By March, winter had ceded to spring. At the edge of the Jerusalem forest, the almond trees had burst into lacy white blossoms. Soon, it would be Purim. A day for masquerading, feasting, joyous drunken reverie, and intense prayer. Molly loved this holiday’s license to cut loose creatively. Without work or shidduchim to distract her she’d thrown herself into Purim inviting thirty-five guests to a Persian-themed Purim banquet: Persian meatballs, Persian rice, Persian vegetable fritters, Persian décor (photographs of Persian carpets), and, of course, Persian costumes. She and Bella dressed as very modest belly dancers and Nahum and the boys as ayatollahs.
Then just as her preparations were in full swing she got a shidduch call from Rabbi Ganz a teacher at Asher’s yeshiva. It was the first shidduch she’d heard about since Genia tried to push Michal Farber on her many weeks before.
“I don’t want to get too excited, but this one sounds almost too good to be true,” Molly told Nahum, as she pried a batch of freshly baked Persian walnut cookies off the parchment paper.
“So, who is she?”
“Oh that’s a big name. ” The Lipsky’s were a fabled clan of rabbis, one of whom, Rabbi Akiva Lipsky had been the subject of a very popular biography.
“Yes, and according to the shadchan, she’s everything Asher could have ever dreamed of.”
“Yup. She’s got that too,” Molly handed Nahum a cookie.
“The shidduch or the cookie?”
“She’s becoming a psychotherapist. She’ll help Asher grow up.”
“You think Asher needs therapy to grow up?”
Molly actually wondered about that. Why Asher so stuck in his desire to marry a beauty queen? Was it an insecurity or a deep seated fear of marriage? She would have liked for him to see a therapist but she knew that he’d wouldn’t so didn’t offer. Molly had seen many therapists, her first when she was twenty two, Asher’s age. Had they really helped? Of the seven four were bad, two mediocre and one, the gem in the haystack who’d made all the difference but who was to say that Asher would find a gem and yet this girl appealed to her.
“She may have insight, self awareness,” she told Nahum.
“Ask for a picture first,” said Nahum.
After she put the cookies away Molly phoned Rabbi Ganzi . His wife answered. Though her English was heavily accented it was grammatically correct English and she impressed Molly as he sort of woman who shopped for groceries in a freshly set wig.
“I suggest that you take a look in person. Hindy will be at the Strauss Spiegel wedding at Binyanei Hauma on Wednesday night.”
“But, I’m not invited.”
“You’re not going to sit down to eat. You go, have a peek and then you leave.”
When she hung up, Molly looked glum.
“What’s wrong hon?” Nahum asked.
“Yes. The matchmaker just told me to crash a wedding.”
“Yeah. She wasn’t kidding. No invite. Just show up. I can’t believe this.”
“Do you think the bouncer will throw you out?”
“And you’re not going to eat so you won’t be stealing their food right?”
“Yes but it just feels wrong.”
“Ask them to send a picture.”
Molly called Rebetzin Ganz back. “Sorry,” she said. “I don’t approve of pictures. You never know where they will end up but everybody does this. Don’t worry. I’m sure there will be others doing the same.”
Asher’s ultrasound report came back quickly . His kidneys were normal. So was his liver, bladder and spleen. . His bloodwork was fine, even his urinalysis was fine – but, if he was so healthy, why was he still passing blood?
Dr. G had no answer. “It happens sometimes. It’s one of those quirky things and it might just disappear as mysteriously as it arrived,” he said.
But Asher wasn’t satisfied. How could he live this way and even more pressing how could he date.
Then one day over lunch, Asher overheard Ezi. It was one of those synchronistic moments his mother had taught him to look out for, when he knew that G-d had heard his prayers.
“…and my father called Tuli Roth and he got my Savta into some big professor from the medical school…”
As Asher swallowed down his breaded chicken cutlet, the proverbial alarm bell went off in his head.
Everyone used Tully Roth, the “medical matchmaker,” who steered patients to the best doctors.
Why hadn’t he? How could he have been dumb enough to entrust his body to socialized medicine?
Right after he bensched, Asher ran outside to a nearby park to make the call. This wasn’t a call he wanted anyone to listen into.
“Phone back at five,” he was told. That was right in the middle of his next study session. No problem. He’d simply tell his afternoon study partner that he had to make an urgent call. And his partner would assume that the call had something to do with a girl…if only that were true.
At ten to five, Asher returned to the park only to find that it now contained with dozens of neighborhood children their tiny voices merging into a deafening cacophony. He left sprinting down the block until he landed at one of the older apartment buildings built on stilt like pillars cars parked in the hollow space. The perfect place to call. Standing behind a pillar he phoned. The secretary answered right away, he was thankful for that but then she placed him on hold for many long minutes as Asher looked out onto the street. He knew too many people in this neighborhood, his teachers, friends, local men who frequented the study hall. He didn’t want was to be spotted hiding out in a private parking area . Finally Tully Roth answered barking out his orders in a low nasal voice.
“Go to Hadassah hospital Ein Karem and see Dr. Gil Sadeh privately.”
Dr. Sadeh was a department head, a medical school professor and he charged 1100 shequels for an office visit – a fortune for a yeshiva student. Where would he find that kind of cash?
