s brother in law and his employer.” His new daughter in law the one who just passed the bar. She’s getting my work.”

“How can he replace you like that, you’ve got so much experience.”

“It’s not that difficult and she’s a smart cookie ….so we really need to know the financials. You want the kids to have an apartment right? Not to sleep in a tent.”

“Well so. You don’t have to be sarcastic.”

“I told you I’m too tired now and I’m not being sarcastic. I’m being realistic. We need to know if we have partners.”

“So?” Molly raised her hands into the air.

“So. If you really want this thing to happen find out the financials.” Was her husband asking her to pry into the private financial affairs of strangers?

Alone in the kitchen Molly felt as if her heart had been edged out of her chest. She’d already allowed herself to design the invitations, select the gowns she and Bella would wear, even , imagine the future grandkids. How many girls like this would come around and how could she let a little thing like money blow the match?

She looked at her fridge, completely covered with wedding invitations. Until now she hadn’t appreciated what a miracle it was that anyone got married at all. Just before candle lighting Nahum brought Molly a bouquet of roses.” What is this for?”

“Well I was a bit hard on your, but I have an idea?”


“Go to see Rebetzin Brill. Ask her. If she’s okay with this then so am I.”

Just then the air raid whistle blew announcing the arrival of Shabbos. As she covered her face with her hands to pray near the Shabbos candles, Molly felt an overwhelming feeling of peace. It would happen. Asher would marry a wonderful girl. Everything would be fine.

How Do You Chose a Shadchan?

A friend writes in the following:

Here’s a question that has become increasingly relevant to our family of late. How do you chose a Shadchan?

Here’s the nitty gritty of our question. We are basically a yeshivish family (kollel, chinuch career) yet have been open minded in encouraging our daughter to attend college. We have done so in part because of our awareness that it will help her make ends meet, and partly because she’s very bright and really needed to do this. She would have been a misery her whole life having a mindless job. The first encounter with a teacher in our daughter’s school who has been instrumental in helping many girls find their bashert was eye-opening. My wife and I both got the sense that since we didn’t fully “go along with the whole program” (ie. no college, only strive for a guy who wants a kollel lifestyle), the school doesn’t fully respect or understand us.

So the question is, are there shadchanim out there, who are essentially Bais Yaakov minded, who can look at a girl who has gone to college, and will continue post graduate school, who wants a guy that is quite frum and intends to earn a living from the start of the marriage, and take her seriously? Going to my past Rosh Kollel for guidance on this one is not an option for obvious reasons.

Originally Posted – June 2006

So, You’re Going to Meet a Shadchan?

By Miriam Kolko

Finding the right shadchan is a process in itself. Having spent the last years developing yourself you are ready to build a home and share it with your bashert, but now discover that a shadchan is often a prerequisite to finding a suitable match.

How do you promote yourself so that your shidduch information remains in the shadchan’s mind and does not get lost among the myriad collection of resumes that has gathered cobwebs in a drawer, or vanished into the maw of the shadchan’s computer?

The first step in creating an impression is to actually meet the shadchan. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the significance of a meeting is priceless. Set yourself up for success by dressing appropriately. The way you dress is a declaration to others and can reveal a lot about you. Dress neatly and conservatively. This is not a contradiction to who you really are, but an acknowledgement of time and place and not allowing fashion to overshadow your persona.

Be an active partner. Prepare a shidduch resume and attach a recent picture. Your resume is your calling card; and your photo has retention value. Be sure to include your family background, schooling and current activities. List your contact information and check that contact information for your references are current. Assess your strengths and be ready to describe them. Is there anyone that you admire and care to emulate? Be prepared to describe the kind of home you envision and the specifics of what you are looking for in a spouse. This is a summation of who you are, what you are doing, where you are going and who you visualize accompanying you in life.

Show an interest in the shadchan. You can ask polite questions about the shadchan’s family, be generous with compliments and be aware of the shadchan’s efforts. No mistaking the purpose of the meeting, it is about you, however, showing that you appreciate the time that the shadchan is spending with you demonstrates that you are a warm and caring individual.

Smile! A smile can make you more attractive. A nice, friendly and genuine smile influences people positively and is always noticed and reciprocated. Your only cost is the effort it takes to lift your mouth. Make sure that your smile radiates onward to your eyes and outward to others.

Send the shadchan a thank you by way of email or standard mail. It can be a simple note or a more elaborate letter, yet it will cement your image and in combination with the previous suggestions help create a positive impression.

