Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar 5766 - March 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

An Evening of Joy, an Evening of Memories
by Aviva Rosen

"Aviva, it's been a long winter, with the children being on antibiotics just about every month. I'm sure some of the other neighbors are in the same boat. Let's come up with a fun night out that won't cost much but that will enrich us. I've got it — a women's Adar party!" We decide on the theme of "An Evening of Joy, an Evening of Memories", with no children above the age of 6 months allowed. We send invitations to the neighbors to bring a photo from each one's wedding (or the whole album, if preferred!) and a story showing Divine Providence regarding the wedding preparations or how they first met.

The night of Rosh Chodesh arrives, as well as approximately fifteen neighbors, all good friends, ranging in age from newlywed to recent great-grandmother. Gitty brings a fruit platter; Rochele, who's always on a diet, sets down a bowl of veggies. Devorah enters, smiling widely. "Thank you so much for arranging this, ladies," she beams. "It's exactly what I need to put some sparkle in my week." In keeping with the theme of the party, one talented neighbor frosted a cake in the shape of a bride, and once we all finish exclaiming over it, she carefully cuts it into slices and urges us to eat. Trying to keep the creamy frosting off our Rosh Chodesh clothes, we savor the cake to the last crumb. I turn the tape recorder on, and lively music fills the room. I lower the volume so we'll be able to converse comfortably.

We nosh on fresh fruit as we giggle over our friends' wedding pictures, trying to imagine, for example, Sara of eight children, one of them married, as that young, thin, sweet looking bride in the picture. Who would guess that Mindy with thick glasses and a bewildered look in the wedding picture is now our poised Rebbetzin Mindy wearing contact lenses? Already women at the party are looking more relaxed and rejuvenated. Part of the smiles comes from seeing how styles changed over the years, how what one year was "the latest" would just a few years later be considered hopelessly old- fashioned.

"What a shame," sighs Leah, her wrinkles more prominent in thought, "all that money wasted on these extravaganzas. If you take a close look at what I'm wearing in my wedding picture, you'll see an uncanny resemblance to a Shabbos tablecloth! My uncle worked in a tablecloth factory, and was able to give my mother enough tablecloths to sew a wedding gown for each of us."

"Wish my parents would've had that opportunity," grumbles Miriam. "They were so in debt from my older sister's wedding that I borrowed our next door neighbors Purim costume."

We burst out laughing. "Oh, stop it, Miriam!" commands Sara. "Sure, you're petite enough to fit into a Purim costume, but you can't convince me that this beautiful dress in the picture is a Purim costume."

"Actually, it really was, but what can I say — even Purim costumes used to be made better in those days. Thank you for not being able to tell. It makes me hope that none of our wedding guests could, either.

Faygie, my co-planner for this party, announces the hashgochoh protis part of the program. Since the women might be embarrassed to be the first to tell their story, she begins. "Did you ever hear of a bride coming late to her own wedding? All of my older siblings had gotten married in a certain hall but the evening of my wedding was already booked, so we settled on another hall, a good hour's drive from our neighborhood. My father is the type who focuses on what's really important in life, like Torah and mitzvos, and disregards materialistic details of life. On the day of my wedding, his mind was occupied with prayers for my future and that of my descendants. My older siblings traveled to the hall with their families, while my father drove my mother, my Aunt Reva from Monsey, and me."

Faygie stops for a minute, stifling a chortle. "He was driving on autopilot, I suppose, because he drove us to the same hall where my siblings had gotten married. None of us caught his mistake, and we filed into the hall, ready to meet the photographer."

The other women at the party begin to laugh.

"Sure, a photographer was there, taking pictures of some other bride in a long white dress! So there we all stood, waiting patiently for the rest of our family to show up for our pictures. After a quarter of an hour, the other bride's father came over to my father and pleasantly asked why we were standing around, as his daughter felt uncomfortable with an audience. My father politely explained that we were here for my wedding today."

