Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I don’t know where to begin, but if you count deja vu as a valid starting point, well then this heartache began over forty years ago. So please forgive any confusion you may have in my relating to you what I am going through and, perhaps, find words of comfort and practical advice as to how we can move forward from this great sadness.
As I sit here, holding my twenty-one-year-old granddaughter in my arms, we are both weeping. Her room is littered with wedding finery for the event that was supposed to take place last Sunday, along with the wedding gown hanging listlessly on the back of her closet door. That gown will not serve its purpose but will be given to a gemach and will make another kallah the princess of her simcha. No words pass between my grandchild and myself, because no words will do justice to the pain and the disappointment we feel, no words to bring comfort, no reason or rationale as to why this beautiful, sweet young woman must endure such grief and shame. And no one can understand her pain as well as I do.
She got engaged five months ago, after going out with this young man and after three dates, she was totally smitten with him. The shadchanim (one from her side and one from his) were thrilled that in spite of the Covid restrictions the shidduch seemed to take no time at all to go from 0 to 100 and were instrumental in the making such a quick jump to the engagement. At first glance, everything seemed wonderful, this was her fourth shidduch candidate, and he came with glowing credentials, top of his class in yeshiva, almost done with college and working towards a law degree, good family roots respected in their community. Sounds great, no? So why wait? Let’s start planning the wedding.
My daughter was so excited, this being her eldest child and only daughter and the first wedding amongst her children. She was overjoyed that it had come so easy, great bocher, wonderful machitanim, amazing chemistry between the potential ‘chosson and kallah’ from their first meeting. It was all just too perfect. So, what went wrong, you ask? Early last week, the first day of the schmeirah week, six days before the wedding was to take place, my son-in-law received an anonymous phone call from Israel, from a very credible source, who warned him to step away from this shidduch. The ‘wonderful,’ brilliant young man who was about to marry my grandchild was a drug addict, a thief who had sat in prison for stealing from his friends to feed his drug addiction and who’s father had paid huge sums of money to have his records sealed and his reputation wiped clean. He provided my son-in-law with names of people who were privy to this and could provide irrefutable proof of the things he was telling him. After immediately getting in touch with them, my son-in-law was shocked to find that everything this informant told him was true. Three days before the wedding, everything was called off, the engagement ring returned, guests called about the cancellation, vendors informed and my poor daughter and grandchild almost destroyed by what had happened.
Who is to blame for this unforgivable turn of events, the shadchanim? Perhaps, even though they claim up, down and across that neither of them had any knowledge of those events. My daughter and son-in-law who trusted those who spoke for the honor of the other side? Maybe, only for their trust in the judgment of others and not having done their own deep digging into this family. My granddaughter, who’s heart is shattered into a million pieces? Certainly not! She is the one suffering the most.
As I hold her close to me, I recall my own grief almost forty years ago, when I was about to attend my own vort. There had been a growing, gnawing feeling in my gut after having read one of your early columns in The Agunah Chronicles, which bore all of the red flags and danger signs of impending danger. Who knew anything about ‘controlling issues,’ ‘anger issues,’ ‘disrespect issues,’…….yet, after reading the letter and your answer, it was me that could have written that letter! I saw myself in every sentence, and what you replied to that girl gave me the courage to end my engagement before it ever began! My parents were mortified, they thought I lost my mind and that my chances for ever marrying would be obliterated by the shame, never forgave me fully for my actions. But it mattered little because not four months after, I met my bashert and have a wonderful, loving and caring marriage b’H while news of the fellow I shunned told of three marriages and divorces and a multitude of children who have no relationship with their father. Last I heard, he had vanished and no one has seen or heard of him for quite a few years.
This is why I write to you now, you saved me then, your words brought clarity along with the pain of what I needed to do, I need your help now as to how to walk my grandchild through this agonizing time.
First, let me give you mazel tov on the fact that your grandchild and her family were saved from the very jaws of destruction in the nick of time! This young woman was spared a lifetime of misery moments before she stepped into that gown and walked towards it. Whoever this malach was that reached out to you in the eleventh hour, and informed you of the real and dangerous grief that awaits at the wedding venue, was sent by The Great Power that watches over us all and spared her.
You have the greatest tool to turn everyone’s sadness around. Share your own story with them, especially your granddaughter, and show her how, through your own experience of almost falling for the wrong choice, your life is a testament that all this sadness and pain is truly a reason for gratitude and relief that she has been spared untold pain and torment in the future. Let your journey be the proof that the world didn’t end, in fact, it made way for your true happiness. Let your marriage be a role model for all your family that sometimes, we have to undergo so much torment and agony before we can prepare to receive the true joy and love that was meant for us.
In what appears to be the saddest moment, please have faith that there is a greater, more wonderful zivug waiting for her and that her life will be filled with happiness, just as yours became. I wish her all that is healing and to tell her that her heart will find peace, tranquility and joy in time. For the moment, she must mourn and deal with her pain in the loving, soothing and supportive company of her devoted family. Should she wallow in this sadness for an extended, unreasonable length of time, she may need counseling to help her find her way back.
As much as things have changed for the better in trying to make young people aware of what to look out for during the dating dance, and there are so many red flags, warning bells and whistles to raise awareness of things to watch out for even today, that I will always take the opportunity to bring this to light and hope it helps those in the parsha steer away from making the mistake of a lifetime.