Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chapter 6: Brachy's First Date

Meet Brachy. She wasn't going to exist. She was going to be a secret side of Shulamit, or another facet to Karen. Then I realised Brachy is a person in her own right, a complex one, and she deserves a character, all her own. Be patient with her, she'll suprise you.


"My first boy…" Their voices went husky and soft. Sometimes they'd giggle, sweet secrets hidden between the decibels.

The other girls remembered their first Shidduch dates tenderly. Their introduction to the world of Shidduch dating, their first socially sanctioned meeting with a boy. It wasn't just a meeting of eyes across a Shul hall, or a stammered hello in the elevator. This was a real rendezvous; conversing with a member of the opposite sex, a young single man, not a relative, not an elderly rabbi. It was exciting. They saved a place in their heart, for their first Shidduch dates.

Brachy didn't understand. What was so special about the first boys they'd met? They weren't first boyfriends, first loves. They weren't even first dates. She remembered the first boy she'd been introduced to. He hadn't been a date. He hadn't asked her out, hadn't flirted with her. He hadn't even liked her.

Brachy didn't remember what his name was. She never remembered their names. Shmuel teased her, said that one day she'd call him from the taxi, on the way to her engagement party, and ask "what was his name again?" about the boy she was engaged too.

The boy had been extremely eligible, that much Brachy did remember. Brachy's "first boy" was perfect; very religious, serious about learning Torah, from a wonderful family, wealthy, and even intelligent. He was the "top boy", in a "top yeshiva". Shmuel expected no less for her. After all, Shmuel had spent three months investigating the boy, doing a full background check, assuring himself that all was well, before Brachy was allowed to meet him.

Brach felt sick, the day of her first Shidduch date. Her stomach was sending confused messages, or was that her heart? She said Tehillim in the recesses between classes.

Maybe she was about to meet the man she'd marry. Maybe this was the beginning of their life together. Maybe she'd have a family again.

She concentrated while she said the afternoon prayers. She stood with her feet together and head bowed, and tried to envision herself standing before God. From between the Siddur's pages, she pulled out the little laminated card, a present from Shuli, and recited the Prayer for a Soulmate.

They were meeting in Bnai Brak, close to the boy's Yeshiva. It was a two hour journey for her, but this way his learning schedule wouldn’t be disrupted. Torah learning was precious, Yeshiva students' time shouldn't be wasted, squandered on travelling and girls. So Brachy sat on the bus, and used the time to say more Tehillim. She prayed that soon she'd be building a home, a Torah home. She begged God, for this boy to be her destined mate. A part of her was worried too, what if she did marry him? How would she know he was the right one, when she had never met anyone else?

Brachy's first date wasn't in a movie theatre or a bar, the places secular couples went. Nor was she to go to a café, or a hotel lobby; the chosen venues for Shidduch dates. Brachy's first date was in an apartment building, in a stranger's home. Shmuel had arranged it.

The door was covered in crayon drawings, Brachy could just make out the family name on the engraved sign, hidden under the cardboard and glitter. They must have small kids. She sure hoped the kids were safely asleep by now.

She stood on the doorstep, didn't move, wondered how long she could push off what came next. Eventually she lifted up her hand to ring the doorbell. In a couple of hours this would be behind her, she'd be safely back on the bus home. How bad could it be? Really it should be fun, to finally be dating, like everyone else.

But it only lasted an hour. An hour for the carefully selected suitor to decide she wasn't right for him. An hour for him to learn all here was to know about her. A barrage of questions, thrown at her one after the other, so she hardly had time to breath in between stammering out replies. Her throat grew dry, she longed for a drink, but he didn't pause from the interrogation.

After an hour he stood up, brushed off his jacket, and strode towards the exit. He paused for a moment, spun round back to her, "well, good bye then", and with that he was gone. Brachy's first date over. Brachy's first boy had exited the scene, never to return.

Now, years later, Brachy did still remember him, her first date. But she didn't remember him fondly. Her introduction to Shidduch dating had been rather brutal, thanks to him.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Diversity

She looks like a typical young matron from Bnai Brak. She's dressed in a baggy suit, the type the stores on Rabbi Akiva street abound with. Her Shaitel is short and straight, mousy colored. She speaks in weighty, solid, tones.

Where is the girl I once knew? I can't find her inside this staid creature. "It's happened to her too", I think. She's become a standard Chareidi woman. Fitting the mold, following the rules. Marriage does that to you.

She tells me she's studying teaching, in college. "The certificate we got from Seminary isn't enough," she explains, "I need a real degree for doing therapy"
"What type of therapy?" I expect to hear one of the standard specialties; physiotherapy, occupational therapy. Or maybe even art or music therapy, they've also come into fashion.

"Animal therapy." she says.

"Animal therapy?!" I blink. I look at her again, closer this time.

Chareidi women cross the street when they see a dog. Try as I might, I can't picture her, I can’t picture any Chareidi woman, in a barnyard or a stable, surrounded by dogs or horses or whatever animals it is they use for therapy. It doesn't fit the image I have of her. Shaitel and suit meeting feathers and fur. Surely not. Whatever happened to conforming to the unspoken rules? What happened to fitting in?

She's smiling. There's a light in her eyes. "Yes. Animal Therapy. It's always been my dream."

I smile back at her. "Good for you!" I say.

And so I've learned my lesson. Never judge a book by its cover. There are shapes between the lines; there is color beneath the black and white.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

From Barbies to Baby grows

Once upon a time I used to buy birthday presents for my friends. First it was Barbies or dolls house furniture. Later on I'd make their presents by hand; pine picture frames covered with sea shells, or smooth pebbles painted with a poem.

Then the dolls houses we'd once furnished became real houses, newlywed apartments. I collected towels and rugs in Ikea, for pre wedding showers. I selected tablecloths and cookery books, for preparing husbands' suppers.

I stocked up on presents during the sales. They stayed on my top shelf though. What was needed by now was baby outfits, for the newborns. Weekly browsing became part of my routine, in Baby Gap and Golf Kids.

By now it's the second round. The first batch of babies are already toddlers. My friends' stomachs are again getting rounder; the invitations to Brits are reappearing. This time I'm prepared. I have a reserve of baby grows and rattles, ready for when I need them. No need to rush to a store when I hear the happy news.

It's a new way to measure my life, reflected in the gifts I buy. Time passing, life progressing. Progresing for others. Pity I'm still at the birthday present stage.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Irony of Religious Women

It seems to me, that the more religious a woman becomes, the less she's supposed to keep.

Take Chanukah; I've been lighting candles since before I can remember, probably since I first brought a Chanukiyah home from kindergarten. Now really that should brand me as Modern. At home it seemed natural.But my more religious friends, or maybe I should say more Chareidi ones, well they don't seem to be in such a rush to light. They wouldn't dream of bringing flame to wick themselves, that would be far too shocking. Even being there, to watch the act take place, is rather low on their priorities. "my father/husband will be Motzi me" they say.

It doesnt stop there. The more religious women are, the less they go to Shul. The truly Frum woman avoids attending the synagogue altogether, except perhaps for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, on the rare years she doesn't have little kids to prevent her from going.

And if a woman is lucky enough to be Chasidic, she stands a good chance of not having to fast on the fast days, aside for the major ones.

Then there's Succos. I've already written about that. No self respecting Frum woman should be caught sleeping in a Succah. Unless she wants to risk being branded a feminist, that is. Certain Chasidic sects are against women even eating in the Succah. It could give them ideas above their station. One Chasidut holds that if a mother wants her sons to grow up to be Torah scholars, she should avoid the Sukkah as much as possible.

I've decided it's a great tactic, becoming more Frum. It will free up my time for the important things in life, now that I won't have to bother with doing all the religious stuff.

Monday, December 21, 2009

No Arranged Marriages

"No. Stop. Break!" Tires shriek as we grind to a halt. "You almost ran over that puppy!"

"Oops. Sorry. I didn't notice…" I resume driving. My new teacher leans back in her seat, trying to relax despite putting her life in my hands.

"Can I ask you something?" she says, as I circle yet another traffic circle.

"Go ahead" I reply, my eyes firmly on the road, looking out for more stray dogs.

"Do you do that Shidduch business?"

"Yup. I go on Shidduch dates." I have no problem admitting it. Seeing as how it's a subject that fills most of my waking hours nowadays. (I'm still trying to remember what I used to talk about with friends, before we started dating.)

"Have you, like, actually met a boy yet?"

"Oh sure." I say. "I've met quite a lot of boys."

"Ah." she looks suprised. "Does that mean you don't have to marry them?"

I laugh. "A shidduch isn't an arranged marriage. It's an arranged date." And if I'd married all the boys I'd gone out with, well, it would be pretty confusing by now. "It's sort of like a blind date."

"Really? We do those too. I used to go on blind dates all the time" She's trying to take it in. "Then what's the difference from what we do?" We being the secular public.

"Well I don't stam go out" ( Sorry, there's no good English equivalent for stam) "shidduch dating is for a purpose״

"You mean if it doesn't work then on to the next one . No hanging around." She approves. "And what do you do on a shidduch date? Someone told me once that you went to hotels"

"At first it's hotel lobbies. Then cafes and museums and other places. Maybe parks or the zoo."

"The zoo?!" she thinks that's hilarious.

"Yeah, the zoo is filled with religous couples, dating."

"Gosh how boring. You must know all the animals by name by now"

I agree with her. "One guy got a fright when I told him the zoo is only fun with kids. He thought I was hinting."

Maybe I should explain to her about Chasidim doing Shidduchim differently, about the different streams in Chareidi Judaism. Hold on, is that a truck? I better keep my eyes on the road and concentrate. Otherwise there might be one less Shidduch Maidel in the world.

"You know, it doesn't sound so bad. I always thought Shidduchim were like in the films. That you had to marry them, you didn't have a choice."

I'm glad I sorted that out for her. One less misconception about the Chareidi public.

