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.
You can read Chapter 2a here.
Rebbetzin Brill was a skinny woman with a pinched face she wore a dark formless dress and an old fashioned foam lined headscarf, which gave her head a Spongebob look Her thinness was really quite astounding because she was always cooking. Did she diet? Did she suffer from stomach problems. Her husband was a Chassidic Rebbe, the Rebbe of Hohok, Nahum called it Ho-Ho-Kus after the posh New Jersey suburb, which caused her to chuckle even though it wasn’t the funniest of jokes, was even thinner. But they were good people, sincere, kind, the real deal.
After her ectopic pregnancy, when her fallopian tube had exploded leaving her close to death, Molly went to see him. The doctor who had saved her life, declared her child bearing years over. ‘Just be happy with what you’ve got, “but Molly was unspeakably sad and weepy Nahum brought her to the Rabbi Brill, a feat which required no small amount of cajoling as Rabbi Brill didn’t usually see women. He sat the head of the dining table, a huge bookcase filled with Talmudic tomes behind him looking down at the stone matza patterned floor to avert her gaze. His voice was so soft that Molly strained to hear him but he promised that she’d have a baby within the year and the next month she fell pregnant with Elazar.
On the morning of Molly’s visit the Rebetzin and several of her daughters, were peeling potatoes and the apartment was redolent with the scent of potato kugel baking in the oven.
“We’re celebrating my grandson’s bar mitzvah tonight. Would you like a piece?” said the Rebbetzin.
“No thanks. I just wanted you opinion, about a girl for Asher.”
“Of course… “
Rebbetzin Brill titled her head upwards as if she were inviting G-d into the conversation and she smiled.. “Ah…..You couldn’t do better. Such a girl, such a family…,.”
“You’re very lucky to have such a good suggestion but then Asher is an excellent boy.” Molly looked around at the Brill’s apartment, the worn carpet, the sagging bookcase and broken furniture. How could she dare to ask about money? She didn’t want Rebbetzin Brill see her and Nahum and even Asher as gold-diggers.” It’s so hot today. I’ll get you a drink.” The Rebbetzin motioned for the smallest of her daughters who appeared with a tray and a large bottle of cold water. “No, no thanks.”
“You didn’t just come to smell the kugel. What else do you need to know. Money?”
Even though it was summer goosebumps appeared on Molly’s arms. Rabbi Brill had mystical powers but until now she hadn’t known that his wife had them too. “Yes,” her voice was so choked she could hardly speak.
“I can’t give you a figure but I can tell you that they live very nicely and I’m sure that they can help very nicely.”
Molly smiled. That sounded like enough.
“Call me to share the good news, “said the Rebbetzin as she waved goodbye. As soon as she left the apartment she texted Nahum with the good news and he gave the match his blessing.
How many dates would they need? Molly and Nahum had dated for six weeks before he proposed but with these couples things could move more quickly. It was July now. Tammuz. A month long courtship would bring them into the summer yeshiva vacation. Maybe they could have an outdoor ceremony in a garden? She imagined a chuppah covered with flowers, Asher and Ayelet tying the knot on a late summer evening the sun setting in the distance.
The next day the sky was a murky grey even though the temperatures were hot. Bella woke up with a headache and then vomited all over her bed linens and bedroom floor. Moshe complained of feeling sick too and Molly a bucket next to his bed.
The malaise extended to inanimate objects. The drier broke and the dud shemesh, the water storage tank which attached to a solar panel that sat on the roof of their building, to harvest the sun’s rays to heat their bathwater, malfunctioned.
Still Molly’s mood was bright. Soon all of the broken things would be fixed. Soon, the children would get better and soon Asher would meet a Ayelet Gold and marry her and she’d become a grandmother, an experience which everyone she knew insisted was the pinnacle of life.
In between calls to the various repair people and the doctor Esther phoned.
“Sorry to tell you this.. they said no”
Molly’ felt a thud in her chest. “Why?
“What can I say? They didn’t think it was right for them.”
“What does that mean?” What did the Gold’s find out about them? Was it Elazar’s yeshiva troubles, Bella’s rebelliousness or was it them. Nahum’s alcoholism, his years in AA or perhaps Molly herself. How much did anyone know about her past? She didn’t see herself as secretive. She wasn’t ashamed, after all once a person repents, his sins are transformed to merits but she did have experiences she wished she could have deleted from her life. Could it be that someone knew?
Sh*t she yelled. Sh*t Sh*t Sh*t.. She rarely used four letter words but then again she rarely, indeed had to deal with her son’s rejection by the girl who was surely his soulmate…She slammed the phone down hard against the table which caused the battery to pop out. She nudged it back in.
Just then Bella came into the kitchen. “Ima….”
Molly suddenly came to. ‘Did I hear you?”
Though she was generally careful with her speech Molly did use bad language, very rarely , in traffic or under situations of extreme stress of which this was one.
Molly didn’t’ respond hoping that would make the question go away but it didn’t’.
“It’s tough Mom,” said Bella putting her arm on Molly’s back. “Everyone knows that the Golds are super picky. They turn down almost everyone.”
“Huh?” Molly “How did everyone know except her.”
When she called Nahum he said the same thing. “I knew it wouldn’t work.
They are a line of Rabbis. Thirty five consecutive generations..”
“So our genes aren’t good enough? How could people be so prejudiced? They they want us to become like them and then they they refuse to let their kids marry kids. They probably wouldn’t have allowed their child to marry any of the patriarchs either, Okay maybe Jacob but certainly not Abraham and Isaac would have been iffy. How can they be such prigs!”
“Can you turn down the volume My ears are getting sore.”
“Calm down.” said Nahum “Remember rejection is G-d’s form of protection.”
Almost reflexively, Molly cracked a Gold smile. It amused her to hear her own bromide coming out of Nahum’s lips
Later after the day was finally over and everyone asleep Nahum and Molly sat alone on the porch.
“What do you really know about the…
“I could think of a few more questions I bet you never asked. “
He dipped his head down as if reading from his cell phone but Molly noticed that he had a gleam in his eye.
“I want their complete financial, medical and genealogical records.”
“Come on….Where on earth to you expect me to get those.”
“I don’t know but get them and there’s something else I want to know. Do they chain their children to the bed at night?”
“Yes that is something we need to know—we don’t want Asher marrying a girl who was chained to her bed.”
“Do they belch at the table?”
Do they cover their faces when they sneeze? “
By now Molly laughed so hard she couldn’t speak.
“Molly, these people are crazy, If they don’t want Asher it’s their problem.”
Just then Molly stopped laughing. “I just thought of something.”
“What?” Nahum tilted his head toward hers.
“Something really remarkable just happened. We need to take note of this. Our son Asher had a romantic rejection and he didn’t even know about it. He got hurt without feeling any pain or having a bruise.”
Nahum nodded. “I had my first heartbreak in third grade. I still remember her Judy Katz. She was the prettiest girl in the school.”
Molly hated Nahum’s uncanny ability to recall old flames—why was his memory so perfect when it came to women as opposed to say grocery lists, but she knew what he meant..
“I’m so glad that Asher can learn in peace. That he’s never even heard the name Ayelet Gold.’
It was true. Asher had been away at yeshiva the whole time. He hadn’t heard one word about Ayelet.
Nahum smiled. He leaned over and kissed Molly
“What was that for?” Molly smiled.
“Hey honey this is a moment to celebrate. To Asher. Le’chaim. May he find his kallah his bride without pain.
Nahum nodded. Then he yawned and stretched his arm to turn out the light.