Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Tammuz 5766 - July 12, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Sometimes It Does Make a Difference.
by Esther Leah Avner

"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 abroad.

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 Hashem.

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 vegetable soup.

"Is it because you knew I could teach in our new seminary?" I teased, smiling.

"No, not that. You'll never guess. It was due to the dress you were wearing."

"My dress?"

"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 previous year!"

"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 dress.


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