One Step Closer - Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev's shadchan

The tzaddik Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev had a shadchan, who would make shidduch suggestions for his sons and daughters. For every suggestion, R’ Levi Yitzchok would give him a pitak (a coin).

After some time, when the shadchan had made many suggestions and had received many coins, but the suggestions did not work out, he decided to stop going with more suggestions.

R’ Levi Yitzchok called for him and asked: Why did you stop making suggestions when

  1. The inyan itself is a lofty one for it is a “binyanadei ad” (everlasting edifice).
  2. It is included in the mitzva of AhavasYisroel, to try and help another.
  3. Especially when you made money. So why did you stop?

The shadchan replied: What’s the point when the suggestions don’t work out?

R’ Levi Yitzchok said: Even when a shidduch suggestion does not work out, there is a purpose to it. For Chazal say that forty days before the formation of a fetus, they announce Above: “the daughter of so-and-so for so-and-so,” because up Above everything is announced and all Supernal announcements provide life for the angels. Their life-force comes from this, when they hear the announcement they repeat and announce what they heard, and this sustains them.

It is known that the angels are created from the Torah and good deeds that people do, but when the Torah and mitzvos are not done for the sake of Heaven, they lack chayus, and in such cases produce maimed angels, which is why there are blind and deaf angels.

When the announcement is made, “the daughter of so-and-so for so-and-so,” and the angels repeat this, these angels mistakenly change the names and announce other names. Since everything an angel says is not for naught, the people involved cannot easily attain the real shidduch, but have to suggest those names that the deaf angels mentioned and after those suggestions are made, which do not work out since they are not the real match, they ultimately attain the real match. And so, there is a benefit even to those shidduch suggestions that do not work out because through them, one reaches the real match.

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Love At Second Sight - Rav Chaim Kanievsky

Rav Chaim Kanievsky met with an emotionally crushed young man whose face was hideously scarred.

“I can’t get a shidduch,” the young man complained, “every girl who looks at me is horrified.”

Rav Chaim gave him a bracha that his shidduchim should go easier.

“The next girl you go out with, tell her how you got those scars,” Rav Chaim advised. When he met the next girl, before talking about anything else, he told her that he has to explain something.

“I was coming home from yeshiva in the Old City and saw three Arabs cornering a little girl who was obviously terrified.

“I started screaming at them to leave the girl alone, but they turned on me and attacked me instead. I fought the three of them with all my strength, but they had knives and slashed my face."

“The little girl got away, and even after they started slashing me, I fought and I fought and they ran away. They could have easily killed me.

“I tried all kinds of surgery to get rid of the scars but I think it made it worse.”

“I know that I am horrible to look at, but Rav Chaim told me to tell the next girl I met to explain how I got these scars.”

The girl burst out in tears.

Shocked, the young man asked “Why are you crying?”

“I was that little girl.” she cried out through her tears, “You saved my life.”

As she looked him in his eyes, she could only see that handsome young man who risked his life and bravely attacked those three Arabs in order to save her.

Silently she thanked Hashem for ending her tortuous search for her lost other half and they got married soon after.

It was love at second sight.

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Divrei Chaim's Shidduch

The Divrei Chaim, popularly known as the Sanzer Rebbe, HaRav Chaim Halberstam, zt”l (1793 – 1876), was a brilliant Talmud Chacham, Torah scholar, and patriarch of many of the greatest Chassidic dynasties of present day. Even as a boy his fame grew throughout Europe. The most esteemed families sought to have him included as one of their own, through marriage. There was a problem however, a physical flaw which prospective families might not dismiss so casually, he had been born with a “club foot,” which produced an exaggerated limp when he walked.

Though only 16 years old, a “Shidduch” was made with a very prominent Chassidic family, The Divrei Chaim did not agree to meet the girl but allowed her to see him. When the “YingerRav” – the young Rebbe was passing by, she saw him for the first time and he was limping. Shocked, she immediately informed her parents that she would not marry him.

After unsuccessfully trying to convince their daughter to reconsider, her parents informed the father of the groom that this shidduch was off. He too pleaded with the bride to reconsider and when she refused, they had no choice but to tell the “YingerRav” that this was “oisshidduch” that the shidduch was called off. However, the future Sanzer Rebbe was still very interested in this Shidduch and asked that he might speak to her for a few minutes. The meeting was arranged, he entered the room for just a few minutes and when he came out, he told the two families to make the le’chaim.

