Monday, June 22, 2009

Somewhat disappointing. VERY ironic. In other words, my life.

Last Thursday night, my friend Sheera urged me to go see HaRav Elazar Mordechai Kenig. A Very Important Rabbi. I assumed he was, or otherwise she wouldn't tell me to go see him. I had never heard of him.

But Sheera davened for me in Uman, so I love her and trust her. She told me to say I'd gone to Uman, but that didn't seem really fair, since I never left New York. I called the person who was arranging appointments, got the address where the Rav was entertaining visitors, and made an appointment for Thursday night.

Thursday morning I panicked because I couldn't find a single summer-weight top that wasn't somewhat low-cut. Apparently I just don't do crew-necks. I do vee-necks, and scoop-necks, with varying degrees of decolletage. It was too warm for a turtleneck. I finally put on one of my few blouses -- I mostly wear stretchy fabrics these days -- and buttoned it up all the way to my neck. Stupidly, I wore a knee-length skirt that hiked an inch above the knee when I sat down.

I had to take a subway and a bus to meet with the Rav. I never take the bus in Brooklyn. Clearly I'm desperate.

My appointment was set for eight. When I got to the lovely and well-appointed house, a young man was sitting in the living room. The Rav was in the study with another visitor, who soon came out. The young guy -- couldn't have been more than 21 -- went in. I waited, reading The Garden of Emuna.

After about 20 minutes, the kid emerged and it was my turn. I went in with the guy who made the appointment, since the Rav speaks Hebrew and Yiddish, while I barely understand either.

"I want to get married," I told him, giving him my Hebrew name. "I'm 39, and I want to get married and have children."

Pause. The Rav wrote something down, looked at me and said something in Hebrew.

"Is there anything else?" asked the interpreter.

"I have very bad health," I said. "I want better health. I have very bad luck. I was hit by a car erev Shemini Atzeret. On my way to shul."

The Rav began speaking, while the interpreter struggled to keep pace.

"Everything comes from Hashem," said the Rav. "Health, livelihood, a shidduch, patience. You must pray to him." He used the Yiddish word "beten," which means "beg."

"That sounds like what I'm reading," I said, showing him the book. The interpreter told him I was reading it, using the Hebrew title. The Rav nodded.

"I understand that," I said. "But I've been begging to get married for 16 years."

The Rav spoke again; the interpreter summarized. "You must beg, with tears, not with anger," he said.

I'm still single because I'm angry that I'm single?

"Besoros tovos," said the Rav. Good tidings. I was dismissed. It took about five minutes. I handed him a check. I believe in Sheera, but I don't know if I believe in the Rav.

The house was nowhere near any subway station -- which is why I had to take a bus to get there -- but a mere hop, skip, and jump away from my good friend... ET. Who has a car. And was feeling very guilty about leading me on. It was a chill and drizzly night, and I decided to call him to get a ride to the train station.

ET agreed with alacrity, and promised he'd be there in five minutes. I stood leaning on a streetlight. Something soft brushed my calf. I jumped: a big gray cat looked up at me. Whew. I squatted down to pet it, still holding my cell phone.

"Got a cigarette?"

I looked up and saw a shortish, swarthy man.

"No," I said. "I don't smoke." I stood up.

"I saw you holding your cell phone... I thought it was a cigarette," he said. "Are you on the job?"

"On what job?"

"You're not a cop?" he asked.

"I'm a social worker," I laughed. Why would a cop be hanging on the corner in dead-quiet suburban Brooklyn? I bent down to pet the cat again.

He changed the topic. "What would you name him? It's a him, I think, no? He looks like a male."

"I don't know," I said. "Smoky?"

"And what's your name?" he asked. Smooth. I told him.

"What are you doing out here?" he asked.

"Waiting for my friend to pick me up," I said.

"Is he a jealous friend?" he asked.

"He has no reason to be," I said, chuckling. "What's your name?"

"Brian," he said.

"Really?" I asked. He didn't look like a Brian. "Where are you from?"

"I was born here," he said, "but my parents are from Chechnya. Yes, that Chechnya, where the war is."

He looked kind of Jewish, but not religious. He wasn't wearing a yarmulke. But how great a coincidence is it that I ask a major Rav for help finding a husband and a man starts talking to me on the street?

"Are you married?" he asked. Is he psychic too?

"No," I said.

"Why not?" he asked. He stepped back to look me up and down and stepped on the cat.

"RROWR!" said the cat, running away. I doubled over laughing. As I straightened up, ET pulled up in his car.

"Gotta go," I said.

"What's your phone number?" asked Brian. What the heck. I gave it to him and stepped into the car.

"Are you hungry?" asked ET.

"A little..." I said.

"Will you come have something to eat if I drive you home?" he asked.

Now that's an offer I can't refuse. So we went to Kosher Delight. As ET debated between a double beef burger and a pastrami burger, I got a text message from Brian:

Do you drink?

That's a little forward.

Are you Jewish?

I responded. He responded in the affirmative.

Are you Shomer Shabbos?

was my next question.

No im jewish in my heart, thats more than sabbas

he wrote. Well, not to me, unfortunately.