Again we all laugh, imagining the scene.

"Sounding a little strained, now, the other father pointed out that they were at the hall for THEIR daughter's wedding and that there must be a misunderstanding. 'Do you think that perhaps we have the wrong day?' my mother asked doubtfully, as if a mother would forget her daughter's wedding day. Aunt Reva dug out the wedding invitation and shook with laughter. 'We're in the wrong hall,' she managed to gasp out, before another bout of giggles. After apologizing to the other family, we piled back into the car, and drove across town to the other wedding hall, hooting with laughter.

When we finally got to the hall, my worried siblings and future in-laws informed us that they had called the police to try to track us down. When we called the police to cancel, they wanted to come by the hall to be sure that we were not playing a hoax. My father invited them to sit down for a few minutes to partake of the festivities. The Hashgochoh Pratis is that one of the officers was Jewish, but on the verge of becoming engaged to an Italian girl. When he saw the joy and kedushoh of a religious wedding, he changed his mind."

"I almost didn't get married," Ora reveals. "Reuven was almost exactly what I had been looking for, in outlook, goals, education, and personality. I felt we were really suited for each other and was just waiting for him to `pop the question.

"We had gone for a long walk that day, and had discussed all of the "where would you want to live" and "how open of a home should we have" type of questions. We sat down on a quaint metal filigree bench in a little park with of beautiful flowers all around . . . " Ora seems lost in rapture. Miriam coughs to bring her back to the present. "I was sure that he was going to ask me to marry him, but he suddenly looked at his watch and said, 'Hey, it's almost time for minchah. I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere, OK?' and rushed off. I was sitting back against the bench, breathing in the scent of the roses, when a middle-aged woman on the bench opposite whom I hadn't even noticed before came over.

"`What's with you and that fellow?' she asked, smiling.

"`I think we're going to get married,' I answered shyly.

"Her smile disappeared. `Oh no. No, that's not a good idea at all. I just don't get good vibrations from both of you as a couple. If you get married, it would be a big mistake.' She walked off, shaking her head, and by the time Reuven came back, his calm almost-fiancee had turned into a nervous wreck. It took a lot of work for him to convince me to marry him, but it was worth it. When I told him what the woman at the park had said, he shrugged and said it was probably maaseh Soton."

"That's some story," says Sara, "All I can say is that my husband was the first boy I ever met. The match actually sounded so unlikely — my family is Litvish and his is Chassidish, my parents are American, his are Israeli, just for starters — that my mother was sure it wouldn't come to anything. 'Just relax,' she told jittery me who was in a panic over My First Date. 'At least you'll have had the experience of a first date, and with the next boy you'll meet, you'll have gone through it already and you'll know what to expect.' As it turned out, we liked each other and were engaged three days later. After we were already married, my husband told me that when he was going to meet me, it wasn't to meet some girl who maybe-it'll-work-out- maybe-it- won't. He was going to meet HIS WIFE for the very first time. Talk about different expectations!"

Esther laughs ruefully. "You have no idea how lucky you are, Sara. I'd rather not say how many different people I met until I finally got married, but those felt like some of the hardest years of my life. It seemed like all of my friends were getting married and starting families, and I was the only single one left. One year, Purim was coming and I just couldn't face going for the Purim meal to a huge, happy family, everyone sharing all these "in" family jokes, and I'd be sitting there like a fifth wheel.

"I accepted an invitation from my friend, Brachi, to come for Purim, as Brachi was still somewhat recently married without children and I didn't think I'd feel so . . . overwhelmed and left out at her house. On Purim day in the afternoon I got off the bus in her neighborhood and started walking to her apartment, when who do I see but Brachi and her husband walking in my direction! When Brachi caught sight of me, she stopped short and covered her mouth. 'Oy! I don't believe it - - I completely forgot you were coming, and accepted an invitation to Moishe's chavrusa! Tell you what, we have a chicken in the freezer, go let yourself in and . . . '

"I was too hurt to even hear the rest. I went back home and cried and cried all the rest of Purim. The next day, our Rav called up with a shidduch and I finally met my bashert."