Miram Kolko is the manager of the Rebbetzins. The Rebbetzins is a free shidduch program designed to provide singles from Baal Teshuva background with a way of connecting to reliable information about other singles throughout the United States and Canada.

The Rebbetzins program has a centralized network of trustworthy Rebbetzins in major communities. A Rebbetzin is a wise, life-experienced, reliable person who actively works on behalf of one single at a time, as a parent does. Your Rebbetzin will take the time to get to know the real you. You’ll never be just a name and a resume.

To find out more about The Rebbetzins please go to or simply call our office, 732-730-1000 Ext. 263, a coordinator will be happy to answer any questions and assist you in filling out an application

Originally published on 10/09/2010

There Are No Perfect People

By Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

One of the greatest blessings that you can give a friend who is getting married is that the couple live together with peace and friendship. Peace isn’t what people think it is. It is too often confused with a mere lack of hostility in one extreme, or complete concord on the other. While there is absolutely no case to be made for overtantagonism, the absence of conflict leaves an empty space, which isn’t necessarily filled with peace. The word for peace, shalom, is related to the word shalem which means “whole”. A peaceful relationship is one in which each person welcomes the unique individuality of the other, and together try to build something real. It’s dynamic, rather than passive. With that in mind, I will tell you the bad news, which is also the good news.

Everyone settles.

There are no perfect people. Faults that are irrelevant from an emotionally safe distance are sometimes exquisitely painful when you recognize that you are merged with both the faults and virtues of the man who you marry. Recognizing this may feel like watching a dream shatter, if you had illusions that shalom means finding your clone, whose faults are the ones that you have somehow managed to forgive in yourself over the course of your life. If your vision of shalom is dynamic, you will realize that faults are one dimension of virtues. Every trait has two sides.

A person who is angry is saying, “things aren’t the way I would like them to be”. This can be almost idol worship, with the idol being the self. It also can be a misplaced yearning for wholeness, and the bitter fruit of misplaced idealism. If it is you who are the angry one, you have to accept your fault as being real, find a new address for the energy it generates and move on. You can and must learn damage control, but that isn’t the end of the story. If the fault is someone else’s, the temptation is to label it, dissect it, and despise it. This isn’t shalom. You have to be committed enough to see the hidden yearning for truth, and use it to build.

Rav Aryeh Levine, the famed tzadik of Yerushalaim, used to say that there are two kinds of people. There are those who hate lies, and those who love truth. A person who hates dishonesty will be sensitive to its presence, and see it lurking in the dark recesses of people’s inner lives and self-deceptions. They will despise the possessor of the trait because they despise the trait. Another type of person will seek the hidden truth in the heart of the person with whom they find themselves. They love the truth that emerges, and for that reason will love the person.

This isn’t only true in marriage, and the message of shalom is one that has to be carried with you wherever you go. It has to do with friendships, relationships with rabbis (what? Imperfect rabbis?), parents, just as much as it has to do with shalom bayit. The exception to this rule is illustrated in parsha Korach. Korach fermented a rebellion against Moshe. He presented himself as sort of the Jefferson of the Biblical world. We are all equal, we are all holy. Why should one person rule over others? Why should Moshe’s brother be the Kohein Gadol? Isn’t this just warmed over nepotism? The problem in his argument is that these offices were given by G-d and not by Moshe. It is Hashem Himself who gave Moshe the qualities that he had to have in order to give the Torah, and Aharon the traits he needed to bring down blessing to the Jewish people.

It is also G-d who, the Talmud tells us, since the time He finished creating the world has busied Himself with matching couples. This doesn’t mean only that He is the Ultimate Shadchan, but it also means that He creates the right situations to match the abilities of the people he destines to encounter those situations. Your role is to build, and to affirm. It isn’t to destroy or to negate. There are times when building is impossible, and then you have to have the vision and courage to move on. But the way to know whether that is the case can only come to the surface when you are really willing to question your own willingness to build, rather than to satisfy your ego by being the wronged party, or the higher deity on the totem pole. Lots of us enjoy machlokes (the opposite of shalom). It’s root is the word “chelek” which means portion. Finding the hidden truth is the only way out.

