| Calligraphy: Pesach 5784 |

Hidden Assets

I was the stereotypical newlywed, setting up my best friend with my husband’s kid brother

All the things I’ve always made fun of… those things made fun of me now.

We were back.

We were the stereotypical young couple, arriving “home” from Eretz Yisrael with cute matching luggage a day after Rosh Chodesh Nissan.

We were the young couple who set up camp in my parents’ guest suite, coming in through the private basement entrance but spending most of the day in the thick of the pre-Pesach action upstairs, which basically meant helping my mother flop a whole bunch of miracle-based cakes.

We were the young couple meeting up with our besties and telling them all about how special it was to literally walk on the same ground as the Avos Hakedoshim.

I recounted our near-death chavayah to Zissi while we waited for our steaks. “So we were walking home from the Kosel Friday night, all innocently, and don’t ask me how — both of us had walked this route hundreds of times as singles — but suddenly we were, like, in the Arab neighborhood.”

Zissi shuddered. It was an almost… dutiful shudder.

She had wanted to meet in the ice cream shop, but I’d refused, insisting that I never got to see my best friend these days, and if I finally had this opportunity, I was going to host her in style.

I said the word “host” casually, but I made sure she heard it. A restaurant meal for her meant an adjustment of that week’s earnings, I knew, while for me — well, okay, for my father — it meant absolutely nothing. Just another random swipe.

I may have been a bit spoiled, but I wasn’t insensitive.

Zissi sipped her water thoughtfully. “What’s the average age that a girl’s hair turns gray?”


She winked. “Don’t worry, Yehudis. I’m not like this usually. I just had a… rough week, let’s call it.”

I tucked sheitel hairs behind my ear. “Tell me everything,” I said, softly.

She told me.

She told me that her father had followed up with a shadchan who’d redt a certain boy. He committed to covering the couple’s rent for the first year. And? No. Just no.

“The boy is my father’s talmid. They have a strong kesher.” She finished off with a shrug. “Basically, I’m a nobody on the shidduch scene because my father doesn’t have two nickels to rub together. And it’s fine, it’s really fine. Whoever I end up marrying will obviously be okay with that, and that will make him be a good fit for me.”

Furtively, I slipped my hands under the table. I twisted my diamond ring around my finger, but my finger seemed to have swelled, and the ring clung uncomfortably.

“You know, Zissi, whoever marries you is going to win the lottery.”


I meant it. Zissi was a rare gem. She was the most pleasant person to be around, she had sterling middos, solid hashkafos, a wicked sense of humor. And seriously, money? What a joke. Zissi was so low maintenance, she hardly even needed money. Yeah, sure, life is expensive. But I knew Zissi. She would be self-sufficient. She’d chosen to go for CPA licensure after careful deliberation, concluding that it was a field that would allow her to support her family for a long time, the way she wanted. “Plus, duh, you have an accountant’s brain,” I told her, and she blushed with a mixture of humility and pride.

Zissi would support her family — maybe on a modest scale, true — but she would do it independently. And it would give her the greatest satisfaction.

A nobody on the shidduch scene because her father couldn’t offer support? Seriously! Zissi was more prepared than any girl I knew to marry a serious learner. What more could you ask for in a girl?

Honestly, I would grab such a girl for my—

For Yossi.

I could barely contain my excitement the rest of the meal. I couldn’t wait for Binyomin to pick me up so I could share my brainstorm with him.

I was the stereotypical newlywed, setting up my best friend with my husband’s kid brother.

I was grinning from ear to ear when Binyomin’s car pulled up in front of the restaurant. I’d barely settled into my seat when I squealed, “Binyomin! Zissi! Yossi!”

“Chaim, Mushka, Sarah, Dovid, Efraim,” my husband threw back. “Hi, Chana Yehudis Feig. Hello, how are you, how was your evening?”

“No, no, no, Binyomin. I’m serious! Listen! My friend Zissi. She’d be peeeeerfect for your brother. Like, pot-and-lid perfect. A pair of gloves. Two peas in a pod.”

“Somebody overdosed on idioms.” He stopped at a red light and looked at me. “Okay, slow down and tell me. You have a shidduch idea? Your best friend for your brother-in-law? Wow, we are one stereotypical young couple, wow.”


I regaled him with a list of Zissi’s incredible qualities the entire way home. When we got to my parents’ house, he parked in the driveway but we didn’t get out.