I decide I'd better leave it at that. Not tell her about certain online blogs where Shiduch daters vent their frustrations with the system. Better not to spoil the good impression.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chapter 5: Reverse Shidduch Crisis

I'm happy, sitting by the window, typing away. A little face peers into mine, mouths words I can't hear. I pull the headphones from my ears, and Matisyahu stops pounding.

"I want to sit here." She points at the seat next to mine. I look across the aisle, at where she'd been sitting quite comfortably with her sister. The older girl still sitting there looks back at me, and shrugs. I pull the purse and coat into my lap, clear the space for the little girl. She clambers into it, settles in. I slide the headphones back in, wake my IPod up from sleep mode. The girl climbs off her new seat, disappears into the back of the bus, comes back a moment later with two activity books.

"This one's mine, and this one's my sister's." She shows them to me proudly.

I turn off the music again. Someone has obviously decided she's my new friend.

She opens the books. Shows me which pictures she's colored in. I admire them. I offer her a pen, so she can do another puzzle. She pulls a line through a maze, looking up at me, for approval, every few minutes.

"Wow. You're so smart." I actually love little kids. Babies are quite boring, (sshhh, don’t tell anyone I said so), but once they begin to talk, they become fun. "You're drawing like such a big girl! How old are you?"

"I'm six." She says. She's called Rivky. She learns in the Gur school. I tell her that I have a niece her age, also in Kitah Aleph. She's disappointed to hear my niece go to a different school.

Then I notice Rivky's big sister, standing in the aisle. "What's your name?" she asks me. The questions carry on. "How many kids do you have?"

"Oh, I'm not married." I pull at my hair, show where it's connected to my scalp. People have been thinking I'm married all evening, I'm used to it by now. I've given up explaining that this afternoon, before the engagement party, I just stepped out of the shower and let my hair dry the way it is. That it's the Shaitels Machers fault for copying my messy look this year.

The "big" sister (She's already ten and a half, she's in fourth grade) goes back to her mother. Then she comes back again.

"Where do you live? How old are you? What Chassidut are you?"

Finally she comes out with it. "My mother asks if you want to marry a Gur Chassid?"
I gulp. Try not to laugh. "Oh. Well I'm not Chasidic you see, so I don't think I'll marry someone Chsasidic. But tell her I say thank you anyway."

At first I'm flattered. I resolve to sit next to a Litvish first grader next time. Who knows where that could lead? Maybe she'll have a big brother? An uncle would do too. Maybe this is why Chareidi girls aren't allowed to drive?

Then I remember that Gur has a Shidduch Crisis going on too, just like we have. Only it's a reverse Shidduch Crisis. There are too many single boys, looking for wives.
You see, not many girls want to marry into the Gur Chassidut. Not even the Gur Girls themselves. They often look for husbands who belong to other Chassiduts.

The reason? Gur has a lot of rules, a whole lot of rules, about marriage. There are the rules on exactly how it's permitable to have marital relations. You know those recommendations in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch? Well by them that's law. Along with a lot of other restrictions. Like they aren't allowed to sleep in the same bed together. Ever. But I won't go into them all here, it being a Frum blog and all.

There are other restrictions too, not only for the bedroom. One that I heard is that a husband isn't allowed to call his wife by her first name.

So now Gur is looking for wives for their boys. Women willing to take on the all the restrictions. And they are having a hard time finding them.

Which leads me to my brilliant idea. A solution to both Shidduch crises. Let's marry our girls to their boys! If a girl in NY is feeling desparate, ship her over here, to the local Gur community! Simple, yet brilliant. I wonder why nobody else has thought of it yet.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chapter 4: Raising Illiterates

This was going to be a "real" blog post. Because it's true. It happened last week, and I've been wanting to write about it ever since. And I do have an issue with Chareidi society raising illiterates. But I'm in novel-writing-mode, so this is what came out. There's no reason I can't make the same point in fiction, right?

"So how can I send a document?" Bracha asked.

Karen sighed. There was so much to explain. "You see the paper clip? And underneath it 'attach'? It's called attaching when you add a document to an email."

Michael, sitting over at the next desk, sniggered loudly. Karen swiveled around and glared at him. It wasn't Bracha's fault, that she knew none of this. She was a product of the system.

Bracha sat on a folding chair beside her, eyes glued to the computer screen. "What's an inbox?"

Bracha had called in a panic. "All the tourist sites want to send me emails. They won't mail the brochures. They won't even agree to fax the details. And the principal wants this trip organized by Friday! Listen Karen, I need your help"
And so, an hour later, here she was, sitting in the office, soaking in what a lifetime of education had denied her.

Karen couldn't really blame Michael for laughing at them. The conversation must sound funny. As she explained to Bracha how to open a Gmail account, as her words echoed in the room, they sounded ridiculous. As if she were teaching a child perhaps, or an 80 year old. No, not even that. Children were on Facebook nowadays, and grandparents on Twitter.

"But how will you use your account? You don't have internet access anywhere. You can’t come here every day." It was one thing teaching Bracha how to use email. Karen couldn't have her turning up repeatedly. The bosses would complain.

"Well the secretary has internet on her computer. She'll let me use it."

"So why couldn't she have dealt with this?" Karen was annoyed. The interruption was using up precious work hours. Hours she'd have to make up later.

"Oh she doesn't know how to use it either. I don't know why Rabbi Horowitz bothered to have it installed."

Bracha was a computer teacher at the local Bais Yaacov elementary school. She'd studied with Karen in Seminary. Together they'd been taught programming languages and office programs. They'd done homework, and given practice lessons. But one thing they'd never been allowed near was the World Wide Web. There was a ban on using the internet in the Chareidi world. It wasn't lifted even for those who were supposed to work in the field.

Karen still remembered her first job interview. The face of the man interviewing her, when she didn't know what MSDN was, hadn't heard of any of the popular programming websites. She hadn't gotten that job. She'd learned her lesson by the next one. Going to the local library, and browsing site after site, in preparation.

Nowadays Karen was pro. Despite her long skirts, and prim button down shirts, despite being automatically labeled as religious, and hence obviously backwards, she was "Tech savvy", she was part of the modern world. She would prove it. She could Google with the best of them. She wrote a technical blog. She was on all the online social networks.

She had joined a dating website too, but that was a secret. That was one thing nobody was allowed to know.

Her old friends, the girls she'd gone to school with, the girls she'd grown up with, none of them could understand this new language she was speaking, new universe she was spending time in. Except for the others who'd also rebelled against teaching, who'd also sought to join the secular work force. One by one they too joined her online. Together they formed networks, and chatted, and posted photos; forgetting the Rabbis' warnings, ignoring the bans.

But Bracha, good pious Bracha, never had. She'd listened to what she was taught, followed the instructions given by society's leaders. She'd managed fine in her teaching job, typing and printing and mailing, travelling to libraries in the center of the country when she needed to do research.

Yet now the school Bracha taught in, the Bais Yaacov school, wanted her to organize a trip for them. And for that she needed to use the sinful Internet. So here she was, coming to learn what she'd been told was wrong, having no choice. Sitting clueless and sounding ludicrous, which basically she was. Because she was this century's equivalent of illiterate. She 'd been purposely raised to be ignorant.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chapter 3: Ending the Shidduch Crisis

Every time she saw the long lines of religious girls, waiting at the cash tills of Mamilla with their fathers' credit cards and their mothers' cheque books, Shulamit felt her heart scrunch up. The travesty, the absolute travesty, paying good money, a lot of it, for clothes they wouldn't be able to wear. Well at least not straight away, and by the time they'd finished with the bits of fabric, by the time they'd let down hems and sewn up slits and added buttons and safety pins to raise the necklines, it would all be spoiled. She knew it would. It always was. She felt so sorry for them. Fashion wasn't meant to be meddled with.

Really, if you thought about it, there was a lot that could be done with Orthodox fashion. Women's bodies had to be covered, from top to toe, and that was a large canvas (a very large canvas indeed after seven pregnancies had left their mark), a blank canvas just waiting for her.

When she had a store, it wouldn't sell items blindly imitating the catwalk. She wouldn't copy standard patterns, and then add material indiscriminately in order to deem it modest. When she had a store, it would be stocked with the fashion she designed. Fashion for the Orthodox woman.

Shulamit was following her dream. It wasn't a standard dream, for a frum girl. Wasn't a typical one. She couldn't train for it in seminary, in the same way the other girls learned teaching and special Ed. But it was just as idealistic, just as holy. She knew her store would make the world a better place. She'd be helping the next generation of Frum girls, same as if she were teaching in a Bais Yaacov. She'd be helping them dress well, look good. Maybe she could even end the Shidduch Crisis. In her outfits girls would be so irresistible that no Yeshiva guy would be able to turn them down.

So she had to venture out, into a very different world, which was new to her. Well the truth was she could have learned sewing in one of the girls-only colleges popping up. They promised to teach design too. That's what her teachers had encouraged, when they'd realized she wasn't going to join the ranks of teachers. She'd tried, really she had. She'd gone to the group of white washed rooms, tucked into a dingy building off Rabbi Akiva street in Bnai Brak. She'd sat patiently through a lesson on creativity, fighting off the urge to close her eyes, which grew heavier, as the lecturer, a middle aged woman in a bushy Shaitel, droned on, saying nothing very creative at all.

At the end of that lesson, she stood up, thanked the teacher, waved a good bye to the students, and left.

To make a dream come true wasn't easy. She needed the best. She got on the bus to Tel Aviv, and rode straight to Betzalel. Betzalel was the top art academy in Israel. That's where she wanted to study fashion design. But it was too late. The year had already started. They told her to mail forms in May, to apply for the next year.

