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September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
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The Tenth Man

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I know what you’re thinking. You have already concluded that this is one of those heartwarming stories about the anonymous tenth man who completes a minyan in some far-off region, under mysterious, if not downright miraculous, circumstances. Likely as not, he turns out to be Eliyahu Hanavi.

I love those stories. They leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy and starry-eyed. This is not one of those stories. But it is about the tenth man. More accurately, it is about several of them.

My father was the tenth man that my mother dated. Twenty years later, my older sister married her tenth as well. And many years after that, my kid sister married her tenth too. Somewhere in- between, I embarked on “the parshah.” That is what this story is about.

As hard as we try to keep our “files in order” and not overlap bachurim we are slated to date, sometimes, despite our most sincere efforts and intentions, the opposite occurs. We chalk this up to the reality of “The best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go awry” and make the best of the situation. This happened at least once during my older sister’s dating career, and once during mine.

Unfortunately, my tandem-dating mix-up occurred when I had reached my ninth and tenth potential dates. I was spooked. The magic number ten was up for grabs, and I felt totally powerless to determine who would seize it. I had responded in the affirmative to a shidduch suggestion, but some time had elapsed and I had not yet heard from the boy. So when another promising shidduch was offered, I again answered in the affirmative.

That is the perfectly logical and innocent reason that both boys phoned on the same day – within minutes of each other. Boy number nine sounded very nice over the phone. He was reputed to be a fine bachur, a budding talmid chacham, and an all around mensch. Besides, I was assured that he actually had personality and a keen sense of humor. We had a nice conversation and arranged to meet the following Sunday.

I had barely returned the phone to its base when it rang again. This time, the conversation did not go as smoothly. The boy was taken aback when I informed him that, contrary to what the shadchan had said, I was not in fact available to go out with him on Sunday. I offered some lame excuse about beginning a computer course on Monday morning, which was true but not particularly convincing as far as being busy on Sunday was concerned. Then, I am not quite sure whether the phone connection was poor, my enunciation was abysmal (my father would definitely vote for that one) or a combination of the two, but he asked me to repeat virtually every word I said, including my hard-to-pronounce home address. Eventually, we set our first date for the following Sunday.

I hung up, overwhelmed by a feeling of utter frustration. Although this bachur was apparently a tremendous masmid and a first cousin of my brother-in-law’s outstanding chavrusah, the conversation had left much to be desired. Worse yet, by some freak accident, he was number ten! A mere few minutes may have changed my destiny forever. Well, there was nothing to be done about it now. The die had already been cast.

Fast forward to Sunday. The day dawned bright and sunny, and my date and I enjoyed a pleasant afternoon of soaking in the sunshine while getting acquainted. The young man appeared to be everything the shadchan had promised, and he was easy on the eyes too. He asked me for a second date and I accepted. However, he was a bit surprised when I told him that I would not be available to go out with him the following Sunday as he had hoped. We set the date for Monday evening instead.

Are you still with me? Now, we skip to the next Sunday – and my date with number ten.

This time the day was overcast, and the young man arrived carrying a large umbrella. Undeterred by the gloomy skies, however, we traveled by subway to Central Park and spent a total of nine hours getting to know one another. (I guess this bachur had neglected to read the rulebook.) Despite the unencouraging start during our initial phone conversation, the date was incredible. The boy was smart, witty, charming and nice looking. The hours flew by and we barely made it back home before my concerned parents had put out an APB! In a word, I was smitten.

He asked me out for a second date and I eagerly agreed to see him the following Sunday. All was well with the world.

Except for one thing. I still had a date with number nine scheduled for the following evening. We went out, but my heart was not in it. Although the boy was just as lovely as he had been on our first date, the mood was not right, and we decided not to continue seeing one another.

Back to number ten. We spent the entire Sunday together, and had a fabulous time. Ditto the next Sunday. And the next. I think you get the general idea.

To make a long story somewhat short, the rest is history. I ended up marrying number ten after all.

Now we really have to fast forward, as much has transpired in the interim.

My number ten date and I recently celebrated our lev (32nd) anniversary, kein yirbu, and are the proud parents of ten beautiful children, kein ayin hara, and half a dozen grandchildren, kein yirbu.

After more than three decades and many shared experiences together – some challenging, but most wonderful – our phone conversations remain by far the weakest link in our relationship. Truth to tell, I still have not learned to enunciate – and now our hearing is going as well!

But I can live with that. As far as I am concerned, my tenth man is most definitely, absolutely, positively a ten!

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