“She does sound like a — what would you call it? — steal of a deal. What’s the catch?”

“Catch? Why would there be a catch? Hello, Binyomin, could you see me being best friends with a catch?”

“Ha ha.” He fiddled with his window button, rolling the window down, up, down. “What does her father do?”

I ran my fingers over the pendant of my necklace. It was a really special necklace. Two green stones and one diamond. Understated. Elegance. Of the century. We’d gone to 47th Street to customize it. My in-laws had given a check of whatever amount they’d felt like giving, and my father had filled in the gap. I had no doubt that the gap had been several times the amount of my in-laws’ check, and my father would gladly have covered the full amount, except that he wanted to give my in-laws the good feeling of buying this gift.

I don’t know why all this ran through my mind when I heard my husband’s question.

“Hmm?” he prodded.

“Her father is a maggid shiur in Rabbi Zalman Katzler’s yeshivah,” I said. “He’s a huge talmid chacham. It’s a very chashuv, Torahdig family.”


“And you can totally see that in Zissi. She’s such a refined person. Emesdig, know what I mean? But really, really fun at the same time, totally down-to-earth. You know, well-rounded.”

“Look, Yehudis, it sounds really nice and everything, but you know it’s never going to happen.”

“Huh? Why ever not? You don’t know my friend!”

“Her father’s klei kodesh, which is beautiful, don’t get me wrong. But that means, well, you know… Yossi’s a serious learner. He hopes to stay in kollel for many years. My parents will never go into a shidduch if the girl’s parents can’t support the couple.”

Still fingering my pendant, I mentally ticked off the list of my sisters-in-law.

Kayla. Avrumi Ringel’s daughter. Avrumi Ringel, of Ringel Holdings.

Sara Leah. I knew what Sara Leah’s father did. He was an appliance wholesaler. Definitely not a pauper.

Nechama. Well, we’d bought my pendant from Nechama’s father on 47th Street. Ironic or what?

Bashie. Bashie Friedman, I remembered her from school, she was only two years older than I was. I liked Bashie. Her apartment was a five-minute walk from my own apartment in Eretz Yisrael, and we spent a lot of time together, she was very my type. What did her parents do? Right, her parents owned a trucking company or something like that.

My own father hardly worked, honestly. He’d made some good investments in his early twenties, and although we never really discussed it, I’ve always known that we lived off some cushy rent rolls.

A coldness seeped through my skin. I stared out the window at my parents’ beautiful house. White limestone with a humongous black door near a glass railing porch. Illuminated front stairs. Double-car driveway — in the heart of Brooklyn. A neat row of bushes concealing the private basement entrance.

“I don’t understand,” I said slowly. “Basically, what you’re telling me is… if my family wouldn’t have been, you know, like, comfortable, your parents wouldn’t have glanced my way? They inquired about money before they inquired about… me?”

“I— I didn’t say that.”

“No,” I said hoarsely. “You didn’t.”

I did not have time to process the discovery that my husband was my husband on the sole merit of my father’s rent rolls. When I stepped into the house, I was immediately conscripted to join my parents on a trip to Shua Bandman’s silver store, along with my sisters Tehilla and Miri.

Shua Bandman did not have a storefront. He was a silver “soicher” who carried exclusive pieces, designed for exclusive customers, operating at exclusive hours. And tonight, the Goldstein entourage would be making an exclusive choice of ke’arah, because, as my mother claimed, “It’s high time we upgrade from that embarrassing Seder plate.”

When we arrived, there were two ke’aros sitting on the Bandmans’ dining room table. My parents and sisters immediately cast votes on the two candidates, then took turns changing their minds, then changing each other’s minds. Shua was around to help everyone change everyone else’s minds, and when he judged that all assembled were adequately confused, he conspiratorially told everyone to wait. A few minutes later, he returned with a large box and unveiled Option 3.

My vision blurred as I stared at the exquisite monstrosity.

If my father wouldn’t be wealthy, my in-laws wouldn’t have looked into my shidduch?

Tehilla whistled, cuing a choir of awed murmurs. Do my middos, personality, and unique qualities not matter? If it’s all about Daddy’s credit card, would it even make a difference to my in-laws whether Binyomin married me or Tehilla or Miri?

“What do you say, Yehudis?” my mother asked.

“It’s stunning,” I said, and I was sure it was. I was also sure the price was stunning on steroids.