Shulamit would wait. Meanwhile she had enough to keep herself busy. After all, she had another profession too. She was a matchmaker. She'd focus on that. Not only fashion could end the Shidduch crisis, she'd give it a good try with her trusty notebook too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chapter 2: A Game Plan

Karen was always in control. That's the way she was, the way she'd been all her life.
She was the one who organized the hikes in summer. She was the one who passed round a sandwich bag to collect money for teachers' presents at the end of the year. (Then she'd gone out and bought the presents, that same day. And written the poems to go with them.)

Karen had a mantra. "If you want a thing done properly, do it yourself." Every time she tried to let go, tried to leave things for someone else to take care of, it went wrong. Other people forgot, and delayed, and got mixed up. Not Karen. She learned it was quicker and easier not to rely on anyone else, if she wanted something done right.

First she worked out what to do, and then she did it. And then she dispensed advice, How-Tos for every step of the way. From organizing a hike in the Golan, to winning a treasured Madricha position in sleep-away camp. From picking the best Seminary to finding colleges that would give credits for their near worthless Seminary diplomas two years later.

Once it was time to join the grown up world, she was the first in her graduating class to prepare a resume. Her details were already sitting in the inboxes of all the prospective employers on JobNet, together with a customized cover letter, when one by one her friends traipsed over, and she helped them prepare resumes too.

She knew it all, because she'd done it all first. She had her life worked out.

Karen knew how she'd go about finding a husband, if it was up to her. The same way she went about everything else. She'd research current dating trends. She'd go to the right places, dress the right way, say the right things. She knew she'd find a guy. The right guy. And quickly.

But for the first time in her life, Karen had to let go. Her hands were tied. Bound behind her back by the rules society had invented half a century before.

There was no such thing as speaking to a man directly. She couldn't even hope to catch the eye of a potential mate. Someone else had to be in the middle. Someone else had to arrange it. So she needed help. Had to ask for help. Because that was the system. And there was nothing she could do about it.

In the beginning it wasn't too bad. She thought she could handle it. First she went to the local Jewish bookstore. She came home with all the books her teacher in the Shalom Bayit class in Seminary had recommended; "How to find your Zivug", "The Shadchan Speaks", "Dating made easy", "Splitting the sea". She read them all. She soaked up the advice of rabbis and matchmakers and "dating mentors". She prepared for what lay ahead. Knowledge was power.

Then she prepared a list. Lists were the key. She carefully wrote down every family friend and relative who moved in the right circles, who could know of a suitable boy. She added her teachers from high school through Seminary, because teachers were good at making matches.

Chanukkah was the best time of year to start dating, that was common wisdom. Winter meant Shabbos went out early, with the stars in the sky by five, and so Motzai Shabbos could be used for dates. Also, she'd settled into a comfortable routine in the new job. She was ready for the next stage.

On the first night of Chanukkah, after candle lighting, Karen presented her parents with the list. It was time to train them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Matchmaker Diaires: At the Bus Stop

The woman's black hair was parted; two smooth waves pulled back tightly from her brow, disappearing under a scarf. The scarf was white, with silver threads running through it. It matched her white skirt and woolen coat. Only her boots, black patent leather, spoiled the snowy effect. She looked like a china doll, petite and perfect. She leaned against the man, who stood at right angles to her. She rested her hips on his, curved into him.

He wore a woolen hat, pulled down low. He looked so obviously irreligious. Shulamit had no need to see his head underneath it, she was sure there was no Kippah there. Stubble grazed his chin, jeans were slung low on his hips. The archetypical secular Israel, confident and fit after army training. And attractive, she admitted that silently to herself.

They stood on the other side of the bus stop. They didn't kiss. The woman rubbed her smooth cheek against his rough one. He moved his arm up, around, to cradle her.
Shulamit was fascinated, horrified. She couldn't look away. When the man's eyes swept the area, checking he wasn't being watched, she made her glaze blank, indifferent, pretended to be staring at the busy street.

The woman was married, religious and married. The head covering showed that. The man was secular. The man and woman were not, could not, be married to each other. Yet they looked right together, they slotted together, fitted together. Like a couple, a couple having a relationship. They were touching. It was like the scenes in the movies she had stopped watching, had given up as sinful.

The woman couldn’t be very religious, Shulamit reassured herself. After all, her skirt didn't attempt to reach her knees. And it was slit at the back, the slit reaching up to her coat, possibly beyond that. No truly pious woman would dress that way.

And what's to say the woman was still married? Once married didn't mean always married. Maybe she was divorced. Divorced women had to cover their hair too.
That would mean it wasn't an affair, wasn't adultery. "It was just," Shulamit stumbled to find the right words, "just a relationship that broke the rules".

She felt slightly better. Despite herself she turned round again. The man was brushing his cheek back against the woman's, tenderly. Shulamit stifled the feelings of envy. Shulamit was studying, pursuing the career she wanted. She didn't want to get married yet. She didn't want a relationship, didn't need a man. She was fine on her own.

The bus came, and she got on it. The couple still stood there, at the bus stop. She carried on watching them through the window, until the bus drove away.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Against Principles

"I don't like people with principles", a boy once told me.

I stopped and stared at him.

"Because they put their principles before everything else. They refuse to step out of their comfort zone, to stretch. People should come first, and that takes flexibility."

"But everyone has principles," I said, "at least, I hope they do. Like in my family, my father stressed honesty, I hope I'm carrying that on."

"That's different. That's Halachah. Think about it. There's Torah, Halachah, we should be acting according to that. Not be adding things on."

"Oh. I see." I said. But I didn't really see. It took a few months, with his words buzzing in the back of my mind, before I grasped the meaning.

Today I remembered him. Today I understood.

A Rabbi refuses to give me the name of one of his Talmidim, until he's met me.
"We can discuss it on the phone." I said. "I'll tell you everything you'd like to know."

"No, I have to meet you. That's my Shitah."

"You can speak to your friend Rabbi C., he knows me well. Or you can speak to your Talmid, Yitzchak Greenberg, I dated him for a while, he’ll remember me."

"No. This is the way I do things. I won't set up my Talmidim with girls before I've met them. On principle."

I also feel strongly about preferring to date single guys, and not middle aged married men and women. I even wrote about it. I didn't pull the "principle" card on him though. I'd just be told I'm stubborn and picky and not doing my Hishtadlus.

I gave up, said goodbye and hung up.

I've begun to notice when principles appear.

When something is wrong, it's simple. "I don't do that.", "I can't do that.", "I don't feel that's right", "Sorry, but that's breaking Halachah."

And when something is right, it's even simpler. Often there's not even a need for justification. Most good things people are happy to accept without explanation.

Principles are used for behavior that is outside what the Torah teaches us, outside what is obviously correct. Principles are used when we can’t find a better argument.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chapter 1: After the Ball is Over

The tiles were cold against her bare feet. Karen dangled the shoe straps from one hand, fished around in her purse with the other. The key had to be in there somewhere. A powder compact fell out, crashed onto the floor below. She bent down, opened the marble plastic. Clay colored lumps lay scattered inside, useless now. She snapped the case shut again, shoved it back into the overcrowded jumble. She'd need to buy a new one before the next date. What a waste. Trust it to break now.

Ah, there was the sliver of purple, peeping out between tissues and a folding umbrella. She pulled at it, tugged until the key ring dislodged from the mess.
With a twist and a push, she was inside. She dumped the purse and coat and keys, all in a pile on the bench by the phone. The shoes, she dropped onto the carpet by the dining room table. She'd taken them off in the elevator. Beauty was pain.

Karen went straight to the first bedroom off the hallway, still wallpapered with pink rosebuds, a remainder from the girly phase she'd had in second grade. She didn't stop to turn on the lights, or pick up the clothes that lay scattered everywhere. It was always a rush before, always a mess left behind. But she ignored it, pressed the computer's big rubber button. When a soft whirring filled the silence, when flashing icons appeared on the monitor coming back to life, she paused, to catch a breath, to settle in.

Tights came off. Fuzzy bunny slippers went on bare feet. Lenses came out, glasses went on instead. She loosened the earrings and necklace and hair clips. She rubbed at her eyes, smudging mascara and eyeliner carefully applied a few hours before. When she looked in the mirror, black panda eyes stared back, out of a pale face. She reached behind, under the shiny fabric of her top, to undo the bra's clasp, and wriggled arms out of sleeves to slip it off. That was better.

She settled into the swivel chair. Squatted on it cross legged, reached out fingers to the keyboard. The web browser was still opening. She didn't move, just gazed at the screen until the homepage had finished loading.

There were messages. One was from that guy who wouldn't take no as an answer. She'd have to be blunter with him, explain again how unsuitable a match they were. On second thought maybe she would ignore him, not answer at all. Maybe that way he'd get the message.

The second was from "Avraham". He'd replied at last. She crossed her fingers, said the only chapter of Tehillim she knew off by heart, chapter 121, and clicked on his message, to open it. He sounded so perfect, so right.

It was a rejection, couched in kinder words. Karen opened up his profile again, compared the "what he's looking for" paragraph with the description she'd written of herself. She couldn't find any contradictions. She wondered what put him off her. Was it worth another try?

The third message was from someone new. She hadn't noticed him on the site before. She'd read that, before going to bed. She hovered the mouse over the envelope, was about to click on it, when the door swung open.

"Sweetheart, how was your date?"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Matchmaker Diaries: Prologue

She looks nervous. Pretty, but nervous. I wouldn't be caught dead in a suit, and I told her as much last night, when she laid it out on the bed, but it does make her look older somehow. Grown up.

If only she wouldn't keep latching and unlatching her hands together, and would stop with the lip biting. At this rate that shiny lipgloss will be worn right off, before he even arrives.
Is that him? A tall, black suited figure is approaching. I can't make out the face beneath the hat. My angle is wrong. The postcard stand spins around, as I push past it. I catch it from toppling over, just in time.

"Can I help you?" The woman behind the counter does not seem very pleased with me. I've already spent as long as humanly possibly, inspecting every souvenir in the store. I obviously am not about to make a purchase. She's losing patience. I had better leave.

