W hen the name Kalman Brigel was suggested as a shidduch for me, nine years ago, I wasn’t in a rush to pursue it. My parents heard that he was an intense masmid — the type, they said, who wouldn’t even come home to eat supper with his wife. “He doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep,” his chavrusas told my parents. “All he does is learn.”

Other shidduchim were suggested, but somehow, the name Kalman Brigel kept coming up. Eventually, I decided to seek guidance from an adam gadol. “It’s easy for me to say, as a single girl, that I’m ready to marry someone who learns Torah day and night and support him in every way,” I reflected. “But what if, as a married woman, I realize that I’m not able to handle that kind of life?”

The gadol took my question very seriously. After some contemplation, he said he thought I could go ahead.

I went home and told my father that I was ready. Shortly afterwards, I was engaged. When we got married, he was 20; I was 21.

My shanah rishonah was not very different from my life as a single girl. After finishing my job — I worked in special ed — I went over to my parents’ house, which was just a few blocks away from my own apartment. I stayed there until about 9 p.m., when I returned to my apartment, did the little housework that was necessary, and then waited for Kalman. He was supposed to come home at 9:30 or 10 p.m., but most nights he actually returned from kollel around midnight, sometimes later.

By the time he came home, I was usually famished, so at one point, I started eating supper earlier and then serving him his supper whenever he arrived. Apparently, he didn’t like eating alone, because after that happened a few times, he started coming home on schedule, at 9:30, after which he would hurry out again to learn, coming home well after I was asleep.

On the day of my birthday, that first year, I made an extra nice supper. At 9:30 that night, he called and asked, “What do you say, Zissi? Should I stay to learn, or come home?”

“The best birthday present for me is if you stay to learn,” I replied. So he came home at 1 a.m., by which time I had lost interest in the supper I had made.

For the first two years of our marriage, we spent practically every Shabbos with my parents or Kalman’s, so even on Shabbos, we didn’t have any time together. I didn’t feel that I was missing anything, though, because my family was right nearby, and I had my mother and siblings for company. My role vis-à-vis my husband was mostly technical: doing his laundry, preparing his food, tending to his needs. He, in return, was very appreciative, complimenting me on the food I cooked and thanking me for all that I did to enable him to learn. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 693)