"What are you going to wear for the visit? asked Rochel as we
packed our weekend valises.
"Who cares?" I replied blithely, eying my three equally worn
out "best" dresses. "I don't think they notice such things
over there. Don't forget, we learned that the ideal for
Mussar yeshivos is ascetism."
We were spending a week in Paris on the way to Rochel's home
in Alsace, and had been invited to spend Shabbos at the
Yeshiva of Fublaines, at the homes of two married friends. We
were in a jubilant mood, having just completed our Gateshead
Seminary finals, which I was celebrating by my first trip
We spent an entrancing Shabbos there, albeit in our friends'
unadorned, one-room abodes. In fact it was their very lack of
materialism, coupled with the intense trust in Hashem's
bounty, which so enchanted and inspired me. The location of
the yeshiva, in the heart of an isolated forest, in the midst
of the countryside, added to its other-worldly charm, and it
was with reluctance that we bade farewell at the conclusion
of our visit.
Unexpectedly, the following summer, having completed a year's
lecturing in the Seminary, I found myself back again in
France. Rochel was getting married, and I had come for the
wedding .To my delight, my friends from Fublaines Yeshiva
were also present. Two of these were the Schwartz sisters,
Michelyn and Evelyn, both respected alumnae of Gateshead
Seminary. In the midst of the festivities they indicated that
they wished to discuss an important matter with me.
Evelyn opened the conversation and came directly to the
point. "We thought of you for a shidduch for our
brother Binyomin. Might you be interested?"
Would I? I was overwhelmed. To say I was enchanted by the
idea would be a gross understatement.
I had always wanted to marry a Torah scholar. The death of my
father, our own Torah scholar, when I was only fourteen, had
left a great spiritual void in my life. I mourned the loss
not only of a beloved parent, but also of the close contact
with Torah scholarship. Only marriage to a talmid
chochom could fill this vacuum, and now it appeared that
they were offering me an opportunity to fulfill my dream.
Their whole family was extremely respected in Gateshead.
There were seven siblings, all of whom had come from France
to study in Gateshead Yeshiva and Seminary, at a time when
such a move demanded enormous self-sacrifice and idealism.
They were all brilliantly intelligent and talented. Best of
all, they were all noted for their refined character and
dedication to Torah. They, too, had lost their father. Mother
and children were united in their dedication to serving
This was the precise kind of shidduch I had dreamed
of. Michelyn had been my mentor in seminary. Her brother,
Binyomin, the young man in question, at only twenty-four
years of age, was already one of the leaders of the Fublaines
Yeshiva, and was known to be gifted in many different areas.
The very suggestion was a great honor.
"Yes, I am interested," I replied without hesitation.
A few weeks later, following my return to Gateshead for my
second year of lecturing in Seminary, a meeting was arranged.
On a dark Shemini Atseres afternoon, Binyomin and I met for
the first time at the home of our mutual Rebbe, Rabbi
Mordechai Miller zt'l.
We spoke of Torah, mussar, dedication and idealism.
"I am looking for someone prepared to make sacrifices for the
propagation of Torah education to the masses. Are you ready
for that?" he asked.
"Oh yes," I replied. "That is my dream too."
After two more meetings, we announced our engagement amidst
much rejoicing in both the Seminary and the Yeshiva. I recall
dancing with my students for many hours.
The following Nissan we were married in Paris. Now it was our
turn to set up housekeeping in one simple room on the Yeshiva
premises. Our sole furnishings to begin with were a rickety
table, three old chairs, and two narrow used student beds.
And we were so happy! Who required more?
Michelyn became once again my mentor, but this time in
leading the dedicated life of mussar practiced by the
yeshiva, in addition to instructing me in the basic culinary
arts. She also became my best friend.
"Do you know why we selected you for Binyomin?" she quizzed
me one day as I was busily copying out the recipe for French
"Is it because you knew I could teach in our new seminary?" I
"No, not that. You'll never guess. It was due to the dress
you were wearing."
"Yes. The leaders of the Yeshiva said that they observed that
for Rochel's wedding you were wearing the very same dress
that you wore the Shabbos you spent with us in Fublaines the
"That's what we want," they said, "a girl of simple tastes
— not dress crazy. If she doesn't mind wearing an `old'
dress for a wedding, she must be an idealist!"
Curiously, I seem to remember that it was not exactly the
same dress, merely one of similar age and simplicity.
No matter. Hashem has many emissaries. In this case it was a