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The Most Important Ingredients

C. Saphir

I realized, much to my dismay, that I had not enjoyed one moment with Yedidya. Was this the same person I had gone out with and been engaged to? He seemed so… different

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

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I returned home from Eretz Yisrael after seminary, some twenty-odd years ago, to a perfect storm. My family lived in a small, out-of-the-way community where there were no jobs available and no suitable career-training programs. It didn’t help that I had never been a good student. My teachers didn’t think very highly of me, and neither did my own parents.

I was the odd man out in my family because I was highly emotive and passionate, while my parents and siblings were reserved and restrained. My father’s motto was, “If someone spits on you, tell yourself it’s raining.” This impassive attitude did not dovetail with my sensitive, demonstrative nature, and without any school or job to head out to each morning, I found myself around my family all the time, which was very difficult for me.

I had dreams of marrying a serious ben Torah, but my parents did not think I was cut out for a kollel life. Besides, my father was very cynical about, and biased against, people who were too frum or yeshivish. “The frummer a person becomes, the less of a mensch he becomes,” he often declared. He and my mother were insistent that I date only boys who were already working.

Having nothing to do, and feeling out of place in my own family, I spent my days sitting and waiting for The Phone Call to come. I said Perek Shirah and Shir Hashirim every day, and I did every other shidduch segulah in the book. I had to get married. It was the only way out.

My parents felt the pressure oozing from me, and they quickly got to work. They weren’t looking for anyone special for me; they didn’t think a quality boy would be willing to marry me. When a shadchan called them with a yes, they made some perfunctory inquiries, and hurried to inform the shadchan that they were interested. It was a matter of days before I met the boy, Yedidya Fuhrberg, and after a few weeks of dating, we were engaged.

As the cakes for the l’chayim were being arranged, I thought to myself, I’m signing up for life with this person, and I have no idea who he is! Yedidya seemed nice enough, but what did I really know about him?

The thought was fleeting, though, to be quickly supplanted by the euphoria of being a kallah. Throughout my engagement, I was on a high. Several of my friends were engaged at the same time I was, and when they confided to me that they were nervous or jittery, I totally could not relate.

The only blip during my engagement was the Shabbos I spent with my chassan’s family. Until then, I hadn’t noticed anything amiss with the Fuhrbergs, but when I was around them for an entire Shabbos, things seemed off. Yedidya’s brother came to pick me up from the airport — by himself. When he tried striking up a conversation with me in the car, I found myself freezing up and feeling very uncomfortable, which rarely happens to me.

The talk at the Fuhrberg Shabbos table was full of putdowns of various people and groups of frum society. At some point on Shabbos, I committed a faux pas by mentioning the name of Yedidya’s uncle, who was related to my brother-in-law. I didn’t realize then that Yedidya’s parents were not on speaking terms with that uncle, and I couldn’t understand why there was dead silence when I mentioned his name.

At the end of that Shabbos, I thought to myself, We will not be having much to do with Yedidya’s family, that’s for sure.

Our wedding was beautiful, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. At one point, the band began playing a song that I thought was very wild. When I asked about it, I was told that the other side had requested it. I wasn’t sure whether to say anything, so I just let it go. Toward the end of the wedding, I was standing beside Yedidya as he was saying goodbye to his friends. His friends looked like a rough bunch, and I remember thinking, I’m going to make sure Yedidya dumps these friends.

The next morning, Yedidya turned on a tape that sounded very similar to the wild song that had disturbed me at the wedding.

“Can we listen to something else?” I asked.

Yedidya chuckled. “I’ll teach you to like my music,” he said. And he turned up the volume on the tape deck.

Later in the day, he offered me a candy bar that looked unfamiliar. “Are you sure that’s kosher?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said, pointing to some tiny “K” symbol in a corner. “Whose hechsher is that?” I wondered.

He folded his arms, looking very offended. “When you get married,” he said, “you eat whatever hechsher your husband says is okay.”

The day passed quickly, too quickly for me to really think about what was going on. It was only that night, at our first sheva brachos, that I had time to process the events of the 24 hours since the wedding. We were sitting at a table with Yedidya’s family, and they kept on quibbling among themselves. Yedidya became absorbed in a conversation with his sister-in-law, and he and his family ignored me totally. As I watched them interacting with each other, I thought to myself, I really don’t like this family. How did I get myself into this?

Since no one was talking to me, I was able to review in my mind all that had gone on between us since the wedding. And I realized, much to my dismay, that I had not enjoyed one moment with Yedidya. Was this the same person I had gone out with and been engaged to? He seemed so… different.

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