| Family Diary |

Cataclysmic Clarity

Nothing brings more clarity than your friend dating the boy you considered. Usually, just the idea alone is enough


Shani Leiman with Zivia Reischer

Naomi had gone out with Daniel three times, and she was head over heels.

“I think this is it,” she gushed. “I know, I know, you’re going to say ‘it’s too early to tell, take it slow.’ ”

I laughed. “You’re really getting to know me if you can already predict what I’m going to say.”

“No, Mrs. Leiman, it’s because I cut out every single one of your stories and read them over and over. They really helped me. Now that I’m talking to you in person, I see that you sound just like your articles!”

It’s humbling to realize the impact you can have on another person — even someone you don’t know exists. I thank Hashem daily for giving me the opportunity to help.

“Anyway, back to you, Naomi. When are you available for your next date?”

“Can you see if Daniel is available on Wednesday? I can’t wait much longer!”

But when Naomi called me on Wednesday night, I could immediately detect the apprehension in her voice.

“How was your date?”

She sounded deflated. “Well… I don’t know. Daniel shared information with me that most people aren’t privy to.”

I tried not to wince.

It seemed that Daniel’s perfect-looking family wasn’t so perfect after all. Although the family was Modern Orthodox, Daniel had learned for three years in Eretz Yisrael and moved much more to the right. His fourth and fifth post-high school years learning were spent in the Mir, and now he was part of a chaburah going for semichah in BMG.

Naomi had known all that, and she was fine with it. But now Daniel had shared some of the difficulties he faced with his family. His parents had dreamed all their lives of their only son going to law school. His metamorphosis into a Lakewood boy had not gone over well.

I listened intently as Naomi’s voice grew more strained. “Mrs. Leiman, I really don’t feel comfortable with this. I can’t imagine having a husband who is the black sheep of his family. They aren’t going to be happy if he marries a girl like me. They treat him with a lot of disapproval as it is. He told me it’s a real challenge for him. I just can’t imagine…” she trailed off.

“I hear you loud and clear, Naomi. That’s not a comfortable place for anyone to be.” I paused. “And it definitely shatters your vision of having a great relationship with your potential future in-laws.”

“Like, imagine what the engagement will be like!” Naomi fretted. “And the wedding. And going to them for Shabbos. And everything! I want my kids to have a normal relationship with their grandparents. I can’t marry into this… family feud.”

“You’re saying that you don’t have a problem with them having a different lifestyle, only with the fact that they don’t accept Daniel and his choices.”

“Right.” She paused to collect her thoughts. “It’s not his being different that bothers me. It’s the lack of emotional support, the outright disapproval and rejection.” She was getting more and more worked up. “I don’t want my life to be a constant battle. That’s not for me.”

“I hear you, Naomi. But maybe it’s not as bad as you think. Why don’t you take time to process. Sleep on it, and let’s see how you feel about it tomorrow.”

I hung up and got to work.

First I called Daniel. I asked him how he dealt with his parents.

He sighed. “I do my best. Right now I actually just started working on a degree in social work. I figured if I do eventually become a rebbi or rav, it would be beneficial to have a masters in counseling. But it’s such a sore topic at home, I only told them about the bachelors, I didn’t want to say anything about the masters until I decided for sure to go ahead with it. Now I’m in the program, but I haven’t told them yet. I need to find the right opening….”

I thought this piece of information could make a huge difference to Daniel’s relationship with his parents. It could change their view of him from a disappointment to a success and earn him some approval.

With his permission, I called Daniel’s parents. I told them how impressed I was with their son and how well respected he was among his peers. I explained to them that it wasn’t common for a boy his age to go for semichah, and I expressed my admiration at his motivation and commitment to go for a masters in counseling so that he could be the best and most effective rav or rebbi he could be.

Daniel’s mother was cool. “That’s all very nice, but we wanted him to be a lawyer and join my husband in his practice.”

“I know,” I commiserated. “It’s hard when our kids don’t follow our dreams. It’s hard when a soft-spoken boy has parents who dreamed of him becoming a doctor, or a lawyer’s son wants nothing more than to be a chef. It’s tricky — we want to show them we love them, despite the fact that we may be disappointed with their choices.”

There was silence at the other end. Maybe I had overstepped my boundaries.

“Well, thank you for calling, Mrs. Leiman. It was nice speaking with you.”

A few days later Daniel’s parents called him, and they came to some mutual understanding.

But in the meantime, Naomi was pulling out. She couldn’t make peace with the idea of in-laws who didn’t accept and support their son. Try as I might, she would not budge.

And the shidduch ended, just like that.

Three months later Naomi called me. “I need to talk to you,” she said. “One of my close friends is going out with Daniel, but she’s all wrong for him!”

“Really?” My eyebrows rose. “Why is that?”

“She’s just all wrong for him. What’s he doing going out with her? It really bothers me. She’ll never be able to appreciate him!”

“Well,” I said, “as you’re obviously aware, they’re dating pretty happily, and it’s going well.”

Naomi blew out a breath. “Fine, Mrs. Leiman, but it’s neeever gonna work.”

Three days later, she called me again.

“Mrs. Leiman, this is just wrong. Why is he continuing to go out with her? She’s not his type!”

When Naomi called the next week for a third time, I could sense the rising panic in her voice. “I can’t watch him make a mistake! I should be dating him!”

Nothing brings more clarity than your friend dating the boy you considered. Usually, just the idea alone is enough.

“You know, Naomi, you had your chance. Have you changed your mind?”

“Yes.” She sounded like she was choking. “I want to go out with him again. Nobody compares to him. He’s the one I’m supposed to marry!”

That night, Daniel, who knew nothing of my conversation with Naomi, broke off with Naomi’s friend. I gave him a few days then gently asked if he would be willing to go out with Naomi again.

He was willing. She was thrilled. It was a beautiful wedding.


Shani Leiman is a teacher, shadchan, and dating coach. She lives in  Silver Spring, Maryland.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 744)

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