Standing in the doorway, I check out the scene. He's saying something to her. He must be the one. Neither of them is looking in my direction. I make a dash for the opposite doorway.

Inside H.Stern, I lean against the wall, relieved. I haven't been spotted, I'm pretty sure of that. Outside I can see them still talking. He's gesturing now, pointing at a corner of the lobby. She follows him over to a pair of sofas, perches on the edge of one, lays down the shiny purse. He sits at right angles to her. He takes off the black hat, places it carefully on a vacant chair.

A saleswoman approaches me. I avoid her gaze, peer intently at a nearby display cabinet. The jewels inside glitter back at me. I straighten up, trying to look like I regularly go shopping for diamonds, like a potential customer. I don't want to be thrown out of the store before I've completed my mission. It's too risky to stand outside, in the open and wide exposed lobby. Bracha would never forgive me if she caught me spying on them.

Well, spying is too harsh a word. Seeing a job through to its end, that's what I call it. I mean, I set them up. I did all the phoning and persuading. I want to see the pieces fall into place.

Good. They are smiling now. Laughing. I think this is going to work. Time to move on.

The problem with trying to write a novel, is that I miss the feedback. What's been getting me to write is you guys. The comments, the responses, you're great! And I miss it when I plod through my chapters. So I thought I'd give this a try. Introducing my new serial story: "The Matchmaker Diaries". Please, please, nudge me and nag me and beg me for the next installment. Maybe this way I'll actually write it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Seventy Paths

I almost missed the message. Then I noticed the little envelope in the corner of my cell phone's screen.

"I'm engaged!!!" the SMS shrieks out at me.

She asks me to give the news to her high school teacher, who happens to be a relative of mine. That night I make the call. It starts off pretty typically.

"Guess what? Rachel is engaged!"
"Mazal tov! That's so exciting!"
I can hear the genuine pleasure in her voice. Rachel is one of her favorite students.
"Tell me all about it? Who's the boy?"
"Well, he's in the army."

Silence.

I take a deep breath, and plow on.

"He's an officer. Something quite high up. I don't remember the initials, 'samech' something or other."
"I see."
"It's such a cute story how the Shidduch was made. See she didn't think it would work out, but she thought 'why not', and gave it a try, and voila!'

Frozen replies from the other side of the line. The esteemed Mechaneches suddenly sounds eager to end the conversation.

I could have been imagining it. I don't think I was.

Prize student, pride of the Bais Yaacov system, betrays the establishment by marrying, not only a not-in-Yeshiva boy, not merely a working boy, but a soldier! What can be worse than that?

I think where our society went wrong, is by focusing on negatives instead of positives.

Torah learning is a good value, an important ideal. So is making a living for your family, and contributing to society. So is defending the country, and we all owe those who do it a huge debt of gratitude. You can decide that Torah outweighs the others, decide to focus on that. That's your decision. But please, let it be about "learning Torah'. Don't let it be about "Not serving in the army", and "Not working".

I read the stories and letters-to-the-editor, about fathers running from Gemach to loan shark to bank. Or scheming up improbable get rich quick plans. Or flying abroad to go door to door collecting. Somehow it's OK for a man to spend all his waking hours in a chase to cover debts, rather than learning in the Bais Medrash. It's socially acceptable. As long as he's not working. Chas VeChalilah. Good chareidi men don't work.

And a boy can be doing many things, some of them not so savory. Society can deal with it. The true red line is the army. Shedding the black and white for khaki green. If he does, then he can still be wearing the black kippah, but it's not enough . He's crossed over to the other side.

"Learn Torah" has somehow morphed into "Don't do anything else".

That's how a nice Jewish girl can get engaged to a nice Jewish boy, and instead of being happy for her, some people, out there, can be upset.

Not only Chareidi Society negates other approaches. I mix in many worlds. I hear the remarks about 'parasites'. The disapproval of Torah scholars who 'have their heads in the clouds'.

So many ideals are good and right and true. Let's focus on our goals, whatever they may be, instead of negating the other ones.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Is Attraction Important?

You think it is, I think it is, but aren't you curious what the Rabbis of Israel have to say about it?

We are sitting on the sloping hill, alone aside for the trees and the moon. I've convinced The-Yeshiva-Guy-I-Didn't-Marry to sit down on the grass with me, instead of on the customary bench. It's a new sensation, sitting on the grass with a boy. I cross my knees, pull my skirt down to cover them. He sprawls out on his side, a few inches from me. This is so much more relaxed than benches and chairs. It's the first time I've ever done it, on a date. A part of me whispers that that's a rather sad fact.

"Are you attracted to me?" I ask. There's a certain light missing from his eyes, when he looks at me. He doesn't look at me the way the boy before him did. I'm worried. I don't know what they've been telling them in Yeshiva, about feelings coming later, and all that. I know one thing, I don't want that to be the case with my husband. The question is blunt, but I don't care. I'm passed the beating around the bush stage.

Like a true Yeshiva student, he avoids the question. "Is attraction even important in a marriage? Rabbi C.K. say's it isn't."

Rabi C.K. being the venerated Gadol Hador.

Before I can open my mouth to protest, he continues. He is quick. One of the things I like about him.

"Of course, you know what Rabbi S. says."

Rabbi S. being an esteemed Rosh Yeshiva.

"Rabbi S. says attraction is very important."

"Well, I agree with Rabbi S." That sounds better than saying I disagree with Rabbi C.K. I've already learned what not to say about the Rabbis he admires.

"I thought you would. He also says: The reason Rabbi C.K. can say that attraction isn't important is because to Rabbi C.K. the couples come only before they get married, for his blessings. To Rabbi S. they come after the wedding, with their Shalom Bayis problems. "

I'm beginning to like the sound of Rabbi S. Not the kind of line I'd fit with his image.

"And what do you think?"

A dog comes bounding over, breaks the moment. My Yeshiva guy stands up and brushes the clinging greenery from his pants. I follow suit. We make our way towards the park's exit.

The relationship doesn't last much longer. I tell him I want a husband whose eyes will light up, when he sees me. I hold by Rabbi S.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Weatherman

Naming my last date is easy. He's the Weather man.

Now there are a lot of stereotypes out there about a certain nation being obsessed with the weather. I'm an open minded girl. I don't believe in stigmas.

Except that in this case they were spot on accurate.

"Did you enjoy the weather today? So nice and sunny. With only a light breeze. I loved the weather today. Such a lovely day! Wouldn't it be great if every day was like that? I don't see why the weather has to change every day. I wish every day the weather would be the same. Don't you sometimes wonder why the weather has to change?"

"Well it is giving us something to talk about …"

Let's just say he didn't get the hint. I'm still trying to figure out how he dumped me for our "Hashkafa being incompatible". What Hashkafa exactly? The evening reminded me of the advice given in My Fair Lady. When in doubt, stick to the weather, your family and your health.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Until he shows up

Remind me never to listen to a cab driver again. Telling me I'm better of walking. Huh! I mean, I'm sure he meant well, but I'm freezing. This may be my favorite coat, but it's not very warm. Everywhere seems so much further in heels. I hope I won't be too tall in them. Why do all the men in the street have to be Arab? Aren’t there any Jews in Jerusalem? And why do they think I'll understand what they are saying to me in Arabic? I hope I'm not being stupid, walking here alone. Was that a whistle?

Oh good the guard is waving me through. He's not making me open my bag. Lucky, I don't know how I'd get it closed again, if he did. It's not easy fitting a science book into an evening purse. I suppose I don't look very suspicious. Maybe he recognizes me from the last time I was here. It was only a week ago, after all. I'm a regular, you could say.

Please, please, that can't be him. No. God, listen to this prayer at least, don't let that be him. The trick is to avoid eye contact. That's the main thing. Let him be for someone else. It can't be him, right? Surely they would have told us about the beard? I'm going to ignore him. Circle round and make a quick dash to the bathrooms.

Is that what I look like? What a mess. Don't know why books romanticize the windswept look. It's not a success on me. Now where's my lipgloss? Umbrella, book, Mp3, cellphone, ID tag, keys, tissues, disk on key. Disk on key? There's top secret information on that. It's not supposed to leave the office. What’s it doing here? Oh well, hope I'm not abducted. Ah, there's the tube. Nothing like a dab of Clinique.

Whoa. She's tall. I feel so short all of a sudden. Is that blonde natural? Nice jacket. Didn't know non religious women still wore suits. At least not in Israel. Hey. One second. Belle Du Jour, last night. Only hookers wear designer suits, it said on the blog. Hmm, is she one? Oh it's a tweed jcket. Probably not then. Maybe a guest from abroad. Come to think of it I'm wearing a suit too. Wonder what they'd make of me abroad, wandering around hotels dressed up and unescorted. I wish the Amazon goddess hadn't come in. I felt much prettier before.

Nine on the dot. I'd better venture back into the ring.

Phew. Beard man is gone.

Now this one looks cute. Perfect, in fact. But why isn't he smiling? And now he's walking away.Sigh. Guess it's not him.

Another scan of the territory. I see a black suit. Black hat. Walking next to a woman in a Shaitel. Right.

Who's that guy? He looks chilled. Is that a white Kippah? Weird. Who wear's white Kippahs nowadays? Oh it's knitted. White knitted, with a thin blue border. Makes more sense. But he can't be for me. Yeah there's a girl in a long skirt. That fits. Is that a sweatshirt? How does she get off so easy?

Where can he be? Does he think this is fun for me?

Stop. Think positive. Music. Classical music. Coming from the piano over there. It sounds pretty. Tonight this scene reminds me of a ballet. Yeah that's it. Not a primitive mating ritual. A ballet. Men in suits, women in dresses. Grouped on either side of the stage. A flurry as they meet each other in the centre. Pairs pull back to the sides. Perfect symmetry as they align, to fill rows of parallel sofas. Man opposite woman. He removes his hat. She lays down her purse. He speaks. She nods. Waiters glide over, then withdraw. Now she speaks. He answers. He looks down, twiddles his fingers, clears his throat. She looks down, plays with her necklace. Pattern repeated in every set of seats. Matching outfits, matching body language, identical conversations too, probably. Great choreography.