Originally Posted on

Hanging on a Shidduch

By Sharon Mizrachi

The frum community at large has been inundated with articles, lectures, strategies etc. about the current “Shidduch Crisis”. Many have opined the evolution, source, cure, etc., and yet, the crisis continues. Is the problem a result of the influence of the hedonistic & materialistic secular world in which we live? The economy? The sense of entitlement of our young adults? The individuals who perpetuate the crisis? The shadchanim? The parents? The peers? The rabbaim? The milkman??

Of course, there is no simple answer or solution to the “crisis”, but there is one issue I have never seen or heard discussed which is a fundamental problem in the way shidduchim are conducted. That is, communication & yashrus.

As a shadchan, I have experienced a lack of communication in shidduchim. In one shidduch, the girl would only speak to me (the shadchan) through her mother and all communication was based solely on “rules” learned in seminary. The boy would only communicate to me via text and was adamant that his Rebbe in Yeshiva said there should be an engagement by the 5th date or the shidduch must be broken off. The outcome? They are, BH, happily married with children! Even though I, as the shadchan, did not subscribe to their dating philosophy, they were 100% in sync (which is why I thought of the shidduch in the first place!). Clearly, this approach worked for them & I had to facilitate the shidduch accordingly. Although their communication was less than optimal for me, it worked for them. This was an interesting exercise for me in learning how to speak to your audience, a tool useful far beyond the realm of shidduchim.

As a parent, I have experienced both a lack of communication & yashrus. Was the girl/boy even told about the potential shidduch? Parents should not muddle through the minutiae of every prospective shidduch with their children, but how about telling them “I’m looking into someone for you”? Or, giving your children a few details about the shidduch, sans names, and asking them if they are interested in moving forward? Have you made a reasonable effort to research the shidduch? Was your child involved in that research? As the parent, have you communicated with the shadchan in a timely manner?

When you’re the one waiting for an answer, it’s hard to know at what point that waiting time goes from reasonable to ridiculous. Were you yashar in stating your interest (or lack thereof) in the shidduch? Someone who is truly interested will jump on it. If not, do a chesed to everyone involved and tell the shadchan either “it’s not a shidduch”, “my child is busy now”, “this shidduch is not quite what we are looking for”, “the timing isn’t right”, “our goldfish died and we’re observing aveilus through shloshim” or simply “we’re not interested now, but thank you for your efforts?”. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes; are you conducting yourself b’derech eretz?

The damage to the self esteem of a young adult (yes, even boys) by leaving them hanging affects future shidduchim. Anyone in shidduchim can tell you it’s difficult to ascertain what constitutes reasonable hishtadlus, but be mindful that we are dealing with living, breathing, feeling human beings here, so please don’t leave a fellow Yid…
Hanging On a Shidduch

Quest over a Narrow Bridge: Asia, Harvard, and Shidduchim

By Ben Clayman

I wrote my last article on the day I graduated university last summer. A lot has happened since then and I thought that Hashem’s loving kindness in showing me new insights in my life could help others in their life journey towards growth.

The Talmud says that when a baby is born, the parents have a level of prophecy when choosing the baby’s name. Benjamin is the name of the famous Jewish traveller, Benjamin of Tudela, who went around the Jewish world during the Crusades almost 1000 years ago. He chronicled most of the major centers of Jewish life.

I also set out to see the state of Jewish people on my journey. Rashi comments at the beginning of Exodus (2:11) that “Moshe saw their [Israel’s] burdens”. He focused his eyes and heart to be distressed over them. The most important lesson from my trip is the status of the Jewish people is a tale of two cities, both the best of times and the worst of times. Me, with my beard, kippa, tzizis, went around the world without a single negative incident. There was kosher food available, helpful locals, and strong communities in the farthest corners of this world. I met many converts and people wanting to convert. I met Jews from all backgrounds strengthening their commitment to Judaism. I met an Israeli who met his New Zealander wife in Laos at Kiddush in Auckland. I learned with a Swedish yeshiva student who was just in Germany for the year in Kowloon, Hong Kong. On the flip side, I got to give a small present of kosher candy to a Jew in prison in Cambodia. I saw a neglected, weatherbeaten Jewish cemetery and dying smaller communities. I witnessed missionaries preying on needy and ignorant Jewish youth.

My Rebbe, Rav Noach Weinberg ztl, said to me, Never forget how amazing it is to simply be part of Am Israel. I once got in an argument with him over whether kiruv was really focused in the right place. I argued that in my generation it is exceedingly rare to find someone who is passionate, who cares at all. All this talk about saving the Jewish people would fall on deaf ears, instead the message should be solely personal enrichment by Jewish teachings. He told me, “Make sure you can make them passionate, get them to care.” Hillel blew the famous clarion call, “If not me, then who? If not now, when?” Rav Noah expected everyone to be on the front lines and to answer the call.

