As told to Reva Pomerantz
Based on a true story
If it hadn’t happened to me I would never believe that a story like this could be 100% true. But it did, and it is. So without further ado, let me tell you exactly what happened…
You know when you’ve just “had it,” when you’ve reached the end of your rope, and if you don’t get out and let off some steam you’re just going to explode? Well, that was me, this Chol Hamoed Sukkos. Between taking care of three married couples and their jetlagged children, cooking, serving, and cleaning up for what felt like five hundred four-course meals, and hearing my teenagers whine about how hungry and bored they were, I was done. As in Done. And I knew just whom to call.
“Mirel,” I croaked into the phone. “You gotta help me.”
“Who’s this?” Mirel asked suspiciously. There was a short pause as I struggled to gather enough energy to even pronounce my name. “Devoiry? Don’t tell me it’s you.”
I could only nod. Mirel instantly sized up the situation.
“Film. Tonight. Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation,” she commanded. “I’ll pick you up at nine.”
I didn’t even know how I would make it from the couch, which I had collapsed on, to the front door, never mind into her car.
“I’ve heard good things about this,” Mirel assured me as we waited in line for tickets. “It’s called Outside the Camp. My friend said it was very inspiring. Just what you need.” She winked. “And don’t you dare fall asleep or I’ll tickle you.”
“Very funny,” I snorted, surreptitiously taking a large gulp of Pepsi Max to try to convince my eyes to open. “If I snore, just give me a little shake,” I told her. “Honestly, at this point I think the best medicine would be a good shluff.”
“You’ll get that afterwards.” Mirel settled me into my seat and plopped down next to me. “Turn off your cellphone. You’re not available to anyone.”
“Sounds wonderful.” I needed no further convincing. Just then the show began.
I have to admit, I didn’t have very high expectations. I’m one of those people who occupy the “peanut gallery.” Most of the stuff out there is too melodramatic, takes too long, and those saccharin-sweet endings just make my eyes roll. So I was all set to get some shut-eye while a packed auditorium watched the show. Instead, I found myself riveted to my seat.
“So? How was?” Mirel asked, blowing her nose in a rare display of emotion.
“Uh…it was good. Very good,” I said, pretending that the tear in the corner of my eye was a speck of dust. “Moving.”
“That’s for sure. What a powerful message,” she said, as we drove home. “Now you have strict orders from Lieutenant Mirel: Bed. Immediately.”
I fully intended to obey her blessed instructions, but as I staggered into the house my husband had other plans.
“How was the performance?” he asked.
“Nice,” I mumbled, kicking off my shoes. “Very good.”
“What was it about?”
I turned to him, my eyebrows scraping the bangs of my sheitel. If there’s one thing Yankel couldn’t care less about it’s these “women’s shows.”
“You’re suddenly interested?” I was tempted to say, but I bit my tongue. If he wanted to make polite conversation why should I quash it?
“It was a great play,” I told him. “Basically, the story is about two high school friends. One of them is chosen to be valedictorian and the second one is jealous. At the graduation, she makes some kind of offhand comment about her friend like ‘she didn’t get there on her own,’ implying that this valedictorian got some kind of help or cheated or something. Well, this lady in the audience picks up on the comment and tells someone else about it and, the story goes around and gathers steam until this valedictorian gets some kind of name as not having the best track record. Fast forward and the girls are in shidduchim and the second one gets married but the first one, all her shidduchim get derailed. Somehow, at the last minute, after everything checks out, they suddenly hear this rumor that in high school she wasn’t so b’seder and she gets dropped every single time.” I waved my hand wearily. “They somehow get to the bottom of it and the friend finds out that she was the one who let that comment drop and she can’t believe it had such a catastrophic effect.” Now I could hardly get a word out between yawns. “Gotta go to sleep,” I mumbled. “Good night.” “Wait a second,” he said, in a funny tone of voice. I stopped at the staircase. “What about Esti?”
“Esti?” I rubbed my forehead, trying to force my brain to function. “Who’s Esti?”
“Esti,” my husband said patiently, lowering his voice. “You know—the shidduch for Meir.”
“Ohhhhh.” I think I actually may have gasped. My mind turned on big-time, and my eyes flew wide open. “Are you serious?”
“Isn’t it the same kind of situation?” he asked. “I mean, you’ve been hearing wonderful things about her from everyone, and we were about to go through with the shidduch when suddenly, poof! Out of nowhere, we get this strange piece of information that doesn’t seem to fit in at all with the rest of the picture. I mean, in this film you saw, what happened in the end? Did people try to verify the rumor? Did they find out that it wasn’t true?”
It was a good question. And as my stomach churned I realized I didn’t have a very good answer.
“Um, not really,” I admitted slowly. “Now that you mention it, that is kind of strange. I mean, if everything checks out and the girl sounds wonderful and then a rumor pops up, why wouldn’t the parents look into it? Check it out? Call the girl’s teachers and see? It should have been easy to check…”
Yankel gave me one of those looks that says, “Uh huh. And what do you have to say about that?!”
I reddened. “We-e-ell,” I protested, “I mean, I did sort of try to verify whether she had a hard time in seminary, but…” “But what?” He could be very persistent.
“Uh, but the person who told me that piece of information wasn’t even sure whom to call to verify about it. I mean, the seminary has a new principal now and I guess I could have called up the eim bayit but…y’know….calling Eretz Yisrael…the time difference…” I stopped, feeling silly.
Yankel gave a little shrug, which I interpreted to mean, “You know what to do next.”
“Lots of hashgachah pratis here, in my estimation. In the film and also in the whole timing of your watching it…” He wasn’t giving up. “And by my estimation, if you stay up for another hour it’ll be 8 a.m. Israeli time. On Hoshana Rabbah people get up early, I’m sure.”
And that’s how it happened that three weeks later I called up my best friend Mirel, my voice bursting with excitement.
“Mirel,” I sang out, “My son Meir is engaged.” I paused dramatically. “And guess who the shadchan is.” I didn’t give her a chance to respond. “You!”
If I had sounded strung out on Sukkos, now Mirel thought I was really headed for the loony bin.
“You got the wrong number, Devoiry,” she told me with a chuckle. “I never redt a single shidduch for your Meir. But mazel tov nonetheless! That’s great news!”
“No, no,” I broke in. “Listen. You gotta hear this story…”