Of late your articles have focused on serious world issues. I feel a little silly bothering you with my personal concerns – but sometimes personal issues are the world.
I am writing to you about a familiar crisis – the shidduch situation. I have a daughter who is 24. She’s truly a beautiful girl and full of chesed. She helps children with special needs in addition to working full time as a physician’s assistant. She’s a devoted daughter and granddaughter and a loving sibling to her sisters and brothers.
Additionally, she doesn’t have a jealous bone in her body. All her friends are married and have children. She went to all their weddings with a smile on her face. No bitterness; no anger. I know, though, that in her heart she had much pain and worry.
I found her one night weeping profusely. “What’s wrong, honey?” I asked her.
“Don’t worry,” she answered. “I just get sad sometimes.” I understood. Too often in shul and in social and family circles we meet single women ranging in age from 20 to 60 (and older). They go to work, they go out to dinner, they have a circle of friends – but they share the same pain and carry the same scars. They’ve never had the joy of establishing a family life – of holding their own babies in their arms, of seeing them grow up, of taking them under the chuppah. My daughter feared becoming one of them.
A few months ago a friend recommended to us a young man who seemed to be a good marriage candidate. He was 26 and came with good credentials. Everyone had the most favorable things to say. He was learning in the evenings but was also working. We met with his parents and with happy hearts talked about our children getting married.
My daughter was glowing. I never saw her so happy. We went to look at halls. We set a wedding date. And then, two days before the wedding, the young man’s rabbi visited us. We were honored to have him as a visitor. But as we sat down at the table he said he had something painful to discuss with us. My husband and I looked at each other. The rabbi looked so troubled.
Slowly he began to speak.
“Sometimes we have great disappointments in life, disappointments that are difficult to overcome.” With every word he spoke, I became more and more anxious.
“Jonathan [not is real name] has some difficulties,” the rabbi continued. “He came to me yesterday and spilled out his heart. He asked that I come to see you.”
“What difficulties?” I asked.
“I know this won’t be easy, but he just cannot go through with the wedding. He asks that you forgive him. He does not want to hurt your daughter. It would be too agonizing for him to come to your house and say this directly, so he sought my help. He felt I could better explain his predicament.”
My husband and I looked at him dumbfounded. We could not believe what we’d just heard. How could this be? It was two days before the wedding. Everything was ready to go. The music. The menu. The dresses. The suits.
We thought we were having a nightmare. But this was not a nightmare from which one awakens. This was reality.
Our daughter had been so excited. She was constantly on the phone with her friends, sharing with them every detail of the upcoming chassunah. How would we be able to break the news to her?
“I wish,” said the rabbi, “that I could offer you some wise advice. I know that whatever I say right now will be of little comfort to you. But if a young man is so unstable, so troubled, that he could do such a thing, it’s better to find out now rather than later.”