Where is he?

Hmm, good opportunity to check out the menu. I've always wanted to do that. Coffee is the same price as a soft drink? OK. That's it. I'm ordering a coffee tonight. Correct, coffee is more intimate. Soft drinks are for dates one and two, hot drinks are only done on the third date onwards. But tough. Too bad. I've drunk enough coca colas to last me a life time.

Still not here? Should I call home, and have them call the rabbi, and the rabbi call him? What a performance. I'll give it another few minutes.

Wait. I see a white and yellow blur through the glass. A taxi has drawn up outside. Is that a black suited figure? The door is swiveling round. Someone is stepping out. Tall and broad shouldered. I'll stand up. His back is to me. Now he's turning. Oops. He must be sixty if he's a day. Better sit down again.

Do I dare go into H.Stern? Don't want to have him thinking I'm too into diamonds. Catching me gazing starry eyed into a display cabinet is not the way to get off on the right foot. I guess I'll risk it. There's nothing else to do here.

Stop. On the right. Yeshiva guy. Approaching me. Saying my name.

I knew I shouldn't have worn heels.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is Blogging Tznius?

Or more to the point, is my blog Tznius? Got some not-so-positive feedback recently. Here's my response.

Being a Bais Yaacov girl means many things. Most of them are good. I made a conscious decision to study in the places I did, to belong to the society I do. I don't regret it.

But along with the schooling came a pattern. The pattern of Chareidi society at large, perhaps. What not to say, where not to go.

When I was in high school it was non Jewish music, movies, boys. These subjects were taboo. Good girls didn't even think of them, at least not aloud.

Even now, in the discussions of "kids going off the derech" flourishing in the Frum press, so many theories are produced, for what drives teenage boys and girls to hang out together. What they never mention is hormones. Awakening needs, wants, temptations. Teenage boys want to be with girls, teenage girls want to be with boys. Sometimes it's as simple as that.

Some kids do it. Do the forbidden, the banned. They are branded as at risk.
They cross the red lines. Other's don't. The kids who behave according the rules are embraced. These are the top Bais Yaacov girls, the prize Yeshiva students. No one ever thinks that they too may be battling temptation every day.

I used to envy my friends in the more modern schools. Not because they were allowed to do more than me, but because in their their schools they spoke about it, openly. They could, and did, question, discuss, seek advice, all without fearing disgrace.

When we grew up not much changed. As least not for those of us still single. Now it's the Shidduch- crises, not the Kids-at-risk crises. Again the debates as to causes and symptoms.

But again so much is left unsaid, unacknowledged. It's not only about being left behind, while peers move on to the next stage in life. It's not only about being in a strange limbo, with no defined place in society. It's not only about burn out, and fears for the future.

There is another factor too. We are Frum, we do follow Halachah, we do work on Emunah and Bitachon and want to build true Torah homes. But we are also human beings, mature men and women, struggling with desires, some of them physical, battling with pulls in different directions, every day.

I'd like my blog to reflect this, the different facets that together make up being a Frum single girl in the 21st century, with all that that entails.

Some of you don't feel my blog is Tznius, or appropriate. My apologies.

Mixed Messages

"The surest way to tell the prostitute walking into a hotel is to look for the lady in the designer suit. Fact."

From Belle Du Jour. Diary of a London Call girl.

Now where does that leave us Shidduch Maidels?

Better stick to the Marriott, girls, and not venture into the Ritz-Calrton, at least not in your best black suit. Don't want to give some gentlemen the wrong impression.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Living in a Bubble

"Raise your hands if it's a challenge for you to look your husband in the eyes."

I almost raise mine. It's sure a challenge for me.

I've looked hundreds of men in the eyes. Deeply, soulfully, admiringly. I've even resorted to fluttering my eyelashes at them. But I'm yet to look my husband in the eyes. I wonder what color eyes he has, and when I'll get to see them.

Oh, that's not what she means. She's talking about relationships with our husbands, about Shalom Bayis. I guess that's what this Shiur is going to be about.

A warning would have been nice. I was looking for some uplifting spirituality, not a reminder of how lacking I am on my own.

I hope my mother, sitting next to me, is not upset. I hope she's not thinking of how much she'd give to look into her husband's eyes. An opportunity she's not had since he died.

I wonder how many other widows, divorcees there are in the room. I catch the eye of a single woman in her fifties. She's managing to mask the pain. Or perhaps she doesn't mind. Perhaps by now she's grown numb, grown used to it. Used to never ending references to things she is missing.

We all live in bubbles, bubbles of our own making. We have a tendency to think that where we are holding, so is everyone else.

Please, remember the others.

Before you speak of children, remember the childless.
Before you speak of spouses, remember the single, the widowed, the divorced.
Before you speak of families, remember those who are alone.

It can work in the other direction too. From sagas designed to pull at heartstrings, to casual episodes to spice up a talk. Melodramatic tales are casually dropped. References that can drive some listeners to tears.

I've been in the corridor, outside, when women have stood up and left Shiurim in the middle, able to take no more. I've seen their faces as they've leaned against the wall, outside, shaking, fighting back the memories that the careless mentions brought back to them.

So before you tell of sickness and disease, of hospital wards and intensive care units, think of the terminally ill.
Before you tell of death, of deathbeds and burials, think of those who recently lost a loved one.

Tact, sensitivity, consideration, these should be values in our world too.

Pause, stop a moment, remember there are people in the audience for whom this can be a sensitive topic, choose your words with care. There are some places where even angels fear to tread, and rightly so.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

To go or not to go

"You're going where?!"

A score of faces turn to me in horror.

Maybe it wasn't a good idea to bring this up at the Shabbos table.

"It's a conference. For work."

"You want to go to Germany? Of all places!"

"I don't want to go to Germany. But that's where the conference is going to be. In Berlin."

"So don't go."

"But it's for work. I need to go. You know I'd never go just for a vacation."

"You don't need to go. You want to go. Nobody is forcing you."

"Well yes. OK. True. I could skip the conference entirely. But I really want to give a presentation there. It's a great opportunity."

"Work. Phuh. IBM also justified being in Germany before the war, they also said it's just for work."

"This isn't the same thing. Germany is the least anti-Semitic country in Europe at the moment." Even in my ears it sounds lame. I feel I'm playing devil's advocate.

'It doesn't make a difference. Their streets are soaked in Jewish blood."

"So is King George street. So is Machane Yehuda."

"For a child of mine to step foot in Germany is as bad as watching her bite into a ham sandwich."

Gulp. Thanks for the guilt trip.

I've always loved my family, for being so open minded, so chilled, laid back.

"As long as you're happy." That was my parents' motto, when I was growing up. Well, add "And marry a nice Jewish boy" to that. But still, not much to ask, after all.

But we all knew the unspoken rule. Don't buy anything German. Not cars, not napkins, nor anything else. When I bought a German produced gluestick by mistake, I had to return it to the store. The best erasers were the ones stamped with "Made in Germany." I'd make do with others.

The ironic thing is that neither side of my family went through the holocaust. My great-great-great grandparents died of either old age, or cold and starvation, in Russia, before the German army reached them. Their descendants, my ancestors, had already emigrated to safer lands, years before.

I sometimes wonder if it's guilt, guilt at being safe, that made my family even more insistent to boycott everything German.

Around me I'd see my peers , grandchildren of survivors, not understanding what the fuss was about. When I travelled to Europe with them, I was the one who refused to visit Austria for a day trip. Instead, we went to Lichtenstein, and that only after I'd researched its WWII treatment of the Jews.

But I never sacrificed anything big for that ideal. Anything that really mattered to me.

And now that I'm asked to, I'm questioning, reexamining the values I was raised with. It could be I'm seeking a logical way to salve my conscience. Simply putting career before principles. I hope not. I'd hate that.

But is the land of Germany, today, still a land that no Jew should tread on? If that is indeed the truth, then why do almost no other Jews seem to feel the same way?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Reason #243 I'm glad to be Religious

It's the swimming. The separate swimming. Praise the lord for his mercy.

I shuffle into the dressing room, clad in fluorescent crocs and a colorful but not especially flattering bathing suit. Goosebumps rise on my limbs, strands of wet hair cling to my neck. I try to avoid looking in the mirror. I defy any woman to look good in a bathing cap and goggles.

Let's face it, all females have hang ups about some part of their body. If you don't believe me, read the beauty columns in magazines, when beach season is approaching,. "How to get rid of cellulite in 20 days". "The 5 step guide to a smooth stomach". That's before we even start with the tans.

Here no one cares. There are no fake tans, nor waterproof makeup. If you don't own a bathing suit, no problem, underwear under a T-Shirt will do the job. A bikini, a housecoat, it's all good.

As I plow down the swimming lanes I catch fragments of conversations drifting by. Women greet each other, stop mid-lane and chat. It's a Friday morning , so they swap recipes, and tips for getting Challahs to rise. It's like a cozy club. Girls morning out.

In the showers I hear the French women discussing the best places to go for legs, eyebrows, facials. The Americans pull on scarfs and snoods, all the while comparing Sheitel fashions, ponytails vs. falls. They scurry to their cars and rides and cabs. Ducking in before anyone outside can glimpse them in their current raw state.

Mixed hours begin. I stay on a while, to bask in the sun, with a hot chocolate from the machine. Old men, with potbellies bulging over miniscule swimming trunks, clamber into the pool. The secular women arrive. The emancipated, the free. They slip out of tracksuits, join the men in the water. I can’t imagine swimming in mixed hours, running the risk of bumping into men I'd much rather keep my distance from. I'm glad that I'm out now, sitting on the grass, covered up in a sweatshirt and skirt.