Years later, after many years of a fruitful and successful marriage, the Rebbitzen passed away. At the Shiva, one of the Chassidim asked the Rebbi, “What did you say to your bride when you met privately with her?”

The Rebbe said that as soon as he entered he cited a mystical statement by ChazaL that “forty days prior to a child’s conception, a decree comes forth from Heaven saying, so and so will marry so and so. Before I was born, my Neshamah, my soul asked to see my Bashert – my predestined wife, when my soul beheld you, it sang because you were so perfect. There was, however, one physical flaw.”

“What was that?” she asked, her curiosity having been piqued.

“You had a noticeable limp; one leg was shorter than the other. I had such pain when I saw this, because otherwise you were the picture of perfection. Knowing that outward appearances play a greater role for women than for men, it troubled me that you would have to live a lifetime with this impairment. Therefore, I asked Heaven if I could be afflicted with this physical imperfection instead of you. Heaven heard my plea. They saw how concerned I was, and they gave me the club foot. I have a limp today, so that you would not, I took it upon myself, so that you would not suffer and if you refuse this marriage because of this hideous disfigurement, please take your foot back.” When my wife heard the truth of these words she changed her mind.

They were married and so began the famous Sanzer dynasty.

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Searching in the wrong places - Chazon Ish

A young woman came to the Chazon Ish crying hysterically that she is in shidduchim for two years and was rejected by everyone.

“What am I doing wrong? Am I completely worthless?” she cried in despair.

The Chazon Ish,in a warm and calm tone, told her the following:

“Suppose you are looking for the Friedman family on Rabbi Akiva Street 100. It is a four-storey building with 8 apartments. In Bnei Brak, there are rarely any numbers on the buildings and if you find the building, the mailboxes are old and rarely have names of the families listed.

“You ask around to find the right building and then walk up carefully the dimly lit staircase.

“Then what do you do?”

“I go to the first apartment, knock, and ask “Is this the Friedman family?” the girl said.

The Chazon Ish continued: “They then open the door, and say, no - it is the Itzkovitz family. Friedman lives on the 4th floor – there are two families – their door is one to the right.

“Suppose you get enraged and start crying,

“Why are you not Friedman? Why?”

“Are you crazy?” the Itzkovitz family says, “why are you crying like that?

“We are the Itzkovitz family! Friedman is upstairs. Go upstairs and you’ll find Friedman. Friedman is not here.“

“In the same way”, the Chazon Ish continued, “those other boys are not yours. Because your zivug is not by Itzkovitz. It is by Friedman. Don’t despair.There are thousands of families out there, but there is only one address for Friedman.”

When it comes to finding your Friedman, he will run to the right address to find you.

This story was recounted by Rav Menachem Stein who heard it from Rav Benzion Feldman who personally witnessed this.

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Rav Aryeh Levine on Who and When

At a vort, of a shidduch I made, a Rosh Yeshiva of Yad Ahron, Rav Wilomovsky, who I am friendly with, as we both davened in the same shteibel in the mornings for years, came up to me and with a big smile on his face, told me that this was not a good shidduch. As he frequently jokes around with me to lift my spirits, I did not know if he was serious – so I took the bait – “Look at them – how they both glow – what do you mean that this is not a good shidduch!”

Rav Wilomovsky told me that his father in law – Rav Zolty quoted Rav Aryeh Levene – that there is no such thing as a good shidduch.

This iconoclast triggered severe self-doubts so I asked – “so what are we shadchanim doing?”

With an even bigger smile on his face he delivered the punchline – “There is no such thing as a good shidduch – only a fitting shidduch – and do they fit!

A few weeks later I bumped into a childhood friend, Rav Benji Levene, the grandson of Rav Aryeh Levene and he told me that his son just got engaged a few days ago. I gave him a warm mazel tov and asked who the girl was. He told me that this son who sits and learns wanted an old Yerushalmi family so the girl was from the Fisher family – a known Yerushalmi family – Rabbonim and Dayonim. In fact, Rav Fisher lived near Rav Aryeh Levene and they knew each other.

At the vort, Rav Ahron Fisher, father of the kallah told Benji that Rav Aryeh Levene was at his bar mitzvah and promised him a present but for some reason he didn’t get it. But now he got it - Rav Aryeh Levene’s great grandson for his daughter!

