Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Tammuz 5763 - July 17, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








A Golden Heart

by Chaim Walder

Our wedding took place twenty years ago. The families of both of us did their utmost for our sakes. Each side gave what it could. We had a lovely wedding and our parents bought us a nice apartment. Life for us was a bed of roses.

Two weeks before the wedding, my chosson took me to his grandmother's -- a visit, he explained, was a tradition in the family.

As we sat on her porch, she handed me a beautifully wrapped box which contained a huge diamond ring. I didn't have to be a diamond expert in order to realize that this ring was very expensive.

Everyone gasped, while Bubby Chava simply said: "This is my gift to you."

I soon learned that Bubby Chava gives each new kallah in the family a very expensive piece of jewelry so that the kallah will always remember her.

Actually, Bubby Chava was so sweet and darling that no one could forget her. But a custom is a custom, and who was I to dispute its significance, especially when the ring cost $5000?

Yes, that is what it cost. How do I know? You'll soon find out.

My father thought that it was unspeakable to go outside wearing such a ring when so many children in the country are starving. But he would have reacted the same way about a $200 ring, so that I really didn't take this to heart. Actually I also felt guilty about wearing such a ring. (In addition to the guilt pangs, the ring made me miserable in other ways too. But only a woman can understand that.)

It sounds petty to say this, but the ring was a bit big on me. Every woman knows how nerve wracking it is when a ring is too wide and there's space between the ring and her finger. It drives you bats, like a mouth sore, and you walk around all day feeling your finger to see if the ring's still there.

And that's precisely what I did the entire wedding.

I spent the entire night worrying about the ring and making sure that it hadn't fallen off. But because I also had a wedding ring, I had two rings to toy with for the same price -- actually not for the same price.

The wedding passed. The sheva brochos week was fantastic. Both families came for the entire Shabbos, and the Shabbos meals, with their zemiros and droshos were great.

Since we live in Netanya, after the morning meal we took a stroll on the boardwalk.

Seuda shlishis lasted until after dark. Then my new husband made havdoloh and, as is customary in our families, everyone threw pillows at him.

Shortly after havdoloh, my new shvigger asked: "Where's the ring?"

I looked at my finger and, to my dismay, I didn't see any ring.

I turned pale.

A mini-commotion erupted and my husband said: "I'll take a look in our room. Maybe you forgot it there."

I was very tense and began to bite my fingernails. Something in my heart told me that he might not find it. After all, the ring was a bit too large for me and I hadn't fingered it for quite a while.

Then the dreaded moment arrived. My husband returned from the room in which we had stayed and said, "I can't find it."

"Did you look in the closet?" I asked.


"In the drawers?"


To make a long story short, he had looked everywhere but hadn't found it.

At that point, there wasn't a soul in the family who didn't know that I had lost a $5000 ring, except for Bubby Chava who had gone home directly after havdoloh. (Now you know how I knew its price. When things are lost, you find out how much they are worth very quickly. This is true not only with respect to jewelry, but also with respect to people.)

My shvigger went up to my room with a number of nice aunts and, believe it or not, they began taking out every item in our suitcases, which davka looked messier than usual. Quite soon I grasped that there were other things which interested them besides the ring.

After a search which took more than an hour, my aunts began to suggest where it might be. When I finally dared to hint that it was a bit big on me, one of them remonstrated: "Why didn't you say so in the first place?"

"I did!!" I replied.

Then the tension began to mount, without hope of its subsiding so quickly. When we tried to recall where we had been that day, we concluded that ring had fallen off on the beach. But to search for it there was futile because, although the ring was big, Netanaya's beach is bigger.

It's hard to pinpoint the precise moment that the seeds of resentment began to sprout. But I recall that when we went downstairs to the car, everyone looked a bit sour. No one tried to console me or to say that I wasn't to blame. And I understood them. It really was an expensive ring, and they should be commended for not having shouted: "Dunce, are you a baby who loses things?" But even if they didn't yell, their facial expressions said it all.

My husband and I returned home crestfallen. Trying to joke, my husband said: "Great. Now the ceiling price for my losing things is $5000." He paid dearly for that joke, because I didn't see it as an attempt to dispel the tension but rather as an attempt to needle me. And so I let out all the anger I felt against myself, on him.

He apologized and apologized, but to no avail. I was very hurt by both the loss of the ring and the accusations hurled against me.

My husband behaved like a tzaddik. He consoled me and explained: "You're not to blame. The person who insisted that you wear the ring even though it was too big is at fault." But he basically blamed himself. He was so sympathetic too, that by the end of the evening I concluded that if this had been a nisoyon, he had passed it with flying colors.