It's not one of the standard reasons, but it is another reason I'm happy that I'm Frum. And do you know what the best thing about separate swimming is? Unlike the grocery store and library, and despite being in Shidduchim, I don't need to wear makeup to the pool!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why do I blog?

Well I know why I don't blog, and that's for the cash. I sure don't make much money out of this blog. It's more lucrative to write for Horizons magazine, who are infamous for their "we barely pay for the ink but here's a free copy of the magazine thrown in" deal.

So far all I've gotten out of this blog is: One Nokia N97 to trial, which I have to give back next week (parting is such sweet sorrow). And one date, which I can't even write about. (I realised the toughest part about going out with a reader is that you can't post about it afterwards, him reading it and all)

So along comes Heshy and offers me the opportunity of a lfe time. Advertisers! Maybe I'll make enough to retire to a life of challah baking and scrapbooking?

Truth is I wasn't so keen at first, because I don't think much will come of it anyway, so why sell my soul to the devil?

But this ad is actually for a company that I believe in. I heard about it a year back and thought it was a good idea. It will free up Sam's Bagels for one thing, if all the unemployed and bored american newly weds are at home working, instead of plying the cafes with their pony tail sheitels and strollers, while their hubbys are shteiging in the Mir.

So here's the Ad.
Are you a busy business owner who is short on time? Do you wish you could find a college-educated, hard working assistant to help you on a part-time basis? Good news--now you can!

A 2-year old company, Secretary in Israel, will place with you an American virtual executive assistant to help you with a range of your administrative and marketing tasks. They can do everything from: making & confirming appointments, booking travel, sending gifts and cards to your clients, updating your Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog, Facebook, & YouTube accounts, and much more.

To learn more about how you can get assistance in just 5 - 10 hours/week, visit them online: virtual executive assistants.


OK. That wasn't too bad. If it doesn't work out I guess I can always try this instead:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Too Close for Comfort

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but try fooling all of your neighbors, all of the time. Let's say I decided my Perfect-Shidduch-Image could use some damage control.

An open letter to my neighbors:

Following what has come to my ears of the Vaad Habayit meeting on October 25th, I would like to clarify a few points:

1. I do possess more than one set of clothing. I'll be happy to provide receipts, from weekly mall forays, or give you a guided tour of my closet. I am aware of the fact that, whenever I open the door to you, I'm attired in the same faded jeans skirt, and stretched stripy T-Shirt, both of which have seen better days (think 9th grade). This is due to the fact that on the rare occasions I'm home for the day, and as such available for opening the door, I make full use of the "Yay! I'm not going anywhere! No-one (but the neigbours) is going to see me!" opportunity to crash in my most comfortable and don't-give-a-hell attire. I would further like to reassure you that I certainly would never step outside the front door in jeans skirts, as I am well aware of the ban placed on this sinful fabric by our Rabbonim, which runs the risk of confusing men into thinking I'm wearing an actual pair of jeans. The jeans skirt in question was purchased for a long ago sleep-away camp, since then I have gone to Seminary and flipped out and taken an oath to wear solely black for the rest of my life.

2. I wouldn't dream of listening to Goyishe music. The music pounding out of my bedroom is certified Jewish. It may bear a strong resemblance to rap music, but that is coincidental. Matisyahu is not only Jewish, he's Chasidic! You can't get better than that.

3. There is a simple explanation for why my mother was spotted going through the garbage cans outside. My family's financial straits are not quite so dire. She simply was looking for a library book. Yes I'm conscious of the fact that library books are not usually found in garbage cans, but she was worried she'd thrown it away, together with a pile of out of date newspapers. I can guarantee that this won't happen again. (e.g. "You what?! I don't care if you threw away your wedding ring! I'm in Shidduchim! Garbage can forays are out!")

4. The whirlwind you see in the mornings, taking steps three at a time, that is due to certain time constraints. I would love to stop and schmooze with you, but I have a bus to catch. I do admit to having a certain tendency to crawl out of bed 5 minutes before the bus is due, and the sight I present to the world at the early hours of the morning may be a tad unapealing, but don't worry, I have a hairbrush, toothbrush, and change of clothing in my purse, and as soon as I get to work I'll fix myself up. Post-coffee I do begin to look presentable. No, those were not pyjama pants and bunny slippers that you saw peeping out from under my skirt the other day. It’s a dastardly rumor.

5. About those times that a car hoots outside, and I hop in besides a bare headed ponytailed guy. It's not what it looks like. I can explain. He's a colleague who lives nearby and often gives me rides when there are conferences we both attend. I spend the drive listening to Rav Pinkus Shiurim on my MP3, when not saying Tehillim for a Zivug Hagun.

Thank you so much for your understanding.

Oh, why am I telling you all this now? Well you may be getting a phone call. A phone call about me, that would be. They wanted to speak to the neighbors. Get an up close perspective. I'd appreciate it if you can share with them how frum, elegant, put together, calm, aidel and tzanua I always am.

Thanks again!
Frum N' Flipping

PS. I'll be hanging this up in the elevator, as well as sliding a copy under every door. Please let me know if you'd like duplicate copies for your spouses.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Blogosphere

I just wanted to write. That's all. Write whatever's in my head, in my heart. Write without censorship, without holding back the things I most want to say.

Frum newspapers all have the same procedure. To start with, their authors know what not to write, what not to say. They are well trained. So was I, once. The editor has her own eagle eyes. She usually catches any untoward lines that slip through. Finally the "Mevaker", the official censor, gives his stamp of approval. There is not much I have to say nowadays, that would make it through the screening.

So instead this blog came into being. A diary, you could call it that. Except none of the diaries I've tried to keep ever lasted beyond a week. I do want to write, but I want it read too. And I'm loving it.

But together with my blog I entered a world. A virtual world. A universe builds up around me. I'm drawn in. It captures my thoughts, my time.

Not everything thought should be spoken, Solomon said. And not everything spoken should be written. Yet in this world I skip a stage. I write things I would never even say. Is that good? Is it honesty, openness? Prized in western society above all else. Or does modesty have a higher value? Should some thoughts be kept to myself? I don't know.

I do know that I'm beginning to be scared. I never planned it like this. My life is splitting into two. My virtual life, blog and twitter and emails. And my other life, which is filling with secrets, with things I can't tell. Nobody in my real world knows about this blog. I wanted total absolute freedom to write without holding back.

I wanted honesty in my writing. But now I'm losing the honesty in my life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happily ever after

When my father died, I thought I was covered for life.

I'd paid my dues. One hardship per person, doesn't it work like that?

"You'll see that from now on life will go smoothly for you", said one illustrious Rebbetzin.
"God is the father of Yesomim." The other rabbis said. "You'll have special Siyata Dishmaya in all you do."

When my years of dating don't bring me where I want them to, I can't figure it out. Making aliyah, tick. Losing father, tick. Older single stuck in the "shidduch crises", surely that can't be meant for me too?

I resign myself to my not-yet-perfect life. I just need to get married. One more trial to get through, and I'm home free. Then life will be perfect. Happily ever after. Sure, I'll have to deal with Parnassah, and Shalom Bayis, and Chinuch Banim. But that's OK. That's life. I can't wait.

Around me, my friends and peers marry. Ecstatic weddings followed by marital bliss. They settle down as newlyweds, in the cheaper suburbs of Jerusalem, in Kiryat Sefer and the South. Wedding invitations become scarce. Instead arrive the text messages announcing the birth of kids, the Brits and the Kiddushes.I visit 2 bedroom apartments, and admire their new decor. I buy baby presents, and play hide and seek with their toddlers.

I stand watching from the side. Sometimes I'm jealous, that's the ugly truth. I don't want to admit it, even to myself. I'm glad they are happy. I wait eagerly to be happy too, like them.

Life is taking over. We are growing up.

I call my friend, I know she's due to give birth, any day now. I'm surprised I haven't heard from her in a while.
Her husband answers. She can't talk now, he says. He sounds awful. "How is she?" I ask. "Is everything OK?"
And then he tells me. He tells me about the ultrasound results they got a few months back. He tells me about the physical state the baby is in now, and the emotional state she is in.

Pieces fall together. The way she cut herself off, this year, from the rest of us. The fear she must have been living through, the grief. And I thought she was self absorbed, I thought she was drifting in a hazy and blissful cloud of contentment. I hang up the phone and cry.

I finally open my eyes, and take a look around me, around my world. One friend lost a child, another's husband was injured, another is struggling with infertility. And the others, those whose lives don't run to headlines, I begin to realize they must have their struggles too.

Life is what lies beyond the diamond ring, beyond the Chuppah. Real life. Not a fairytale.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Parshat Noach: Doers and Believers

Have you ever heard a question, a question that an entire Dvar Torah rests on, and not gotten it?

Noach is the only person to be called a Tzaddik in the Tanach. (I haven't checked the sources myself, but that's what the last Yeshiva guy I dated told me. So if he's wrong, you know who to blame. )
Then Noach only enters the Ark when it starts raining heavily. Why didn't he go in before? Rashi asks. God had already told him that the world was about to be submerged, why wait around? It's because Noach was "מקטני אמונה", of the slight of faith.

But how could Noach be called a Tzaddik if he lacked faith?"

Pre-empted by the required. "I'm not the type of guy who gives Dvar Torah's on dates, but", my date-of-the-night launched into a long and convoluted explanation.

Are you in suspense? Sorry, I don't remember what the answer was. You see, I was still stuck on the question.

Why should so called lack of faith be a contradiction to righteousness? Give the guy a break, he's only human. God created the universe so that his presence is Nistar, hidden, veiled behind the material world. We have to struggle to see him, to connect.

Rav Wolbe, in Alei Shur, writes that "Emet", truth, isn't the clear and obvious. When a man swears that a tree is a tree, or a rock is a rock, the Talmud calls that a false oath. Because the shallow isn't worthy of the title truth. Emet is one of God's names. Emet is deeper, more spiritual.

I see a Tzaddik as someone who does the right thing, despite the difficulties. Someone who deep inside, and through the hazy world, knows the truth, and battles to put that truth into action.

