T

hursday, 10 Sivan 5775

“Perfect.” Streulicht placed the shtreimel on the customer’s head, smoothed the fur, and stepped back to study the effect.

Itzik looked at the figure in the mirror and bit his lip. He was familiar with that tickling feeling in his nose by now, and he refused to give in. No crying, not now! For 36 years he’d been cold and aloof and gotten along fine that way, but these last few months had turned him into an emotional teenager. Just one glimpse of himself in a beautiful shtreimel, and already the dam was about to burst….

“Nothing to get emotional about,” he tried telling himself. “It’s not even exciting. You’re just another tall, chubby avreich with a shtreimel on his head. No big deal…”

But his hands wouldn’t stop shaking. Streulicht went to the CD player and the sounds of chuppah music filled the store. “Where’s the chasunah?” he asked, opening a receipt booklet.

Itzik didn’t answer. Did Streulicht really have to play “Arba Bavos” now, when he was standing there with a shining new shtreimel on his head, and his aufruf was this Shabbos? Who could deal with that like a man?

Leiby Weiss, his faithful shomer, suppressed a grin. How the mighty had fallen! Itzik’s hard shell was cracking wide open. For the last two months, he’d been getting emotional about every little thing. One time Leiby had caught him blissfully gazing at the sunset.

“You’re laughing at me,” Itzik scolded him through his cloud of tears.

“No, I’m just passing you a tissue,” Leiby said with a smile.

Streulicht took the shtreimel off Itzik’s head and gently twirled it into its case. “So where’s the chasunah?” he asked again.

“At the Central Hotel,” said Itzik.

“Nice.”

“Yeah. I wanted to keep it small, with just five close friends — I don’t have more than that, anyway — and the family. But everybody kept saying I couldn’t do that to my family after they waited all these years….”

“And what does the kallah say?”

“She wanted a small wedding even more than I did.”

A quiet chuppah in the desert, that’s what he’d envisioned. A few brothers and sisters, and a reception with a lot of what really matters and very little fluff. He’d already started looking into places and prices, but his vision was quashed by pressure from both families, and in the end they’d decided to make a more or less standard wedding in Jerusalem.

He could have insisted. He could have held out for a chuppah under the desert stars at a small yishuv in the Aravah. It was his wedding, and he had a perfect right to have it his way. But he made a conscious decision to give in: to feel the disappointment, say goodbye to his dream, and move on.

“Where to now?” Leiby asked as they stepped out of the shtreimel shop onto Rechov Meah Shearim.

“To my sister Faigy. She picked up my tallis bag from the embroidery shop and said I should come get it before her kids do.”

At the Krinsky apartment, Itzik complied with the general clamor and modeled his new shtreimel again.

“Rivky, come and see Uncle Itzik in his shtreimel!” shrieked Chani.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 715)