A stunning ke’arah, testimony of my license to join the Feig dynasty.

I should not have come along on this outing.

In the end, we settled on one of the initial two options, which I think was part of Shua Bandman’s ploy. We left it behind to have it lacquered. “It normally takes four weeks to get such a piece lacquered,” Shua told my father, “and I’m crazy busy these days. But I’ll do it for you, Zecharya. I’ll squeeze it in.”

Rent rolls didn’t only buy you great sons-in-law. They also expedited the lacquering of your new ke’arah.

I locked myself into the guest suite when we got home and finally indulged in some serious brooding.

I hadn’t had a chance, or the patience, to unpack in the three days since we’d landed. Now, with my thoughts racing wildly, I snatched items out of the suitcase and started organizing them in the empty closet. Nothing gets my productivity muscles going the way a good brood does.

But I couldn’t brood for long. Binyomin showed up a few minutes later, looking like a coiled spring waiting to be released.

“What?” I asked pointedly.

He sank into the armchair in the little foyer leading to the bedroom. He waited a beat, then clucked his tongue. “I had an interesting talk with my parents.”

“Yeah?” I said moodily.

“Yeah. And guess what? I have some good news and some bad news.”

I frowned, indicating that I wasn’t taking interest but allowing him to continue. Then I felt guilty, so I dumped the pile of sweaters I was holding onto my bed and came over to sit down in the second armchair and pay proper attention.

See, I was a good wife, and not because of my father’s rent rolls.

“’Kay, the good news first, right?” Binyomin started. “So here’s the interesting thing. Yossi specifically does not want to marry a girl from a wealthy home. Like, very badly not.”

I supposed I was meant to get excited. He was trying to tell me that my shidduch idea could work. But — I know, good wife and all that — I couldn’t help snapping, “Right, because girls from rich homes are shallow and materialistic and would not know how to deal with a challenge the size of an ingrown toenail.”


“I’m sorry.”


“Okay, I’m really sorry. It’s not even your fault. I mean, you married me willingly. I know you wouldn’t have married me if you would’ve found my company disagreeable. So let’s hear. Will they look into Zissi?”

Yossi definitely would.”

“Oh. I see where this is going.” I picked up a magazine from the coffee table and rolled it into a cone. “Here’s where the bad news comes in?”

Binyomin sighed. “Exactly. My parents are horrified by his attitude, and they won’t allow it to happen. They intend to knock some sense into his head. You know, they look at Yossi as a young, naive boy who doesn’t realize what life is all about.”

“And Yossi?”

“Yossi’s a great kid. He isn’t fighting them. He lets them vet whichever girls they think could work for him. But it won’t work. He dated three girls so far and said no before anything had a chance of going anywhere.”

I stared at him. “He dated three girls from wealthy homes?”

“Obviously. But I’m telling you, Yehudis, he’s only doing this for my parents. I mean, I’m sure he makes a sincere attempt every time, but subconsciously, I think he’s trying to prove to them that it won’t work, so that they’ll have no choice but to come around.”

“I… see.” I sat quietly, absorbing what he’d told me. Then, a strange thought crossed my mind. “Waaaaait. Did you tell your parents about Zissi?”

“No, I didn’t. There was no point.”

I slapped my palms together. “Great. Please, Binyomin. Don’t breathe a word about this. I’m going to redt it to them.”

“No, no, please, Yehudis, don’t. It’s going to backfire. You don’t want to make things unpleasant for your friend.”

I stood up and walked back to the pile of sweaters on my bed. “Don’t worry,” I said breezily. “It’ll be incredibly pleasant. Trust me.”

IT was really kind of my in-laws to invite us for dinner a week before Pesach.

Which made me feel like a shrew for taking advantage of this opportunity, but really, they weren’t doing me any favors. I had made a shidduch suggestion for their son. And I was merely following up now.

My father-in-law bentshed and left as soon as he finished eating his main course. I was glad of that. It would be a bit less awkward for me this way.

When my mother-in-law brought out fruit salad for dessert, I ever so casually brought up the topic.

“Uh… so, yes,” she stammered. “We did hear really nice things about this Zissi girl.”

This Zissi girl? Zissi Matyas was my best friend. I’d made that abundantly clear. There was something so irreverent in her choice of words, it made the fruity flavors on my tongue turn acidic.

