Our niece got engaged right around the time of the Bar Mitzvah of our oldest son. As a soon-to-be member of the family, her choson came to wish us a Mazel Tov. Approximately four months later, her choson’s niece became a Bat Mitzvah. After attending both simchas, the young couple began to conceive an idea. They thought to themselves: Bar Mitzvah. Bat Mitzvah. Hmmm. Wouldn’t it be funny if these two teens marry each other one day? They considered the thought and then safely tucked away their secret brainchild for later use.
Years later my son was approaching the age to date. In the Israeli chareidi system, most yeshiva boys wait to get permission from their Rosh Yeshiva before they start dating. My son was looking to start a bit earlier than his peers, so getting permission from his Rosh Yeshiva took some doing. After several discussions and diplomatic negotiations, my son was told that on Chanukah he would be given a green light and could begin to date. Our niece’s husband did not wait until my son was already dating to begin to implement his long-guarded idea. He would try to set the stage by sitting my son down at family affairs and telling him all about his niece’s wonderful qualities, painting a beautiful portrait that whet my son’s appetite. Similarly, our niece would approach me and sing the praises of her niece, whom she was convinced was destined to marry my son. We were intrigued. We had met our future daughter-in-law and family at mutual family events. They made a lovely impression but we honestly hadn’t thought about them in shidduch terms, especially not when our daughter-in-law was 12 years old. So as Chanukah began to draw near, I decided to do a bit of research, and calmly made a few phone calls. I was in no rush at all.
At about this time, my very good friend came to Israel for a visit. We took advantage of the rare opportunity we had to see each other and got together several times. Over coffee we caught up and talked about a myriad of things. We have kids the same age, so naturally we discussed the shidduch stage we were both about to enter. One big topic of discussion was the prevalence these days of young couples getting engaged after an extremely short courtship. Why would anyone do such a thing, we wondered. Little did I know what was coming down the pike.
In the Israeli chareidi shidduch system, parents do an extensive amount of research before the couple meets. With so much information already at hand, it is very common for couples to get engaged after just a handful of dates. My son had his first date ever on a Motzaei Shabbos. He was immediately smitten. I soon began to wonder why my son wasn’t wearing a Superman cape, as from that point, things proceeded way faster than a speeding bullet. The couple went out every two days the following week. I couldn’t keep up. I begged my son to slow down the train long enough for me to fasten my seat belt. The train felt like it was racing down the track with no brakes. In the hopes of preventing my brother from going into a state of shock, I called him one evening to tell him that my son had officially begun dating. Then I called him two days later to tell him that things were very serious. He also wasn’t familiar with this sort of pace and asked me if maybe I could convince my son to agree just to go out for a few more months. Months?? Ha! I told him I was using every bit of strength I had to grab the reins and slow things down in order to stretch it out just a few more days. I also informed my visiting friend that my son had begun the dating process and was moving rather swiftly. Her return flight was scheduled for a few days later. “Let me know if there is a l’chaim before I leave,” she joked.
I told my son in no uncertain terms that he was not to get engaged until we met with the girl’s parents in the context of the shidduch. My son respectfully agreed but asked if it would be possible for us to meet them later that night. “Tonight??” I asked. “That would be impossible! As a matter of fact, Abba and I are busy every night for the next four months,” I told him.
We agreed to meet with her parents early the following week. I tried to squeeze another date out of my son and suggested that he take the girl out and then join us parents afterwards. My son agreed that he and the girl would come to the meeting, but there would be no date before. Their minds were already made up. It wasn’t necessary.
So, we had a lovely meeting with the girl’s parents and the next night my son got engaged. By then it was already Chanukah. When my son got permission to start dating on Chanukah, I didn’t realize that meant he would already get engaged on Chanukah. My friend who had joked about attending the l’chaim was happily able to join us at the event right before she headed home. It was truly an unexpected Chanukah miracle.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.