I asked Benji if he heard that his grand-father, Rav Aryeh Levene said that there is no such thing as a good shidduch only a fitting one and in Benji’s inimitable style of answering a question about a story by telling another story, he told me that his father had a shul in Jersey City, New Jersey. The Chazon of this shul at the time and his wife when in Jerusalem visited Rav Aryeh Levene. They had a daughter in shidduchim. The chazon’s wife asked Rav Aryeh Levene for a bracha for a shidduch for her daughter and that he should be “mit alle maylos’ – a talmid chacham, etc.

Rav Aryeh responded that this is not how you ask.

“So how should I ask?” she asked.

You ask for the right one.

On the street a few days later, this same mother met Rav Aryeh Levene and asked for a brocha that her daughter should find the right one and it should be soon.

Rav Aryeh responded that this is not how you ask.

“So how should I ask?” she asked.

You ask for the right one at the right time.

(Told to me by Rabbi Benjamin Levene, who publicizes Lessons he learned from his grandfather the Tzaddik Rav Aryeh Levene> He aspires to promote his beloved grandfather`s spirit of love and tolerance, and from whom he gets his inspiration, to build bridges between the religious and non-religious since 1978 with Gesher.)

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Chanukah Miracle Shidduch

Unlike other Jewish holidays which are celebrated in part by at least one mandated meal, such as Purim, the Mishna Berura says that on Chanukah something should be added to the regular meals. There are two food related customs on Chanukah, one having dairy, specifically with cheese, to allude to Yael making Cicero sleepy with dairy and cheese, giving her the chance to behead that malevolent general. And there is a custom of having potato latkes fried in oil to allude to the miracle of the oil.

At least one night on Chanukah we like to have some friends over for a very oily meal not limited to just fried potato latkes. This year it was Kentucky Fried Chicken together with fried potato latkes. We invited two friends who happened to be Yismach shadchanim and their spouses and a couple who used to be a neighbor. Turns out they all knew each other over 20 years and were very happy to share the battered fried chicken which would have made Colonel Sanders proud.

In the middle of the meal, the only one not a shadchan received a phone call from a friend who was visiting Israel with her daughter. The friend had made her shidduch over 30 years ago, and wanted to get together while she was in Israel. Overhearing this conversation, I told this guest to please insist that this friend come to join the party, and with some prodding her friend acquiesced. While this friend was on the way our guest (the only one not a shadchan) confided that she went out with 168 boys and this friend who was coming was the shadchan who introduced her to her husband. On the very first meeting she knew that he was the one.

I confided that I also recognized my lost other half when I first saw my wife.

We were sharing shidduch stories when the friend and her 28-year-old daughter arrived. Since they were returning to the United States in a few days, dating someone before she went back was the furthest thing from the daughter’s mind. However, this girl had gone to the kever of the Rebbe M`Zvill on Monday, intended to go the next day Thursday, and was going to miss the following Monday but have someone to go in her stead.

Despite the fact that they said they were leaving Israel in four days, the three Yismach shadchanim at the party (including me) each thought that they had someone for her.

After talking to one shadchan at one end of the table, I asked her to move to the other end so that the other shadchan could talk with her. After I finished making the next batch of KFC, I came back to the table and I had an opportunity to talk with this unique blend of beauty, intelligence, and warmth.

My heart broke as she recounted how difficult shidduchim are for her in America. Over almost a decade in shidduchim, there was only once she met a boy five times, but invariably it was one or two meetings and both realized that they were terribly mismatched. While suggestions are still coming, they are fewer and far between.

I told her that the Chazon Ish was a shadchan and approached it as a mitzvah of returning a lost object and the way he would redt a shidduch was “If I am the shaliach and this is your chefetz – take it.”

When one finds what they lost they recognize it. I pointed out that in this room are two couples who recognized their lost other half – one her mother’s friend, where her mother had been the shadchan and me and my wife.

After talking with her, her mother told me that the daughter is very secretive about the chesed she routinely does and has personal tznius, not flaunting her achievements in career, including life-saving help of several famous rebbetzins. I gave them both my card and asked that they contact me when they get back as I am certain that some possibilities that I know in America could be a fitting match. The daughter told me that she planned to go to the Kotel the next morning, so I gave her the tefillos for shidduchim to say at the Kotel, and told her that until Zos Chanukah heavenly decrees can still be changed specifically by the tefillos of ordinary people.

One of the shadchanim was insistent that her mother meet the mother of a boy she had in mind, and set up a time for the two of them to go to the boy’s mother’s house the next morning. While the daughter was doing her rounds davening at the Kotel and the Z’vill kever, the mothers met with the shadchan and agreed to set up a date for that night.