But I couldn’t lose sight of my goal, so I just smiled and said, “I knew you would. There are only nice things to say about Zissi.”



“So?” I asked carefully.

“Right. So yes. She sounds like a really great girl. But, uh… I don’t think it’s going to be shayech.”

Ha. True, I was the shadchan here, but I was also her daughter-in-law, and she wouldn’t be able to get away with the not-going-to-be-shayech line.

I wasn’t going to push, of course. Instead, I put a small piece of cantaloupe in my mouth and respectfully waited for her to continue.

“It’s nothing personal,” she said at last. “Just a technical reason. Yossi’s like the rest of my boys, you know. Just like Binyomin.” She motioned at Binyomin, who was reading some kuntres and didn’t seem to be following our conversation. “He’s determined to learn really long term, preferably in Eretz Yisrael, and he wants to be able to focus on that with menuchas hanefesh.”

“Zissi would love to live in Eretz Yisrael,” I interjected. Politely. Obliviously.

“I’m sure. But her parents aren’t capable of supporting such a lifestyle. So I guess that’s that. It’s so sweet of you for trying, and the girl really does sound like a gem.”

I loved how she diplomatically wove the word “support” into a sophisticated sentence, so that it didn’t come across as crass or anything.

Okay. Showdown. I stirred the fruit in the dessert bowl in front me. “Zissi’s parents?” I said blithely. “They are such wonderful, chashuv people. I spent hours and hours in their house over the years, and I have to say, the chinuch they gave their children is truly rare.”

It truly, truly was. If only I could rhapsodize on that point. Find me another girl who happily shops for Shabbos clothing in Macy’s. Find me another girl who gave up seminary in Eretz Yisrael because she didn’t have the heart to burden her parents with the expense. Find me another girl who goes to sleep reading Nefesh Shimshon — and doesn’t make me feel inferior that I don’t.

I could go on and on listing Zissi’s qualities. I could break down the numbers of how much Zissi was currently earning and the long-term potential in the accounting field. I could break down the numbers of my own monthly overhead, as seen on my father’s credit card statements (which I never actually saw) — an astounding number in Zissi’s eyes, a number that she rightfully asserted, was “not the true cost of living.”

Zissi didn’t need her parents’ support because she knew how to earn and she knew how to budget, and she was the most histapek bemu’at person I’ve ever met.

I wished I could sincerely say all that.

But a strategy was a strategy. I silently prayed that Binyomin remain absorbed in his kuntres.

Dropping my spoon in my bowl, I gave a short laugh. “It’s interesting how the world categorizes people,” I said in a chatty tone. “Like, when we go to really grand weddings, we assume the family is really well-heeled, and then we find out that there was a hachnasas kallah campaign running for this couple.”

My mother-in-law looked at me curiously. “Yes. Yes, that happens sometimes.”

“And then there are people who live really modest lives, make simple weddings, keep everything low-key. While really, they’re sitting on dozens of valuable assets. They davka don’t want to live a luxurious lifestyle. They have so much depth, such a passion for Yiddishkeit, they don’t place any value on gashmiyus. So instead, they thank Hashem for their blessings and quietly donate huge numbers to tzedakah.”

My throat felt dry after my little speech. I poured myself some water.

I watched my mother-in-law stand up and start collecting the bowls. There was something contemplative in her movements. She’d heard me. She was thinking.

Finally, she set the stack of bowls down on the counter and said, “That’s really impressive.”

Zissi was a nervous wreck. She had me on the phone while she changed into her fifth outfit. I locked myself into my guest suite, patiently helping her work through each nerve point individually.

“Do I wear heels?”

“Yes, you should wear heels,” I told her. “Yossi probably won’t care, but he’s pretty tall, so just do.”

I guided her through her jewelry options, basically a collection of TJ Maxx accessories. I removed my own necklace, setting it down on my palm and staring at the glinting stones. Something squeezed in my stomach. How much had these rocks cost, seriously?

I would have lent it to her for the night had it not been so weird.

“Tell me about him again,” Zissi said. “He’s like your husband, you said?”

“Similar but different,” I explained. “Different the way you and me are different,” I elaborated, “in a good way.”

“There’s no hope, Yehudis, and you know it. Our parents will sit down and have a serious discussion if this goes anywhere.”

“Just focus on the date. Please, Zissi. Give it your all.” I quickly corrected myself. “I mean, just be you. You are your all, and your all is incredible, so don’t pretend to be anything else!”