The neighbors sigh with relief, and I notice a few women furtively wiping away tears. We'd never realized what Esther had undergone.

"The Halacha is that we're supposed to give tzedokoh on Purim to whomever stretches out his hand, without investigating," says Mindy. "Purim is a very special time for asking, for stretching out our hands to Hashem for our needs also."

"You know, that reminds me of my own saga," Yocheved offers.

Yocheved is a wonderful neighbor, but sometimes she tends to tell stories with a lot of details. I unobtrusively reach toward the refreshment table, take the platter of brownies off, and gesture to the woman on my left to start passing it around.

"Like Esther, I also had a challenging time dating. It was awful. I thought I'd never get married. My friend Malky and I decided to `get away from it all' one Shabbos and accepted an invitation from a mutual friend, Jenny, to her parent's house. What a pleasant, relaxing Shabbos it was! Her family lived outside of New York State at the time, so the change of scenery and pace were very welcome. They lived on a beautiful estate with a fruit orchard and the delicious, healthy fruit and vegetable salads nourished our bodies and souls.

"Motzei Shabbos we thanked our friend and her parents heartily and returned home, as Malky had to work the next day. Sunday morning, Jenny's mother took the time from her busy life to call . . . to tell me what a horrible person I was."

We all gasped. Our marvelous Yocheved? "'Every time you opened your mouth, something sarcastic came out,' she accused. I blinked back tears. Over Shabbos I had really enjoyed myself and THOUGHT I was behaving rather well! Jenny's mother went on and on, and concluded with, ' . . . and if I were a matchmaker and had to pick between setting up you or Malky, I sure wouldn't pick you!'

"At that point, I had already met SCORES of boys and, like I said, was despairing of ever getting married. When I hung up the phone, stunned and wounded, I started crying and couldn't stop. Here I THOUGHT I was acting amiable, and THAT'S the impression I made? I wasn't angry at Jenny's mother; despite her verbal onslaught, I felt that she somehow intended that her comments were for my benefit.

"You know how it is when someone criticizes you for the way your house looks, how your child (mis)behaves, or the results of the project you just completed?"

We nod.

"Although it might hurt, it doesn't compare to an attack on your very essence and personality.

"So there I was, dissolving in a puddle of tears, when I suddenly remembered, oh, great. I've got a date tonight with some fellow. Why should I waste his time and my own, if I'm such a horrible person who's never going to get married anyway? I was about to call my cousin who had suggested the match and tell her to cancel, but then I thought, how can I do that to her? She really has been trying to find someone for me.

"OK, get out the mop and clean up the tears. Get dressed, put on makeup, and wait for the knock on the door. At 8:00 p.m. Prince Charming rang the bell, and a week later we were engaged."

We suck in our breath at the sudden turnabout, and Mindy comments, "It says that Hashem's salvation comes in the blink of an eye, and that it's always darkest before dawn."

"Ugh, but what an experience to have to go through," one of the women murmurs.

"On the other hand," says Yocheved, "because it took so long until I got married, I appreciate my husband. No matter what disagreements we had when we were newly married, it never crossed my mind, `Hey, what do I need him for? Maybe I should get divorced and look for someone else.' Oh no! I knew how REEALLY hard it can be to find that someone! The longer we're married, the more I value my husband and see his wonderful qualities."

Aha, I think to myself, maybe that explains why Esther is so involved in matchmaking for other girls, and why Yocheved never accuses older singles of being too picky. The ordeals they had suffered through had heightened their sensitivities to others. Boruch Hashem, their stories arrived at a happy conclusion and were a welcome reminder of the blessing of having found our mates. All in all, I suppose it had been an evening of joy, of memories . . . and of gratitude.


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