"A sk a rav.”

If there was one thing I took with me from seminary, that was it. Don’t make a move in life without asking a sh’eilah.

I had become a baalas teshuvah in my teens, and this advice — which I had heard over and over again from the teachers in the kiruv seminary I attended in Jerusalem — struck a deep chord within me. I was new to frum society, after all, and if I wanted to follow the Torah path faithfully, I had to seek counsel from those older and wiser than me.

After seminary, I wrote a letter to one of my rebbeim asking for guidance, but he wrote back advising me to find a rav or rebbetzin in my community who could act as my mentor, as he couldn’t possibly fill that role from across the ocean.

Back home, I signed up for a local second-year seminary program, where I developed a close relationship with one of the teachers, Rebbetzin Shulberg. Rebbetzin Shulberg was married to a rosh yeshivah, and she exuded simchah, warmth, and love of Torah. Utterly unworldly, she had raised her large family in a small, simple apartment with no luxuries — the Shulbergs had never even taken a family vacation — yet she was obviously not missing anything in her life. Most of all, I was impressed with the rebbetzin’s palpable emunah and connection with Hashem. This was the person I wanted as my mentor.

I ate several Shabbos meals at the Shulberg home, and each time I was struck by the way the rebbetzin and her husband would laugh together at the table, almost like a young couple. The talk at their Shabbos meal revolved around divrei Torah and was peppered with plays on words using pesukim and statements of Chazal, and the more I saw of their life and family, the more I wanted to recreate that special atmosphere in my own home.

In one of the rebbetzin’s classes, she taught us that while we have full bechirah when making a decision, once the decision is made and we experience the ramifications, we have to believe with absolute conviction that whatever happened was Hashem’s will. “That’s what real emunah looks like,” she said.

At the end of that second seminary year, a shidduch was suggested for me with a young man named Uri who was also a baal teshuvah, but hailed from different country and culture.

After meeting him, I had several concerns that I discussed with Rebbetzin Shulberg, who didn’t know Uri personally but had heard about him from the shadchan. “His background is so different from mine,” I said. “And he’s very quiet. I don’t feel that I know him or understand him. Even when he does open his mouth, I barely understand his accent.”

“There’s no question that this is right for you, Debbie,” the rebbetzin assured me. “He has a great head for learning and he has good middos. That’s all that matters in a shidduch.”

Upon meeting Uri, my parents — who had been pretty accepting of my religious awakening — expressed their disbelief that this was the man I wanted to marry. “You realize that his mentality is worlds apart from yours,” they told me. “You two have nothing in common.” But I discounted their reservations the same way I had discounted their secular lifestyle.

Still, when Uri proposed and I said yes, I felt dizzy and faint. What did I just do? I screamed inwardly. I can hardly understand a word he says! And I don’t even know him! (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 676)