Noach can be a Tzaddik, and still be fighting some internal battles, be working on his connection with God. That doesn't bother me.

The opposite, surface faith, casually spoken words of faith that leave you wondering what lies behind them, that's what I find disturbing.

After all, it's easy to espouse faith, especially on behalf of other people. "Hashem will help ", "Have Bitachon and your Zivug will come", and, my favorite, "I'll Daven for you."

One thing I've noticed over time. The people praying are never the people helping.

The minute I hear a Pasuk or a slogan, in response to the information that I'm "in Shidduchim", I know there's no point in continuing the conversation. I know that this person is not going to set me up with anyone. Especially not with their single son.

I thank God every day that he created another type of person in the world. People who care, who do. They may not go to as many Shiurim, or know their way as well around the book of Tehillim, but in my eyes they are the true Tzadikkim of our generation. It could be that they are praying for me as well, but they do the praying privately.

I don't think faith is the main measuring stick we are judged by. I think our deeds count too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

True Love

When you like him, he doesn't like you.

And when he likes you, you try your hardest but simply don't like him.

And then someone comes along, and you actually like him. And guess what? He seems to like you too.

And you're both so shocked, that you marry each other.

That's my grandma's take on how people get married. I'm still waiting for it to happen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

The guys I date get names. Names I use with my friends, and my family. Names they don't know about. I can never remember their real names, the Avrahams and Dovids, the Levys and Rosenbergs. I don't even try. Instead they become "the poet", "the love letter guy", "the creepy one", and so on. Sometimes they get automatic and simple names, based on the places they study- "the Hebrew U." guy, "The Machon Lev" guy, the [insert name of yeshiva here] guy.

This guy became the "Photo guy". I didn't go out with him. Instead I heard about him, heard at length of his merits and vital statistics and why he was a perfect match for me. His neighbors told me, his friends in yeshiva told me, and my friends from Seminary told me. They all thought we should go out. It was a match made in heaven.

One person however, disagreed. The boy himself. He'd seen my photo, you see. I was surprised by his reaction. Granted, no one would call me beautiful, aside for doting relatives and men making moves. I'm also not particularly photogenic, with a crooked smile, and a tendency to close my eyes when the camera flashes. Still, ugly I'm not. Surely passable enough to merit a first date?

Through the grapevine the details reached me. Someone had shown him a photograph of me on a hike, while in seminary. I haven't seen the infamous picture myself, but I can imagine it. Baggy T shirt and oldest skirt, hair in a straggly ponytail, glasses, no makeup, rivulets of sweat trailing down unmentionable parts of me. Arms around a best friend, perched on a boulder, smiling blissfully into the camera, unaware of what havoc this image would cause in half a decade.
Later they tried to rectify the mistake. They showed him wedding pictures, vacation pictures. Pictures taken five years of shopping and grooming later. Pictures taken once I was aware of the Shidduch scene I'm a part of, and the perfect image I need to present to the world at all times.
But the damage was done. The hike photo was seared into his mind, too terrifying to dismiss. He refused to meet me.

In between us they cajoled and persuaded, to no avail.

Until last week. Someone, somewhere, somehow, convinced Photo guy to check me out in person.

"Who's the date with?" My sister asks.
"The boy who thinks I'm ugly.You know, the photo guy."
"Oh, him." She remembers him. The name has stuck, months later. "Go for it girl. Knock him out."

I wear a designer suit, imported from Europe. Dressier than I usually like for dates, but if he wants style he's going to get it in bucketfuls. I risk heels, despite not knowing his height. For once I leave from home, not work, giving me the chance to soak in a long hot bath, before rubbing in yummy smelling lotions and creams, and carefully applying makeup. When I look in the mirror in the hotel bathroom, I'm pleased with what I see.

I don't know if I knocked him out, but he does want a second date. I'm satisfied. My pride is assuaged. Now I'm biting back the temptation to ask him if I look like my picture.

Pass the Parcel

"Hold on a sec. He's a twin?! And he's from ____? I think I went out with his twin brother then." "You think?! Sweetie, you don't know who you went out with?"
"Hmmm. I did hear the name, don't remember if we ever went out. So, is he like the brother?"
"Yes, totally. Except the first one is married now of course."
"Oh."
"You didn't like the brother?"
"Well he dumped me after one date. But I wasn't that keen either. I don't really want to go out with his twin. If it's the same guy."
"Maybe you should decide if you two went out or not."
"Well I did go out with some twin from there. How many twins can there be in that little town? And then someone tried to set me up with the other one when it didn't work out with the first."
"So you've been out with this one too?"
"No. Didn't want to date twins. Made me feel like something out of 'Pass the parcel'".

We went round in circles for a while. Finally I promised to look into it, just to get her off the phone. I'll ask my family if they remember him, his twin, and if we ever went out, or why we didn't .

The old Seminary friend on the phone, who married the third boy she dated, had by then come to the conclusion that I'm dopey. Try explaining to her that if I kept track of all the men I've ever been set up with, in all my years of Shidduchim, I'd be left with no room in my head for anything else. Any attempt at studying or tutoring would turn into a fiasco.

e.g. Math: " Take the number of boys I dumped, subtract the number of boys who dumped me, multiply by the number of times we went out, and you get?"
History: "Yeah we did have a history together..He even wrote me a love letter..It must have been in the year.. "
Politics: " So then his mother said…, but the rabbi said… so I told the guy…"

Anyway, back to topic. Should I go out with the twin? I really didn't like the first one.

One Shabbos lunch my hostess proudly related that her husband had an identical twin, and that she'd dated him, seriously, for a few months.
"He kept telling me I sounded like his twin". She said. "I was so annoyed. I was dating him, I wasn't interested in the twin"
Then the first one dumped her. A few months later she got a phone call "His twin is in town. Why don’t you try him? What have you got to lose? You already know what he sounds like, know what he looks like. "
She was convinced. 10 years and 6 kids later, the rest is history.

Maybe I'll try it. After all, it's a good point, I do know what he looks like, from twin #1. Assuming I did go out with #1, that is. If he becomes my brother in law I'll ask him.

Update: I pressed save and shut off the computer. An hour later the phone rang. It was my friend, sounding very apologetic, on the other side. I knew what she was going to say. I can usually tell when people are calling to say a boy isn't interested/ doesn't want to go out again. I think it's the embarrassed tone their voice takes.
Sometimes I take pity on them, and voice it for them, with a to the point "so it's not going to work, is it?". Other times I make them sweat it out.

"His parents did the finding out and they think you sound amazing." She said.

I wait for the "but".

"Then they decided the time had come to tell their son about you, before actually setting up a date."

(There are actually people out there who marry off their kids this way. Making most of the Shidduch decisions without thinking to involve their of-marriageable-age-and-hopefully-mature descendants.)

"The thing is, his immediate reaction was "Mom, but she went out with Shmuely."

I'm silent.

"So he won't go out with you. He says it would be weird."

"Nooooo." I'm screaming inwardly. "I've already written a blog post about him. Why did this have to happen now? It's going to be out of date before I've even posted it!"

"I don't actually remember his brother that well." I mildly interject. "It was one date. Two years ago"

But she's not interested. His highness has spoken. Weird to date twins it shall remain.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Primal Needs

There are three things no woman should buy herself. Flowers, perfume and jewelry.

I may build my own sukkah, fix the computer, and kill intruding cockroaches, but I do have my limits.

My subconscious mindset worked out fine when I was growing up. My father came home every week with flowers. Granted, they were usually big yellow sunflowers, when I would have preferred pastel roses, but still, flowers they were. My grandmother got out a red satin box on my annual visit, and fished out delicate gold lockets, and antique charm bracelets, which I proudly wore.

After my father died, he still managed to send me perfume.
At my 18th birthday party, when we were still in the year of mourning for him, my big sister gave me an unopened bottle of perfume, in a faded purple box.
"This is from Abba" she said.
Then she explained.
"He gave me perfume for my 18th birthday. Two bottles of the same perfume. I never understood why he gave me two identical bottles, until now. The second bottle is for you. Abba made sure you'd get your birthday present from him too."
It's not a brand that is known nowadays, and it's not a fragrance that I would have chosen myself. But on Friday nights, and when I'm missing him, I spray some on.

I graduated college, and began clocking in a full work day. The salary arrived in my bank account every month. Still, the rule didn't change. Clothes, CDs, books, yes. Items expressing affection, no. They are supposed to be received as presents from adoring males, after all.

Then one Friday night, curled up on the sofa after the meal, I noticed the living room looking bare, despite the pictures and ornaments and flickering Shabbos candles. The flowers were missing. The sunflowers.
When Thursday came around again, I gritted my teeth, and approached the flower seller on the corner, with his big plastic buckets, and stack of cellophane and rubber bands. I chose yellow roses, not sunflowers, and he wrapped them up for me. I walked to the bus staring straight ahead, not looking left or right, at my male colleagues who were also bearing bunches of flowers, for their wives.
Now I try to do it every week, on the weeks I go straight home, and not on to a date.

The final stage in my emancipation arrived at the Rosh Hashana sale. There was a necklace there I fell in love with.
"I can’t buy that" I told my friend. "It's gold."
"So?"
"It's real jewelry. I don't buy myself real jewelry."
"Why not? Treat yourself."
Indeed, why not, I realized. I pictured all the weddings, with my former classmates adorned in white gold and diamonds, gifts from their in-laws before Kollel life began. I usually wear Michal Negrin pieces, dangling colored bits of shiny glass embedded in copper. That's the only type of jewelry I think to buy myself, since it's not the real thing, in my eyes.
I look again at the necklace laid out on black velvet. I try it on. I ask the price. I hand over my credit card.

I've been getting a lot of compliments, when I wear the new necklace, and the matching earrings I got too. I'm enjoying them. All the same, I'd have preferred them to be presents, from my husband. Even though my he'll probably be in Kollel and it will be my salary footing the bill. It's the thought that counts. A basic female primal need.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Frum N' Feminist?


