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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

How Batya and I met

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 16

Rabbanit Batya and I had completely different attitudes towards finding our bashert (marriage partner).  I was a big believer in shidduchim (matchmaking).  After all, why would anyone ever want to meet their spouse randomly?  It makes no sense: statistically, what are the chances of bumping into someone who shares the same values as you, is a good person, intelligent, from a nice family, etc, etc?  The shidduch system allows you to completely screen potential marriage partners so that all the big questions are out of the way before you even meet!  Makes so much sense.

Batya, however, had different thoughts.  Let’s just say she read one too many teenage romance novels and had these dreams of meeting her bashert on the subway or an airplane.  What’s more, it was vitally important that he be ‘man enough’ to ask her out directly with no go-between. 

The Talmud says that making matches is as difficult for Hashem as splitting the Red Sea.  Now you see why.  How on earth are you going to bring these two people together with such opposite conceptions of the ideal way to meet?  But G-d is G-d and He can do anything.  Here’s our story.

Batya wasn’t the first girl I dated, she wasn’t even the first girl I thought I was going to marry.  A couple of years earlier, I met a nice young lady, and two weeks later we were engaged.  But it was not meant to be, and a week after that, the engagement was off.  In short, I knew her for so long that if I passed her today in the street, I probably wouldn’t even recognize her. 

Meanwhile, around the same time I was first engaged, Batya’s brother also got engaged to a girl and his engagement was similarly short-lived.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  Fast forward to 1999, and I’m navigating the New York shidduch system.  It ended up being a little more extreme that I initially imagined and the minutiae that shadchanim (matchmakers) get into border on the ridiculous. 

To make a long story short, since I had a broken engagement under my belt, my first options were girls who were also previously engaged.  One such young lady I was redd (offered) happened to be the ex-fiancée of an old acquaintance of mine from yeshiva.  We weren’t that close, but he was friends with my roommate and he would frequent our apartment.  And so before going any further, I decided to ask him about her and if there were any major issues I needed to know about.

“Look,” he told me, “She’s a sweet girl.  But to tell you the truth, I have a much better suggestion for you.  I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while, I just didn’t know how to bring it up. . . . I’d like you to meet my sister.”  Now, to be honest, I wasn’t all that excited.  After a while, you get to learn that everyone has a sister.  In fact the first girl I was engaged to was a close friend’s sister and I really only went out with her because I thought he was a fantastic fellow.  Nevertheless, my roommate’s friend was a very kindhearted soul and I knew deep-down that kindness and graciousness were the most important qualities to look for in a marriage partner. 

“But here’s the problem,” he continued, “She doesn’t do shidduchim.”
“So how are we going to meet?” I asked curiously.
“Well, on motzei Shabbos (Sat. night) I’m having a small birthday party with family and close friends.  How about you come over then and I’ll introduce you?” 
Looking back, I don’t know why I agreed.  It really wasn’t my thing.  I really didn’t know him that well.  But something inside of me told me that it couldn’t hurt to pop in.

That was Thursday.  On Friday, I happened to be waiting in the check-out line at the local grocery store when I notice a young lady with striking features.  As she exited the store, I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t mind meeting her.  But there are hundreds of girls in this neighbourhood.  There’s no way I could ever find out who she was.”

Motzei Shabbos rolled around and I went with my roommate to say a quick happy birthday to his friend.  We enter the house and a few moments later, lo and behold, the girl from the grocery story glides down the stairs!  I was speechless and couldn’t wait for her brother to introduce us. 

But he didn’t.  Somehow in all the hustle and bustle of his ‘small’ birthday party (when each member of a sizeable family decides they’re just inviting a few friends, it transforms quickly from a party to a gala!), he forgot to make the introductions.  By this time, however, I was pretty convinced that Hashem had a hand in this story.  And so, the next day I called the house to tell him that I would be happy to meet his sister.

But he didn’t pick up the phone.  Batya did.  After serious hesitation – I’d never done it before, and frankly I had no idea if she knew who I was, and even if she did, whether she wanted to go out with me – I mustered up the courage and asked her out directly.  The rest is history.  But it just goes to show that Hakadosh Boruch Hu (G-d) runs the world and despite our petty mortal thoughts and hang-ups, He has a way to make it all work out!

“He crushes me with a tempest (se’ara), and multiplies my wounds without cause” (Job 9:17).
Rabba says: Job blasphemed with mention of a tempest and he was answered with mention of a tempest.  Rabba explains: He blasphemed with mention of a tempest, as it is written: “He crushes me with a tempest.” Job said before Hashem: Master of the Universe, perhaps a tempest passed before You and You confused Iyov, Job, with oyev, enemy. He was answered with mention of a tempest, as it is written: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the tempest, and said: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Gird up now your loins like a man, for I will demand of you and let me know your answer”. 
He said to him: I have created many hairs (se’ar) on a person, and for each hair I created its own follicle through which the hair is sustained, so that two hairs should not draw from one follicle. Were two hairs to draw from one follicle, they would impair a man’s vision. Now, if I do not confuse one follicle with another, would I confuse Iyov with oyev?
“Who has divided a channel (te’ala) for the torrent of rain, or a path for the lightning of thunder”? (Job 38:25). I have created many drops of water in the clouds, and for each drop I created its own channel, so that two drops should not emerge from the same channel.  Were two drops to emerge from the same channel they would destroy the earth and it would not yield produce. Now, if I do not confuse one drop with another, would I confuse Iyov with oyev?
“Do you know when the wild goats of the rock give birth? Can you mark when the hinds do calve?” (Job 39:1). This goat is cruel to her young and shows them no pity; when she squats to give birth she ascends to the top of a mountain so that the kid should fall down from her and die. And I summon her an eagle that receives it with his wings and places it before her; and if the eagle reached her one moment early or one moment late, the kid would immediately die. Now, if I do not confuse one moment with another moment, would I confuse Iyov with oyev? 

At the beginning of our thrice-daily Amidah prayer, we describe Hashem as ‘nora’ – awesome.  What does ‘awesome’ mean?  We totally cannot fathom how He does it, but somehow the Almighty arranges His worldly chessboard so that everything fits together just right.  When Iyov accused the Almighty of running the universe haphazardly, G-d responded by describing how He ensures that two individual drops of rain do not even touch.  You think He can’t control what happens to each individual person?

If you stop to think about all the impossible coincidences in your life, you realize very quickly how awesomely Hashem runs the world.  Batya and my story of meeting was incredible, but that’s how the Almighty does things.  Yes, it’s true that our Sages call matchmaking as difficult as Red Sea-splitting, but we all know that sea-splitting really isn’t a big deal for the Creator who fashioned the seas!

What’s the big deal then?  For us to tune in and appreciate His abundant kindnesses.  To recognize that He is holding our hand through every step of life.  The more you trust Him to lead you along the path of life, the less stressful your life becomes.  Because you know that He has it all figured out.  That all the pieces of the puzzle are already in place.  That setbacks along the road (like broken engagements and failed business opportunities) are really set-ups for the perfect life He has in store for you.

Your Father in Heaven loves you more than anything.  He has infinite blessing in store for you in this world and the next.  May you have the patience and trust to maintain your faith in Him, knowing that the best is yet to come!

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