This girl and boy both immediately felt they had found their lost other half. After the second date, the girl cancelled her flight back to the US, risking losing her job.

She met the boy every day for another four consecutive days and they got engaged.

NES CHANUKAH.

When she returned home, she wrote me

Reb Neumann!

I cannot thank you and your wife enough for being the catalyst in my meeting my chosson.

(And for that awesome food:))

You were right - when it is the right one - you know!

In my wildest dreams, I never thought such a fairy tale was possible. I trusted what you said that Chanukah night. And what do you know? It is unbelievable. הודו לה׳ כי טוב.

Thanks again for opening your home and for caring.

With much gratitude and appreciation,
The Kallah

When I asked her permission to publish this story, she asked that the names be withheld and added the back story.

Hi!

  1. A proprietor in Geulah had yelled at me last year that I must be a nudnik. Hashem wants our tefillos so that there may be a relationship. The Imahos were all Akaros for this reason. I had said I wouldn`t want to badger for anything as if it would be good for me, Hashem would send it. He argued I was wrong, and that tefilla can change everything for the good. When I came back to Israel almost a year later, I stepped into his store. He had written my name on his shtender and was davening every day for me.

    On this trip I was not in a good place. The dating situation was making me physically sick.

    I went to the Kosel and davened as I never did before in my life. I really begged. I remember leaving the plaza area feeling so much better. And then the whole Chanukah miracle unfolded.

  2. I had no intention of going to Zvill. My uncle told me I must and that he would go the last Monday for me. I was so moved that he would take that much time out of his packed scheduled for me that I went immediately.

    There is a G-d! I don`t think it is humanely possible to have orchestrated this otherwise. I was supposed to be with my sister for Chanukah, but she insisted she would survive and I should please go to our other sister in seminary in Israel instead.

    There were a lot of `supposed to be`s. Bottom line, the Eibeshter takes care of us. This has been a tremendous lesson to me about the power of tefilla and how Hashem loves us and takes care of us.

Thanks again for opening your home and starting all this. May Hashem bless you and your beautiful family with all the brachos in the world.
The Kallah

From my point of view, from the sidelines, it was the hand of Hashem. Her mother made my guest’s shidduch and now this guest was instrumental in making her daughter’s shidduch.

Look at every decision point in this story and compute the odds, statistically so unlikely to be virtually impossible.

As the Chazon Ish says, these days you rarely see the hand of Hashem, except in shidduchim.

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Chazon Ish Shidduch from Beyond

The Chazon Ish, while not blessed with children of his own, was an inveterate shadchan.

Reb Yaakov Shechter came to the Chazon Ish for advice on a Shidduch suggestion for his daughter. He told the Chazon Ish that while the bochur learns seriously, he found out that during bein hazmain, he has a job. Rav Shechter told the Chazon Ish that he wants for his daughter a boy who is only immersed in Torah learning.

The Chazon Ish asked him: “How about the Ilui from London?”

Rav Shechter never heard about this Ilui but he was very intrigued by the suggestion. As it was close to Shabbos the meeting was cut short.

That Friday Night, 15th of Cheshvan, 5714, the Chazon Ish suddenly was nifter.

At the levayeh of the Chazon Ish, Rav Shechter despaired that that the Chazon Ish’s last Shidduch suggestion, the “Ilui from London” would never come to fruition as it was thrown out without a name.

“If the Chazon Ish suggests a shidduch, it is not something to be taken lightly.”, he thought to himself.
After the hesped, Rav Shechter started to ask around if anyone knew who the ilui from London was. One of the people he asked told him – “You see that tall bochur over there?”

Rav Shechter immediately ran over to him and introduced himself:

“I visited the Chazon Ish Erev Shabbos and he thought that you may be a good match for my daughter.”

“I know” responded Moshe Shternbuch “The Chazon Ish called me to England a few minutes before Shabbos about the suggestion and I am very interested.”

Shortly thereafter Jaffa, the daughter of Reb Yaakov Shechter, married Rav Moshe Shternbuch who is now the head of the Eida Chareidi and who is the Av Bes Din of the Beit Din Tzedek of the Eida Chareidi, and who for decades articulated the chareidi position for the public.

*This story was recounted to me by someone who was a neighbor of Rav Schechter’s granddaughter and this neighbor recounted this to him.

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A Chasid's Shidduch Tale

The Dubner Magid was once asked how his stories always so exactly hit the mark, illustrating exactly through stories and analogies the specific point he wished to make.