I met a Jew while skydiving near the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, Australia who taught me that no matter where you come from, all that matters is where you are going. In Hong Kong and Sydney, I bumped into a doctor (three times across continents in grocery markets, what hashgacha pratis!) who invited me to meet his wonderful family for Shabbos in Melbourne. On my return from China in Los Angeles airport, I asked the guy sitting next to me what time it was. He responded with an Australian accent and so we started to schmooze. Turns out, he is a Jew in university who lived close to where I stayed with a warm Rabbi and his awesome family and we spoke about Jewish views on business. A few weeks after my return to America, I was on the subway heading towards Brooklyn and the guy next to me said a few words in Hebrew on his phone. We started to talk and it happened that he grew up with the Aish Rabbi of Melbourne I spent Shabbos with. The world is a tiny place, do not let the size fool you.

Then after the highs of traveling, I returned to America to decide what to do next. I turned 22 on March 7th while visiting my parents in Boca Raton and the next day I got accepted to Harvard for graduate school. I was soaring, my life was exactly on course to becoming what I always wanted to be. I went back to Eretz Israel for Pesach to be by my Rosh haYeshiva, Rav Hillel Weinberg shlita. If you have not yet met the new Rosh Yeshiva of Aish, he is a Talmud Hacham par excellence and who has profoundly influenced me with his middos, advice, and sensitivity. After a month in Israel (with stories involving ruach hakodesh that I witnessed with Rav David Abuchetzera shlita, of the Baba Sali’s family and receiving brachos from Rav Elyashiv shlita), we spoke about the direction of my life. I really thought about it and decided that what I needed was at least another year in yeshiva and that Harvard could wait. If you know of someone going through the same debate or your child decides to push off higher education, I would be honored to explain to you the pros and cons and relieve any parents fears.

Which leads us to a new chapter in my life: shidduchim. I started my search for my bashert quite unprepared, thinking this was like any other competition in my life. Oh was I naive! I have never gone through such a character building, soul searching, and emotionally charged experience so far. Before exploring this part of my life, if I could not quantify it on a balance sheet or a logical flow chart, I tried to ignore it. Getting in touch with my emotions, attempting to be sensitive and nurturing for another human being, willing to give all that I have for the betterment of another is an amazingly tough time. Yes shidduchim are tough, being rejected is not walk in the park (and far worse is saying no to someone else), feeling as though you are being judged, investigated for your past (especially as a BT), and having your life questioned are part of the process. But with the right attitude, it becomes a cleansing process where you start to appreciate who you are a lot more and also what you have to offer your future soulmate. However, I have never felt more close to Hashem, feeling His guidance in all of this. I have also never fully appreciated Jewish women until now, every girl I have met so far is a diamond. Shidduchim has had me go through a paradigm shift when looking at my fellow Jews. We are all one family, and like I always look at my mother as the most beautiful woman only out for my best, I started to see the girls I am meeting as such as well. They are kind, sweet, smart, tznius, yirei shamyim, and all around phenomenal people. Mi K’Amecha Israel, Who is like you Israel?

I continue to daven that everyone single find their zivug emes very soon. Bezras Hashem, we should merit quickly the reestablishment of Beis David, our majestic capital city of our hearts and souls, and this upcoming Tisha B’Av be a day of celebration and preparation for the Tu B’Av where everyone will find their bashert!

A Modest Proposal for Ending the Shidduch Crisis (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)

Over the past few months I’ve started going to a shidduch club. Eshewing the traditional matchmaker model, our club essentially conducts a good natured swap meet for humans, each of us describing one or several singles we know, in the hope that someone listening will come forward with their beshert.

Aside from our fastitidous attention to the laws of proper speech—all singles are described anonymously with a contact person’s phone number to locate them, what I like best about our club is its openness. We handle anyone—and I really mean anyone. Ashkenazi, Sefardi. Litvish, Chassidic, national religious, young, old, short , tall, healthy people and people challenged by physical or mental handicap, even fat people (whom have the hardest time of all) . We like to think that everyone deserves to find his or her beshert and no one is ever turned away.