Okay. He passed the test. But his family didn't.

Every time we visited his family, the incident of the ring hovered in the air. Their sarcastic questions about how I felt about the loss made me squirm. The cutting remark that Bubby, who probably realized what had happened and was suffering in silence, made my life intolerable. I don't blame them, but apparently when one loses an item worth more than a hundred shekel he pays a price which far exceeds that of the lost item.

Along with the ring, I lost my new family's love and esteem. I felt disliked and loathsome. After all how can one like a person who thoughtlessly discards a $5000 ring. What is she, a baby? Couldn't she have been a bit more careful? The ring wasn't that heavy!

Generally, these feelings weren't stated outright, but were only hinted at. Yet strangely, whenever I tried to explain myself, the criticism against me increased. At first they would cluck there teeth: Too bad it happened. It's so annoying. Then the inevitable, "Pray tell, if the ring was so big on you, why did you wear it?" would ensue.

The beginning of my marriage was very gloomy. I felt that I could never regain my former esteem. The loss of the $5000 ring seemed to brand me as irresponsible and unreliable, as well as a pain-in-the-neck.

The situation reached a peak when we bought an expensive vase and one of my brothers-in-law told my husband: "You'd better carry it, you know." He said that in front of everyone. Well, all I can say is that I exploded and screamed that I wouldn't set foot in that house again, and that they were spilling my blood.

Then the fighting period, during which my poor husband tried to bring about a reconciliation between them and me, began. He didn't actually include me in these efforts, but I understood that he had argued with his brothers, telling them that if they continued to pick on me, he would sever all ties with the family. Actually, we did sever the ties for about a week-and-a- half. But Bubby Chava intervened, and in that manner confirmed that she indeed knew the entire story.

Then came the appeasement, which was very unpleasant. My shvigger apologized and explained that of all her daughters-in-law, she loved me best. I in turn made a number of gooey statements such as: "I always felt that you loved me."

But the whole affair had tired me out. Peace supposedly prevailed but it was a chilly peace. I felt crushed and sensed that they would never love me and never appreciate me, and would surely never entrust me with an item worth more than fifty shekels.

The turnabout came four months later. We had gotten married two days after Shavuos. At the wedding and during sheva brochos week, my husband wore a frock. He also wears one on yomim tovim.

It was nearly Rosh Hashonoh. My husband took his frock out of the closet, put it on, and asked me if it still fit, or whether he had gained weight. I told him that he looked pretty thin.

Suddenly he thrust his hand into the pocket of his frock -- and what do you think he fished out? My ring, of course.

We stared at the ring for a number of moments without saying a word. Then he said: "I'm in a state of shock. Apparently I placed the ring in my frock."

We sat opposite each other for a while, and then I burst into tears, releasing all of my pent-up emotions. He called his mother immediately and told her that he had found the ring. Shortly afterwards, everyone came over: his parents and his brothers, who examined the ring, and then Bubby and Zeidy who were overjoyed that the ring had been found. All heaved sighs of relief and asked me to forgive them for the pain they had caused me.

Then all wondered why, in the first place, they hadn't thought that it was in the pocket of my husband, who was known to be forgetful and unreliable. My husband was a bit offended but the excitement over having found the ring braced him. I guess insults flung at you when a $5000 ring is in the palm of your hand aren't as devastating as those flung when you aren't holding such a condolence prize.

From then on, I was the family's queen. All realized that they had erred and that I was a responsible person who never loses a thing. Poor lady. But what can she do if she was destined to marry a scatterbrain who happens to be our son/brother? It was so kind of her to have agreed to marry such a fellow."

I was in seventh heaven. Suddenly tons of love and attention landed on my head. Even though my husband was slightly offended by the insults, he was still glad for me. In addition, he gained a happy wife, peace of mind and everlasting shalom bayis.

But the story doesn't end here.


From that day on, I bore my husband a slight grudge for having caused me so much anguish during the first few months of my marriage. Funny, but during the early months when everyone thought that I was to blame for the loss of the ring, he never used the incident as ammunition against me, and never needled me about it. But once the ring was found and he was considered the irresponsible one, I would use that point as a springboard to needle him whenever I could.

If we had money, I would tell him that I preferred to hold onto it myself, lest he lose it. When a package or a document had to be delivered, I would say: "Let someone else take it, so that it won't get lost in the sandbox." Soon the phrase "in the sandbox" became an idiom I would use in order to hint that he was unreliable.

Many people take advantage of the foibles of those dearest to them in order to ridicule them. This is a form of hono'as devorim which is forbidden. But that is precisely what I did.