He could ask his parents, but his father’s work load had been cut .. Even his mother wasn’t teaching anymore, not that that earned much. He didn’t want to burden them and more than that he didn’t want to worry them. They had enough problems with his siblings, Elazar, and Bella giving them all kinds of trouble. The week before Bella had been suspended again, caught wearing a denim skirt and Elazar was still talking about going into the army.
As he paced up and down in front of the yeshiva, he thought about ways to raise the money.
He could sell his stuff, but what did he own? A dozen white shirts. Five neckties, only two of which were silk. One genuine Borsalino hat and one copy. One good suit and two not so good suits. But if he sold them, what would he wear? He also owned four pairs of cheap cufflinks, a Casio wrist-watch, an alarm clock, an old fashioned cellphone, an MP3 player, and lots of holy books – the same ones that everyone else owned. His most expensive possessions were his titanium framed glasses and the custom made orthotics he slipped into his black sneakers to counteract his fallen arches, but neither of these items were of value to anyone but him.One of the guys gave interest free loans of up to 350 shequels. But that wasn’t nearly enough.
“Can you close this?” Molly handed Nahum the enormous pearl choker he’d given her during his gravy days back in New York.
“So, you’re going to be a well-dressed gatecrasher.”
“I still don’t feel right about it.”
“Don’t – I bet half of the women there are for the same reason.”
“That’s what Rebetzin Ganz said but I find it hard to believe.”
“Why not ask?”
Molly grimaced. “Oh come on.”
She walked in the hall briskly her eyes trained on the carpet to avoid eye contact. Under her breath, she muttered a prayer: “Please G-d make sure that I don’t meet anyone I know.”
Binyanei Hauma was Jerusalem’s largest and priciest hall. There were hundreds of guests but so far, she didn’t recognize anyone and no one recognized her. A miracle. Molly wended through the crowd until she arrived at the dance floor where dozens of girls were jumping and gliding to the latest hip-hop inspired hassidic line dance.
The matchmaker’s wife had described Hindy as a slim long strawberry blonde who wore her hair in ringlets. As the girls passed she watched them. She saw brunettes, red heads, blondes, even one beautiful black girl who danced with striking grace, but no one with strawberry blonde ringlets.
Then, as the band segued into a Breslov trance number, Miss Strawberry Blonde Ringlets floated past. Dressed in hunter green and gold, this season’s latest colors (a welcome break from black), she was well-proportioned and uncommonly pretty and she danced nicely. Molly discretely raised her phone into the air and pressed the camera button. There – she’d gotten the goods. For a millisecond, she smiled in self-satisfaction. A tsunami-sized wave of shame poured over her. By attending the wedding without an invitation and then photographing Hindy without her knowledge or consent, she’d invaded the poor girl’s privacy and probably even broken the law. This couldn’t really be the way that the eternal building blocks of the Jewish nation were formed.
At home, she reexamined the picture. Yes Hindy was certainly pretty but she didn’t have a good feeling about the match. “Why would the Lipsky’s with all of their social connections want their daughter to marry our son. There must be son ulterior motive,” she told Nahum.
“You researched this well.”
“I think so.”
“Can you give a reason why Asher shouldn’t meet this girl?”
“Then let’s give them a heads up. Boys get right of first refusal.”
It was late now. In the morning Molly phoned the Ganz’s but before she could deliver her news the Rebetzin preempted her. “Hindy Lipsky is busy right now. I’ll let you know if the situation changes.” Her tone was crisp and business-like. “Why did she suggest a girl who was busy,” Molly wondered.
Maybe something came up. You know how it is especially for a girl like that.. I bet the matchmakers are banging down her door.”
Molly nodded. “I can’t help but feeling that Asher didn’t make the cut. ”
Just then Molly removed Hindy’s resume and photograph from her file and tore them both up. She felt an odd delight as she as she ripped the paper into large jagged pieces and tossed them into the garbage can.
“Honey isn’t a little dramatic,” said Nahum.
“Come on. I don’t have to get to work right away. Let’s go for a walk in the forest.”
Outside the whole world was in bloom: the bright red poppies, pale purple cyclamen, even the Queen Anne’s lace, which, by summer’s end, would turn into a nasty weed, appeared pretty and delicate. How could she feel so blue when the world was so beautiful?
“Hon. Take my word. These Lipskys don’t know what they’re missing.out on.”
When they came home from their walk, Asher was in the kitchen sipping cocoa.
“Mom, Dad. I’ve got a problem.”
“Are you all right?” His eyes were uncharacteristically dull.
“Well, yeah, kind of. I need to see a private doctor. I’ve got blood in my pish.”
Molly gasped and then she reached for Asher’s hand.
What kind of tortures had her son been experiencing? Then Nahum reached into his wallet.
“Here. He handed Asher his credit card.
Go to whichever doctor you need and where happy to come with you”
” No. I’m okay going by myself but just one more thing ”
“What is it Asher,” said Molly. Her voice oozed with concern.
“Please , Mom, Dad this is secret. Don’t tell anyone.”
Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT family’s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son.
You can read
Chapter 1 here,
Chapter 2a here,
Chapter 2b here,
Chapter 3a here,
Chapter 3b here
Chapter 3c here
Chapter 3d here
Chapter 3e here
Chapter 3f here
Chapter 4a here
Chapter 4b here
Chapter 4c here
Chapter 4d here
Chapter 5 here