It is a heady undertaking. When the meeting ends—it takes about two hours in total, I’ve got a notebook full of descriptions of eligibles and strains of Oh Yishama running through my brain.

But then I phone up the Mom’s of singles that I know to “redt” someone I heard about at the meeting and the music in my head abruptly switches off. No one seems to buy what I am trying The answers go something like this:
“No, he’s hassidish (or sefardi or litvish or too young or too old) … Or he/she is too short, small or (worst of all) too heavy. As I put the phone back into the cradle I feel like yelling.. What is going on here??. I feel like yelling. Doesn’t my friend realize that her daughter is thirty five years old.What is she expecting will happen??

Look I’m not naïve. I know that today the Jewish people is a tapestry of diverse groups each with its own subculture, but c’mon….

It isn’t forbidden for an ashkenzi to marry a sefardi or a litvak a hassid or a tall girl to marry a short boy or anyone to marry anyone fat—and unlike ethnicity, weight can be changed.

I”d venture to say that a change in our shidduch mentality would probably promote better health overall. If we readjusted our concept of beauty to include the fuller figure, eating disorders would quickly disappear just as if more ethnic intermarriage would minimize the incidences of Tay Sachs, Guachers and other Ashkenazi genetic scourges.

People who don’t share a common ethnicity( or body type or body size) aren’t necessarily high risk for divorce. Of course, couples need to be attracted and to communicate but people have many different points of contact. A couple may share a love of music or hiking and we all share a common legacy the Torah which provides more than enough to talk about.

This kind is the fuel thinking (he’s too litvish, she’s too fat) is the fuel behind the current much touted shidduch crisis. I know several no longer young women who have been waiting for Mr. ethnically and religiously “right” for so long that they have probably lost their chance to become mothers.

It is especially infuriating to watching my BT friends following their FFB mentors in adapting this narrow minded and self destructive mindset, even more so when one considers that our secular brethren hook up with people from any ethnic or religious background.( although they too are prejudiced against the scale challenged) .

If we want to insure our survival and by that I mean, giving the maximum number of our people a chance to procreate we are going to have to rethink our shidduch choices. Who knows what that may create. Ashkesfards, chassido-litvaks, a new appreciation for the Rubens figure and other interesting developments .Vive la revolution.

Anxious Ima has started a blog at A Thin Thread of Faith.

Should a Single Observant Woman in Her 30s Consider a Non Observant Spouse?

Last week, Rachel, a columnist in the Jewish Press (Chronicles of Crises in Our Communities), published a letter from an older single in which she is considering marry a not yet observant spouse. Here is a relevant excerpt:

Recently I started dating someone who is considering becoming religious, to conduct a Torah household when he is married; however, not at this point in time. This is someone I truly like and can see myself with. He is kind, generous, smart, funny, honest, serious and mature. What do I do? He is not the type of person that comes around often. I am not oblivious to the consequences when children are in the picture; education and lifestyle need to be considered. I would like to raise them in a similar fashion to my upbringing, but I know that I will have to take a chance with their religious education.

I have finally met someone whom I can relate to and admire and can live with what more can I consider right now? I am aware that it is usually the more religious minded partner in a relationship who will end up changing, rather than the “left”-minded one. I just have to make a decision – knowing that there is the realistic probability that I may not have Shabbos Zemiros or Torah conversations at the table. Perhaps I will need to compromise more on the actual halachos than the Spirit of the law.

I am taking the risks quite seriously and the pros on my list do not outweigh the cons. This is something many of the women of my generation are considering and yes, it is sad in a way, that dating has come to this point. But what am I to do?

This week, Rachel published her response to the writer in which she seems to advise against marrying a non observant man.

Here is a relevant excerpt:

You claim to be G-d-fearing, religious and serious. Surely, then, you take your religion seriously. You feel that matchmakers are not as concerned with you (older singles) as with the younger generation. Do you mean to say that you have actually entertained the thought that your Maker, the Arbiter of all matchmakers, is less interested in you than in the younger generation? Believe purely and simply that nothing is beyond His capability; beseech Him purely and simply to guide you in the right direction; rely on Him whole- heartedly to lead you where you were meant to go and He will relieve you of the enormous burden of uncertainty.

If all your friend can offer is a “maybe one day I’ll think about becoming observant,” your projection as to how your future with him will play out may prove prophetic. Notwithstanding that the choice is yours to make, be forewarned that the consequences of that choice will be with you a lifetime − and the hands of the clock cannot ever be turned back.

