How do you offer to help someone save money, when you’re not sure they were even thinking of buying something?
It’s a tricky situation and one I found myself in when my youngest daughter got engaged.
There is a minhag in Israel, not universally accepted but quite common, for the chatan to give the kallah a diamond ring in the cheder yichud after the chuppah.
Sometimes the kallah will know if she’ll be given a ring because she might go with the chatan to choose it before the chatuna, but often it is a surprise and the ring is chosen by the chatan’s mother or sister.
Shortly after my youngest daughter, Bracha, got engaged, my mother was niftar. My three sister and I had always been very close and after the shloshim, we had gone through our mother’s possessions quite amicably choosing items our mother had used and treasured, and things we fondly remembered from our childhood home, to take back with us to our families.
Among her possessions was a brooch made up of a few small diamonds. We weren’t sure what to do with the brooch as none of us would have actually worn it as it was. Its style was a very old fashioned and none of us is the type to wear diamond brooches anyway. There didn’t seem any point in having the diamonds removed and each of us taking one; what would we do with it?
Then I had an idea. I asked my sisters if they would mind if I gave one of the diamonds to Bracha and her chatan. It would save his family buying a diamond and I knew my daughter would be thrilled to have something from her Grandma. They could just choose whatever setting they wanted.
Everyone was very happy with this idea and we decided to offer the other diamonds to our other children.
But later on when I started to think about my idea I suddenly hit a snag. What if our future mechutanim had no intention of buying a ring? I knew that their finances were severely limited and I didn’t even want to give the impression that I assumed they would be buying Bracha something.
But if they were considering it, then I definitely wanted them to know that they wouldn’t have to pay for the diamond. I asked Bracha what she thought I should do. She didn’t want me to mention it unless I was sure that they intended to buy her a ring. She desperately didn’t want them to be embarrassed if they had never even considered it.
Could she ask her chatan? No, he probably wouldn’t have any idea as he was in yeshiva all the time and had very little to do with the wedding plans and discussions.
So I seemed to be stuck. The best I could do was to ask Bracha to tell me if her future mother-in-law asked her to come with her to choose “something” before the wedding.
“What and then I’ll just produce this diamond from out of my hat like a magician waiting for his turn to perform. C’mon Mum I can’t.”
I seemed to be stuck for ideas on how to get round this. The wedding plans progressed and each time we met with the mechutanim I tried to listen out to see if I could hear any hints as to whether they were thinking of getting the ring.
One morning, just two weeks before the wedding, my cell phone rang. It was my mechutenista.
“Oh Penina, how are you. I’m sorry to bother you. I intended to ring Bracha but I must have got your numbers confused.”