Sorry, I am

I wrote. But a guy who propositions random women on the street is not so easily deterred:

Well its thursday, sabbas 2 nights away, let me come over, i dont come to NY often. I like u alot right away. What time do you need to get up tomorr ?

Okay, that's just inappropriate. Which I called and told him, and told him not to call or text me anymore. Second disappointment of the night. The men who hit on me are never frum. Or my age.

But I had a good conversation with ET, and we're going to manage being friends just fine. By which I mean: I'm going to manage being friends just fine. To be honest, he has a lot more energy than I do. Partly from the age difference, but in general, he's like the Energizer bunny on crack. He's out every day of the week doing things with his friends. I like to sit at home. So I doubt that I could keep up with him, long-term.

After ET drove me home, I got another message from the guy Ziva set me up with, DK. Since it wasn't too late, I called him back. And we had a great conversation until... I found out he's not shomer shabbat either. And when we went out Sunday night, he made it clear that he's not sure if he'll ever be shomer shabbat. Disappointment #3.

I came home and emailed Ziva:

DK is a nice person. But I do not understand why you would urge me to read The Garden of Emuna, then introduce me to someone who is not shomer shabbat and not sure he will ever be fully shomer shabbat. I admire the progress David is making in his learning, and I am sure he has a strong Jewish identity. However, I am not comfortable going out for coffee and being asked if I will have a salad, or if I mind if he has a salad, when the only kosher items in the restaurant are coffee and some of the cakes.

I need to be with a husband who will give me chizuk and strengthen my emuna as well as my practice. DK, nice as he is, is not the man to do that. I am trying very hard not to think that you set me up with him largely because, like him, I was not raised frum. I would like to think that my 20 years of shmirat shabbat count for something.

I wrote it Sunday night, went to sleep, re-read it and sent it today. She responded:

I have a rule when I do my matchmaking. Usually if the woman is stronger than the guy, I will try to set them up anyway because usually men follow women's lifestyle and women are capable of influencing men to grow.... In the last year I matched 2 couples that the wives were stronger religiously and they got married and the men become stronger... DK has great characteristics and he is a very nice man.

However, if you think that DK isn't a good match for you and in your case you want him to be stronger because you don't feel that you can help someone else to grow, don't pursue it. Move on and try someone else... Matchmakers are human! We only try the best that we can. We never know if it would click or not. thank you for keeping me posted I will try to look for someone else for you. Stay strong. Besorot Tovot soon.

I felt somewhat mollified, although disappointed. I guess I have to keep trying.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. With all due respect to Ziva, that is bull--.
    She should have asked you if you were comfortable dating non-religious guys. It was a bait and switch.

    Sorry about the Rabbi and the guy on the street lamp. Sounds so Brooklyn! At least you got a story you can dine out on.

    I do not believe in Rabbi worship. As Carmen said, pray to G-d directly, don't seek out intermediaries.

  2. crazy! don't plan to get married under false pretenses. by that I mean, people probably are not going to change who they are, at least not very much. It is fine to be observant and marry a guy who isn't if you can accept him as he is, but being observant and marrying someone AND expecting them to change for you, is not a great path to start a relationship on. Unfortunately being divorced from someone who grew up frum and had mental illness and struggled with yiddishkeit even before we met, I know what I'm talking about and I don't say this lightly, b/c now that I am back out playing the field, I know EXACTLY how scary it is to be alone.
    BTW, you are not the only one who has been duped by someone telling you to go to a rav or do something like a segulah, for $. I was told if I went to do the mitzvah of shooing a mother bird away from it's nest before taking an egg, I would get pregnant, which I never did. After shlepping inot brooklyn when I was in town, and going through it all, the rabbi told me his rate was $400!!!!!!
    I was so outraged that I told him since he never told me there was a charge when we set up the appt and time for the services, I wasn';t going to pay him (also bc I couldn't afford to pay him). FYI, many of my friends were pretty outraged too.

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  4. What Riva said.


  5. Well, there are fakes out there, but I don't think Rav Kenig, who sweats blood and tears to keep a community going, is one of them. Maybe the advice he and the sefer you are reading is giving you is uncomfortable, but maybe it is true. You have to decide, do you have emmunas chachaimim or do you decide according to your own ideas? It's important to have your own free will, but as Rabbi Nachman writes in Sichos HaRan, the definition of someone who is insane is someone who doesn't listen to the words of the wise.

    I don't say this to insult, and I don't want to come accross as holier than thou; these words are directed to myself as much as to you.

  6. Emunas chachamim is a very nebulous concept, and certainly not as clear-cut a 'requirement' as Almoni makes it out to be.

    My problem with some of these rabbis is that they don't take the time to know you and talk with you as a person. You tell them a problem, they spout a response. Where's the warmth? Where's the mindful and thoughtful interaction? That's what's missing in many of these stories, and it also calls the whole practice into question. Why would you seek advice or blessing from someone who doesn't know you?

  7. I would agree actually with Anonymous that having a Rov you go to who you know as a spiritual mentor is better than going only occasionally to a godol b'Torah who you cannot see often. Though of course I think both are beneficial.