If it is children you yearn for, consider the option of becoming a foster or adoptive parent to a child who has already been brought into the world but has been shortchanged and is in desperate need of a mother’s love and nurturing. The satisfaction and benefits of such an arrangement can be vastly fulfilling.

I was in a similar situation (although divorced and with kids) and I did marry a non-observant man. He is still not observant. We are an older couple so we have no children together. All our previous kids are now grown up.

Do you agree with Rachel? What would you do?

– Phyllis

The Parental Shidduch Crisis

By “Reuven”

Let me make something clear from the outset. The crisis I’m addressing is not “out there.” It’s very alive within ME. There’s a very definite, if not controlled panic that is building up within my kishkes. The kind that slowly but surely weighs down the whole system til it becomes effectively dysfunctional.

Oh, I still eat decently (though inconsistently) and socially interact with aplomb. But a growing sub-experience is smoldering anger, bitter disappointment and at times just plain mental cracking, which naturally gets in the way of my learning seder and employment searches, responses to “how’s life?” and ability to pray seriously without breaking down in a sob. And let’s not even speak of my sleep!

But please don’t misunderstand me. This is not a classic religious crisis. I have no doubts as to the Alm-ghty’s existence. Rather I feel as clear about His reality as Avraham probably would have after ACTUALLY doing the Akeida! It’s a sense of betrayal, on the highest level.

You see, I’ve come so far. Left so much for His sake. Worked so hard to clarify the theological and moral imperatives for serving Him. I invested valiantly in raising an exemplary family; in encouraging the kids to go all out for r-e-a-l-l-y living the truth of Torah. And they came through. They’ve truly made us proud, in the best way. The problem is that the older ones are now reaching the age of independence…

And G-d said: “Thou shalt find them Shidduchim!”

Well not exactly. In fact I didn’t hear Him say that at all. Actually I heard him whisper the opposite. Way back when I found my beshert without any third party. And G-d seemed so very, very pleased. So what in the world is this very spoken about unspoken rule about me having to find my son’s Shidduch??

Oy, the irony. The worst part of my crisis is that the kids are all such fine “catches.” The Rebbe and their teachers and our community members all tell us that. And I don’t doubt it. Bla”h, they excel in school, exude diligence, interpersonal sensitivity, humor and faith. Most importantly they each, in their own way, strive to be as Jewishly pure as possible. So, you see, I can’t just pair them up with the child of the BT next door.

They need “real” shidduchim!

Do I sound cynical? I’m trying hard to. Because while I could easily speak of all the wonders and grace in this holy system, I’m literally getting sick and tired of it. Just last month, after having seen tremendous signs of Hashgacha (Providence) in how the father of the same girl that my 17 yr. old daughter recently noted seemed like a perfect match for her older brother (and we quickly confirmed upon a little investigation), just “happened” to ride a bus with him and was so impressed by “speaking in learning” with him that he insisted in speaking with friends of ours about considering him for a chassan. But now the word is that his hands are tied since his wife insists on marrying her daughter to a miyuchas (nobly descended) family!

Believe me, that’s just the last straw. It’s been building up since we began to settle in to established Yiddishkeit. So that’s why I chose to write this. It’s a pressure release. Call it airing out my dark side…

Doesn’t G-d realize this “religious” ethic of parents-must-find-their-children’s-soulmate is torture for idealists? It was one thing to want the best of the best in search for my wife and Rebbe. But now also for these so precious, young Yidden about whom I most definitely am handicapped in taking the bull by the horn? People say “you must compromise.” Very nice when you’re speaking for yourself. But what if I steer my boy wrong? Maybe the couple needs to experience the wonder of stumbling upon one another. Maybe he needs to exercise that manly sense of hunting, stalking and catching his prey. Maybe they need to cry a little together in uncertainty over when exactly to tie the knot.

But of course all these thoughts are totally against the rules.

Did I say rules? Hmm. I guess that’s what I mean by crisis. It’s starting a dominoe effect. I’m now beginning to critically review so many other rules in this holy society that just don’t seem to be, dare I say, so holy.

Please help me, dear friends, if you have any insights / words of encouragement.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match…

By “MG”

While on some level, my mom probably still has the idea in the back of her head that I am going about my daily business with an inner monologue singing for someone slender and pale and waiting for a telephone call from The Matchmaker with “The One”, she acknowledges that she doesn’t _actually_ think that’s _actually_ how things work… Anymore.