My husband suffered in silence and didn't complain. There were times when I saw his pained expression when I spoke that way and I would feel sorry and placate him. But beyond the pained expression, he never complained.

Actually, we were very happy and our life proceeded smoothly. We had seven adorable children who loved their parents. They too knew the story about the ring which all thought that Ima had lost on the beach and which absentminded Abba had actually forgotten in his frock. Who told them? You guessed it. Little old me!

Fifteen years passed.

I still wore the ring to important simchas and received many compliments for it. One day, though, I decided to exchange the ring for some other pieces of jewelry, in order to surprise my husband. I asked my shvigger where Bubby Chava bought her jewelry and she replied: "At Yankel Cohen's. He's a fine jeweler."

One afternoon, I went to Mr. Cohen's store and showed him the ring. "My husband's grandmother bought this here," I told him "and I want you to evaluate it for me."

"Wow," he shrieked after examining it. "It's gorgeous, and is worth a lot of money -- more than $6000. I don't mind exchanging it for whatever you want. But I just want you to know that she didn't buy it here."

"What do you mean by that?" I asked in surprise. Then I told him her name and said that she always buys her jewelry from him.

"True," he replied. "She always buys her jewelry here. But I never sold such a ring in my life. Apparently she bought it somewhere else."

I thought a bit and then figured that since the ring might be worth more than $6000, I should really check with my husband before exchanging it.

When I came home, I rummaged through my jewelry box for the ring's receipt. When I found it, I learned that it really hadn't been bought in Mr. Cohen's jewelry store, but at a very exclusive and famous jeweler in town. It had indeed cost $5000, and its price had apparently risen over the years. But then an additional detail, which I might have ignored under normal conditions, caught my eye.

I waited until my husband returned home from kollel, my heart beating like a sledgehammer all along.

When he arrived, I told him that I had wanted to exchange the ring for some other pieces of jewelry, and that I had spoken with Mr. Cohen who said it was worth $6000.

"Great," my husband replied. "We made a thousand dollars."

"Yes, but Mr. Cohen said that Bubby bought the ring somewhere else," I demurred.

"Could be," he said.

"Do you mean to say that Bubby Chava might have bought my gift somewhere else?"

"What's the problem?" he asked.

"I'll tell you what's bothering me," I said as tears streamed down my cheeks. "For fifteen years I didn't realize what a good-hearted and wonderful husband you are -- one I don't deserve. You pulled that one over in the most amazing manner possible. I lost my ring, and you quietly took a loan and bought me a new one. No, don't try to hide it. You did that in the most elegant and polished manner possible. You found exactly the same ring for the same price. But you forgot one thing: to hide the purchase date."

Then I showed him the receipt with the purchase date -- the 14th of Elul.

"Maybe you've forgotten, but I still remember that we were married on the 9th of Sivan. Bubby Chava gave me the ring before the wedding, so that this ring was bought four months after I got the original one. The date gave you away," I protested -- and then burst into bitter tears.

It is difficult to describe the thoughts that raced through my mind at that time. Imagine that! A young man takes on a $5000 debt so that his family would believe that he is to blame for the loss of a ring, and not his wife. What a gift! I knew that I was the only woman in the world who had received such a present. I am not referring to the ring, but to the fifteen years during which the blame was shifted from me to him. Until today, I shudder when I recall how I kicked him in what I thought was his Achilles Heel, but which was really the area in which he so excelled.

That evening he told me what he had gone through in order to pay back that debt. He then explained that he couldn't have eliminated the resentment between me and his family, unless they thought that I wasn't to blame. "They're good people," he said. "But good people also have weaknesses. What could I do? That was their weakness."

It took him years to repay that debt, and I had made things worse for him by my digs. But even those digs reminded him of what he had gained: a happy wife, peace of mind and sholom bayis.

I am telling this story because I want to share the lesson I learned with everyone. The lesson is: never remind a person of his weakness, and surely don't make it the subject of your digs. But most important: clear your hearts of all resentment and preconceived notions, because even if you don't badger a person who erred, your anger at him will find ways to project itself.

Nothing is worth the anguish and pain we suffered over the loss of the ring. Gold and diamonds come and go, and sometimes even get lost in sandboxes. So be it, as long as human beings aren't hurt as a result.

Learn from my husband too. For fifteen years he agreed to be blamed for a blunder he hadn't committed, so that his wife would be happy. In that way he is like Rabbi Akiva who said: "A person should throw himself into a fiery furnace if only not to see the disgrace of his fellow."

This seems like a story about a diamond ring, but it is really a story about a golden heart.


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