"Yes, I know, I know, you've told me before, you're not a feminist."
I nod. He can't see, of course. He's on the other end of the line.
"But, if you were a Chiloniya [secular], you would be a feminist. Admit it."
"If I wasn't Frum I would be a lot of things." I feel like saying. But I don't. Instead I'm silent, waiting for the barrage.
"The way you told me you 'got your brother to admit sleeping in the Sukkah is a Mitzvah for women too'. It sounds like you argued until he caved in."
I gasp. A two minute light hearted conversation with my brother while tying down the Schach has been turned into a family dispute. We actually never argue in my family, for better or for worst. We just silently disagree, and keep it to ourselves.
"I never said women have to sleep in the Sukkah. I only said it's a Mitzvah if we do. I started doing it last year. I built it, it's there empty, it's seems a waste not to use it. Besides, it's fun to sleep outdoors, under the stars.
"Fine. That's what you say. But there were other sentences too. It all adds up."
I give up. We've covered this ground so many times before. I don't want to have to justify myself any longer.
Meanwhile I go off to work, where there's a goodbye party being thrown for me (long story). My boss gives a speech, and spends what seems like forever comparing me to the Daughters of Zlofchad, to the women who come to Moshe, and ask for their father's land. He says I have their initiative, their will. A debate sparks up, on whether they were feminist, whether I'm a frum feminist. I cringe. It's a sensitive topic, at the moment.
That evening we break up. Me and the guy I like. It's over.

I think of him at the Simchas Bais Shoevas in the Meah Shearim.
"Come to Geulah." My friends say. "it's so much fun."
"Why is it fun, to watch men dance?" I wonder.
I go. There's nothing better to do. I can take photos, I figure.
Reb Aharlechs. The "best Simchas Beis Shoeva" in Jerusalem. The one you "Simply have to go to." Outside there's a sidewalk for men, and a sidewalk for women. (with Mechitzas this year, to remove the possibility of illicit glimpses across the street. From year to year they find more ways to protect the sanctity of the city).
Then I step inside.
I'll never forget the sight. Pipes and wires hang from the grey un-plastered ceiling. "Faranches", the benches Chasidim usually stand on, are pushed against the windows, against the metal grilles. The lucky women, who by pushing and shoving and climbing over each other, sheitels and suits and all, secured a place on a step, stand hunched over, craning their necks, peering between shoulders through the glass and grates. If they are lucky they can glimpse the men, dancing below.
I think my skirt was so short that I looked like a tourist, like a soul to be saved. A Chasidic woman adopts me, and pushes me forward, against the other women, to the window. She tells them to move, in Yiddish, tells them I need to see. And see I do, by standing on my toes, and leaning sideways.
I see the men, swaying below, in a large bright halls. Moving estatically to the music. Yes, it does look like fun. For them.
I can't photograph the men's section, between the heads and the shoulders and the bars. Instead I take pictures of the women's section, of the crowding, and the darkness, and, in my eyes, the lack of respect for women.
Not all Simchas Bais Shoevas are like that. In other Chareidi yeshivas there are properly built women's sections. In the Dati synagogues the women dance too, on their sides of the Mechitzah. Next year I will go to a place like that. I will pass on the pleasure of R' Aharlechs.

So maybe he was right. I do want a home, a family. I want to bake cakes for Shabbos, and play with my kids. I decided long ago that raising a happy family is my highest priority, before studies, and before a career. Yet apparently, according to Chareidim, I'm a feminist. Don't say I didn't warn you.



video

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Newest Segulah for the Shidduch Crisis

I'm halfway through my weekly attempt to murder my driving instructor, when I ask to book a lesson on the eve of Rosh Hashana .(I decided the kitchen will survive without me for an hour, seeing what a lousy housewife I am anyway)

"So we're on for next Friday?"
"Oh, sorry. I'm going to Uman."
"You're going to Uman?!"

I'm sure he's kidding. He's not Breslov, not Chasidic, not even Chareidi. This is the perennial joker, who sarcasm I never get. On second thought, maybe he's serious. It makes sense. He needs to pray for survival. It's a miracle I haven't yet killed him and me both (several near misses with lampposts, buses and helpless puppies) and I've paid him ahead for the next batch of lessons, so he can't back out.

"I'm really going. Want me to Daven for you?"

He pulls out a list, hands me a pen. "Add your name"

I look at the list of names, written in traditional plonit-bat-almonit style. I carefully print out mine at the bottom. I hesitate, considering if I should add "LeZivug Hagun" next to it, in case he doesn't know what I'm in need of prayers for. Then I see the top of the list, someone has already written "LeZivug Hagun" there, in big bold letters. We're all in need of a marriage mate, it seems.

"One of my pupils started the list", he explains, a tad embarrassed.

And so, this New Year, my driving teacher will be praying at Rav Nachman's Kever for me to find my Besherte. Only in Israel.


Of course I'd already noticed this new fad in Shidduch-Crises-Segulas.
We've done the Kotel for 40 days, done Amuka (a zivug within a year, anyone?), done Kever Rochel on Erev Rosh Chodesh.

The latest heavenly solution first became apparent when I logged into Facebook.

"Off to Uman"
"Praying by Rav Nachman"
"Breslov here we come"

The young, hip, trendy, and sophisticated, the former classmates I'm not even so friendly with because they are "more modern" than me, were all off to Uman to daven for Hubbys.

A week later their profiles were displaying photos of Park Sophia and the various rabbis' graves.

Maybe this is the solution to my single status? I discreetly inquire about pre- Rosh Hashona flights for women. However it's not to be. Women aren't welcome. I can go, but I'll then need to hide out in a rented room. Not my idea of uplifting.

Oh well, I'll just have to rely on the driving teacher. Let's hope his prayers are answered.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

If you really love me..

You'd follow me on twitter!

A while back I was wishing I could post the only status I care about on facebook.

Now I can do it! Real time updates from the life of a serial dater.

How do they know so much anyway?

"I'm not wearing my best dress. Because I'm saving my best dress for your wedding"
Says my 6 year old niece.

Sweet.

"You're so silly", her cousin says to her. "It will be too small for you by the time she's married, for sure!"

WTH? It the forecast so dismal?

"No. How can you say that? She can have a Shidduch tommorow, and bingo be married!"

Pipes up another little voice at the Shabbos table.

Thanks for the faith, darling.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Mating Ritual

Since time immemorial, an ancient mating ritual has been practiced, amongst the ultra orthodox sect of judaism, in the holy land of Israel. All details are sacrosanct. Our top investigative reporter reports back to us, below.

Time: 8 PM on the first day of summer Bein Hazmanim.

Place: The Inbal hotel lobby, Jerusalem.

A row of white cabs pull up in the traffic circle. One by one, out step the girls. Each girl is fully made up and in her finest, each is clutching a purse, and each is wished good luck, with a wink, by her respective cab driver.

The guard, standing at a wooden booth beside the potted palm trees, inspects their bags. Again they are told good luck, this time with a grin. One by one they push though the revolving door, into the heart of the Israeli shidduch scene.

Inside stand the young men. They wear black hats, and suits. They can be distinguished by their ties. Beards are optional.

They stand, by the reception desk and the souvenier display cases. The chairs are taken by groups of tourists, in T Shirts and canvas shorts, chattering loudly. They may be the hotel's paying guests, yet in fact they are the trespassers, here in this ancient mating place, during the holy pairing ritual.

For some lucky pairs, this is a second date. Or even a third one, and they are well on their way to engagement. One of these boys will immediately spot his beloved, and stride towards her confidently. She smiles up at him (or down, if she's in heels). She is in love, with this wonderful male specimen, the first man she has ever conversed with at length who is not a first degree relation. Perhaps she is not yet in love, but at least he is not a stranger to her. They have already endured the first awkward meeting, two days previously, and have succeeded in banishing the memory. They are a couple.

The others look at each other helplessly. Who is for whom? A voice may have pronounced their soulmates in the heavens, before they descended to earth, but right now, under the amused eyes of the receptionists, and the guests, it is not of much assistance. The boys are stranded, deserted, surrounded by expectant females, without their mother to turn to.

The girls are better off. Their task is easier. They are but to stand, purse in hand, eyes modestly downcast, until approached by a suitor. They try to look ornamental, elegant and refined, as they do so.

One girl stands out from the others. Under close inspection, she is not any prettier. Nor is she dressed very differently .She too wears a skirt that conceal the knees, and a sweater set, and carries a patent leather purse. Yet she stands differently. She smiles at the men who meet her eye. She finds a free sofa, and perches there, legs crossed. She should not be there, tonight. She can offer no apartment as dowry. There is no noble family tree arrayed behind her. Her own background too cannot stand under thorough investigation. Yet she has come. And she is the first girl they all approach.

"Sara?" one asks. She drifts her eyes down him, and across his girth. "No", she says.
He moves on, disappointed, hoping for better luck with the next girl.
"Tzippora?" asks another. His tie is spotted, instead of striped. Bright colors. She likes it, but not the ill fitting cut of his suit. "No", she says, and he turns away.
Around her, two by two, they pair up. And like the animals in Noah's ark, they match their steps, as they make their way around the corner, to the lounge.

She remains. As does another girl, who's now biting her nails.

The glass door begins to revolve, a long lean shadow is reflected in the marble floor. The two girls wait. One calm, the other afluster.
It is a man, a young man, suitably attired in black and white. He is alone. He gazes across, at them both.
The first girl meets his eyes, and smiles. She likes his confident stride, as he crosses the lobby to her side. "Chana Leah?" he asks. Questioning. Hopeful.
"Yes." She says.
"For you darling, I can be Chana Leah." She murmurs to herself, too quietly for him to hear.
They exit the scene. Both expectant, both pleased.

Only one girl remains behind. Chana Leah.