As it turns out, Baruch HaShem, shidduchim was one of the first topics that I explained to my mom that she thought was a good idea. Goal-oriented dating with marriage in mind was something she approved of. It sounded like a good approach. She didn’t seem to be caught up in an idea that it was outdated, and she understood it for its practical relevance.

So, thank G-d, my mom is supportive of my approach in dating. And she’s interested in being helpful. “Mom, I’ve been thinking about the characteristics that I need in a husband. What do you think?” is a beginning of a conversation with her. She is also thoughtful and insightful in her responses to questions on some of my best characteristics. I’m grateful for the relationship that we have.

While this is good, I don’t think that it is enough to get me, as a BT, through the phase of shidduchim.

As a BT ‘in the parsha’, I find that my experience is vastly different from the experiences of others in the parsha in my community. Of the families who I am reasonably close with who have been blessed to be involved in recent wedding celebrations, it seems that the majority of matches have been made through family members, chevrusas, or other friends of the family. In other words, it’s a small enough Jewish world that the natural Jewish networking (likely combined with a fair dose of parental advocacy—‘Do you know anyone for my Rivkele?’) is sufficient, baruch HaShem, to create many happily married couples.

This network is also something extremely helpful for checking references. A parent checking out a potential match for a child may already know the potential match’s rebbi or the staff at the camp where the potential match was a counselor. With a personal connection established, maybe directly, maybe through a close intermediary, more information can flow more freely about the appropriateness of the suggested match.

As a BT, I have not had a lifetime full of connections in the frum world, and my network seems to be relatively small.

Practically speaking, when it comes to shidduchim, I need to outsource a few different things that would otherwise be done ‘in house’—in the family.

I have to actively think about how to expand my network or access the networks of others, and I need to solicit and make myself available to shidduch suggestions.

I need mentorship in the shidduch process in general and in investigating individual matches.

I need someone who will check references of the men suggested to me.

I need a personal advocate who will be on my side throughout the trials of the process.

Some of these roles can be played by friends and mentors that I have in the community. And the last one can be played in part by my family (frum or not) and select friends. But in some senses, the all-too-easy default option, is to take on myself, as many of these roles as possible.

While that may be convenient for a while and have the advantage of minimizing my obligation to others, I worry that it is not a sustainable model. When I put my energies into shidduchim and fill these various roles, I sometimes feel like I am working four jobs. Personally, professionally, physically, socially, and spiritually, I sustain myself and try to grow. I serve as my own network advocate. I call references, ask questions, and get more phone numbers in order to track down the connection through which the information will best flow. And I encourage and advocate for myself, saying, ‘You’re one phone call closer! Aren’t you excited to find out all the great things about this guy?!’

I’m not sure that it’s possible to do things this way, and if it is, I don’t think that it’s the best idea. I think that many other BTs are facing similar challenges. These BTs would benefit from a lot of different types of assistance in navigating shidduchim. If you want to help someone you know, there is more than one way to do it. If you think you know someone who is appropriate, you could certainly make a suggestion, but if you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be helpful. Serve as an entry point into ‘The Jewish Network’. Maybe you know someone who knows someone who is an appropriate match. Offer to call references. Suggest that if there are any references from your yeshivah or seminary, you would be happy to make the connection. Be a mentor for the shidduch process in general. Be a more general source of support, or suggest someone who could play that role.

Jewish marriages involving BTs happen between people who are living in distant states and between people who may have grown up in different countries from where they were when they developed into who they are today. As such, it takes more than just one matchmaker/person to bring together the zivugim that HaShem calls out. You can choose any of several ways to partner with HaShem to help bring these matches together.

Matchmaking: Not just for Yenta anymore.

What No One Wants to Talk About

Beyond Teshuva is now just about a a year and a half old. I think we,as a community, have done some great things. We’ve pretty much taken at least some small steps in the direction of our tag line “learning growing, giving”. Our posts have pretty much run the gamut from noserings to sartorial splendor, economic pressures to “Big Fat Secular weddings”. However, there’s one area that I consistently see us failing to address and that is the issue of singles, dating and marriage. Sure, we’ve often detoured into the area and touched upon it on the periphery of related topics. But, no one seems willing to step up and address it head-on. That “no one” includes me.

Maybe together we can bring the issue to the foreground. I will throw out some questions for discussion and hopefully we can start a meaningful dialogue in the comments. Please get involved by giving your input.