The Dubner Magid answered this with a story.

An archer never missed the bulls eye. You can go into the woods and find one arrow lodged exactly in the center of the bull’s eye painted on each tree. How did he do it?

Simply, he shot the arrow at a tree. Wherever it landed, he drew a bull’s eye around the arrow.

I am not the Dubner Magid. I possess neither the breadth or depth of his Torah learning, but there are things I want to say to those in shidduchim that would be too painful to say directly. I can only draw from experiences to spin the yarn which makes a message palatable.

I knew a Viznitzer chassid who confided his shidduch experience. His very wealthy father in Europe had him learn in a cheder and then in Yeshivas where he spent his childhood and adolescence immersed in Torah away from the family.
After one Shabbos, his father arrives in his limousine and tells the son that they are going to a melave malka. When the son started to go with him, his father told him, no put on that suit, that hat, etc. They went to visit a family which hosted a meal and suddenly just before dessert both father’s said – let’s get some air – but this boy’s father told the boy to stay at the table. Everyone left except for this boy and at the other end of the table a girl. As he never spoke with a girl, not one word was exchanged during the almost 5 minutes that everyone went outside for a little air, giving the opportunity for the dinner plates to be cleared and desserts put on the table.

After the meal, the boy goes with his father into the limousine and the father says “Nu?”

And the boy says: “Nu what?”

“Nu – do you want to marry her or not?”

“What? How can I know? – I did not know what to say so I did not say anything to the girl.”

So the father went to the Viznitzer Rebbe to ask permission for a second “beshow” - this one and only meeting a boy has with the girl before the chuppah.

As the father was a highly respected chasid and a generous benefactor – the Rebbe’s gabai did not make him wait but ushered him to the Rebbe right away.

“I want to ask the Rebbe for a permission for a second beshow.”

“What?” The Rebbes eyes widened with shock. “Why?”

“My son was raised in this yeshiva where he had no contact with any girls, even his sisters and he did not say one word to the girl during the almost five minutes they were alone. So he doesn’t know her at all! How can he decide if he wants to marry her?”

The Rebbe pointed to the kitchen, “I am with the Rebbetzin forty and five years, and I still don’t know her. Another 5 minutes – and your son will yeah know her?”

“So” this chasid continued “We got married.”

“I davened before turning 18” he elaborated “that Hashem should put into my father’s head the right shidduch the very first time.”

"So you are happily married?” I probed.

“if you are a chasid, you are happy.”

“If you get married, you are happily married.”

Unspoken Message

Counterintuitively, studies show that the less you know about someone, the more likely you are to marry them. A recent internet dating site temporality made it impossible to see pictures of each other. In this experimental trial, they found that there were more dates, the conversations were deeper and more deeply satisfying and open. Other studies show that one element critical to sustaining satisfying relationships is novelty, constantly being pleasantly surprised, and keeping the relationship dynamic. It is the boring, highly predictable, stale relationships that degenerate.

There is a wide spectrum between being confined to a single “date” that lasts less than 5 minutes, and the hour to hour and a half first date, and thereafter the numerous hours that is acceptable in “yeshivish” circles. Even Rav Shternbuch of the Eida Chareidi writes that the parents should do intensive checking before the first date so that by the 3rd or 4th date the couple should know whether it is matim or not.

Indubitably those in shidduchim are sick of shadchanim telling them “Stop being so picky” or worse that unconscionable barb “What do you mean – you are not feeling it!”

In the unadulterated Chasidishe insular society there still exits the wholesomeness, innocence, trust, and unbridled enthusiasm to invest their all in their marriage.

Those of us who were unable to live in a bubble live in an adulterated society where marriage is more and more perceived an albatross around the neck where in the newspeak reformulation of marriage – the new legal term is partner.

“To Know Him is to Love Him” is neither a sufficient nor necessary ingredient of a stable lasting deeply loving relationship. Rather, it is the constant surprises, the mystique, mystery, and novelty that makes a relationship constantly interesting and fresh.

So the unspoken message of this story is trust Hashem, take a breath, and dive off the high board into the unknown and unknowable abyss of the vast vicissitudes that your relationship can take you. My father used to say “Marriage is like chulent – each week you put in the same ingredients and sometimes it comes out one way and sometimes another way.” Must be an old Yiddish platitude.

Yismach whose sole purpose is expediting shidduchim – hopefully each a happy satisfying marriage - hinges on the truism – “ישמח לב מבקשי ה`.

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