Here goes:

Is there really a singles “crisis”?

If so, how did we get here and how do we address it?

Is the problem more difficult for BTs?

How is dating for BTs different than dating for FFBs, if at all?

In general, should BTs date FFBs?

What are some dating mistakes to avoid?

What is the best advice you would give someone who is dating?

How can singles expand their contacts beyond their own local geographic area?

How can the average married person get more involved in shidduchim?

How does the dating process differ between Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La’Aretz?

*** After writing this post, I saw an advertisement for “The Shadchan Magazine” which is a new magazine that states “Here’s what we’re doing about the shidduch crisis” and says “You don’t have to be a shadchan to make a sgidduch. The website is here. Has anyone seen the magazine? Any thoughts?

Book Review: Shidduch Secrets

I was browsing the Aish website one day when I came across an article called “The Pickiness Factor”, the article was a shorter version of the first half of the book “Shidduch Secrets” written by Leah Jacobs and Shaindy Marks. I found certain aspects of this article to ring true to me and I decided to order the book.

The first part of the book focuses on blocks that might be getting in the way of someone trying to find his/her soulmate. At the end of each chapter, the authors list four or five questions that pertain to a particular block. The reader is supposed to think carefully about whether each question applies to him/her. There are no right or wrong answers, as long as you are honest. You could find that one or two blocks completely apply to you or you might find that you have elements of more than 1-2 blocks that you have to work on. It is important to keep these blocks in mind for the 2nd part of the book.

In the 2nd part of the book, the authors ask you to write down a list of what you want in your soulmate, you can write down anything that comes to mind. Eventually, you will have your list of Top 10 character traits that you are looking for in a potential spouse. The authors go over ways to decide which traits are the most important on your list. After the list, the final chapters focus on: how to date using your Top 10 list; how to naviagate going to a matchmaker;, what questions you should ask of your dates in the beginning stages; how to proceed if you come across issues in the dating process (if you find out something not so nice about your date).

Throughout the book, the authors use stories from their clients to illustrate their points. I like that approach because in most cases you can relate to these stories and you have an easier time understanding the ideas behind the book. Anyone who is dating for the purpoes of marriage or who knows of anyone dating for the purpose of marriage should read this book.

The Shidduchim Process – Marrying Off Your Children – Rabbi Yaakov Haber – Mp3

Today we’re posting an audio file from the Life After Teshuva conference, by Rabbi Yaakov Haber titled “The Shidduchim Process – Marrying Off Your Children”. (Click on the link to listen or to download the audio file to your computer, click with the right mouse button on the link and select Save Target As.)

One of the insights that Rabbi Haber offers is that in the FFB world, there was a “business deal” aspect to Shidduchim. I know from friends who recently married off children that the financial arrangements for the beginning years of marriage are a major issue, especially if the boy is learning and the girl is finishing school, and it makes sense that we should be aware of this reality.

But the major point that Rabbi Haber makes in this audio is his suggestion that due to culture similiarities, he feels that the best matches are a BT to BT, or a child of a BT to a child of a BT. He brings support for his position and acknowledges that it caused much controversy when he presented it at an Agudah convention in about 1986, but at the time of this talk in 2001, he still stuck firmly by his position.

We all know of many BT-FFB and other cross-cultural success stories, Rabbi Haber makes it clear that he isn’t saying that it can’t work, just that it makes the most sense to keep cultural differences to a minimum when searching for shidduchim.

Give the audio a listen and let us know what you think.

Shidduch Considerations – Seeing Challenges As Opportunities for Growth

My parents are divorced. No one else in my family is frum. I have a lot of non-Jewish cousins. Unfortunately, but realistically, my brothers will probably marry non-Jewish women. I live very far away from the rest of my family, seeing them about once a year.

All of these things are not normative in the frum community. Therefore, they are marks against me on the “shidduch market.” You often hear people say they want a girl from a “good” family, someone who has a great relationship with their relatives, someone not from a “broken” home. So, there are times when guys are suggested for me, and after doing a bit of research, they decide they don’t want to go out with me. Based on all these things that are not me, they are my family.

I agree that having these hurdles in life is difficult, and it certainly does make an impact. But the impact it had for me was to make me a stronger person. I learned how to work through my challenges, how to face adversity and make the best of it. How to carve my own life and my own destiny in the image that I feel is the right one.
Read more Shidduch Considerations – Seeing Challenges As Opportunities for Growth