She snickered.

“Just one thing, Zis.”


“Don’t talk about money. Like, support, self-sufficiency, all those things. Just… avoid the topic. Okay?”

I had my own date scheduled during the time that Zissi was meeting Yossi. Which I guess was a good thing, because if I didn’t have something to take my mind off their date, I would probably lose it.

“When do I find out where we’re headed?” I asked Binyomin in the car.

“When we arrive?”

I groaned.

But the suspense wasn’t prolonged, because it didn’t take long to arrive — at Guttman’s Jewelry.

Jewelry. Oh.

Something really uncomfortable niggled in my throat.

For Binyomin’s sake, I plastered a delighted grin on my face. “Don’t tell me!” I said, hoping I sounded sufficiently chirpy. “You’re not getting me a weekday bracelet, are you? You little sneak!”

Of course he was. And I should’ve put two and two together. The night we’d arrived from Eretz Yisrael, my mother had drawn me into a strange conversation about which jewelry pieces shanah rishonah wives appreciated getting, and I’d told her a weekday bracelet, simply because I could use a new one. The bracelet I owned had been my graduation gift, four years earlier.

I’d forgotten about this conversation, probably because I’d become busy with more important business. Shadchanus sure was a draining occupation.

And now, here we were, at Guttman’s, to pick from one of the options Binyomin had put aside; options my mother had almost definitely selected for him — and paid a deposit for.

A Pesach gift. From my husband, supposedly.

Why wasn’t I hyper excited?

Mrs. Guttman put the five bracelet options down on the display counter, and I couldn’t help but smile. Emeralds, what else? Four out five of them. With a few well-placed diamonds, and set in yellow gold casting.

I stared at the glistening stones deliriously.

Am I a materialistic person?

I am.


WE didn’t finalize on a bracelet that night, only narrowed down the options from five to two. We told Mrs. Guttman we’d be back, I wanted to sleep on it. I left the store with a blended vision of exquisite bracelets and TJ Maxx accessories in my mind.

It was 10:00. How long did first dates typically last?

I went upstairs to help my mother in the Pesach kitchen. I made a double batch of almond cookies, anything to make the time move faster.

An hour later, we still hadn’t heard from anyone.

“Is that a good sign or a bad sign?” I asked Binyomin.

“It’s no sign at all,” he said, looking up from his Gemara. “I still have no idea how you pulled this off. Did you offer to support this couple at your father’s expense?”


The call came at 12:30, from my mother-in-law.

I listened to Binyomin’s side of the conversation — why hadn’t she called me directly? Did she think I’d be sleeping at such a time? — and from the few words he uttered and the twinkling winks and thumbs up he sent my way, I got my answer.

My hands trembled with excitement as I dialed Zissi.

WE scheduled the second date for Motzaei Shabbos Hagadol.

That left me with an agonizing two-day wait.

My mother offered to go back to Guttman’s with me on Friday. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Don’t you have like a million things to do so close to Pesach?”

She laughed. “That’s what Pesach kitchens, freezers, and faithful Vickies are for.”

So much for excusing her. How could I explain that I was the one who didn’t have the headspace for jewelry shopping just then? This bracelet gift had put my mind in a strange kind of turmoil. Like, my in-laws had taken me for their son for this reason — for Daddy’s magical credit card — and by perpetuating it, I was proving that this — the magnificent bracelet, my beauty of a necklace — was my net worth. Not my appreciation of limud haTorah. Not my easygoing personality. Not even the middos I worked so hard to improve. As though money were my only asset. As though money was the secret ingredient to a great marriage.

But my mother was available, and she — I mean, Binyomin, right — was buying me a gift. How could I say no?

It was almost corny to find the gift-wrapped box with Binyomin’s note next to my tray of candles before lichtbentshen.

“You look very out of things,” my mother commented later that night, as I hung around in the kitchen to help her serve.

“Extended jetlag?” I provided lamely. “Uh, Ma, tomorrow morning, if you’re up early, do you mind waking me up?”

“Sure, no problem. I’m always up early. But what’s your rush? Why don’t you sleep off the jetlag if you have the opportunity?”

I didn’t know how to explain it to her, because I hadn’t formulated this thought at all. It had just… occurred to me. Suddenly.

“I want to go daven in shul.”

My mother looked at me as though I’d confessed that, after all those years, I’d suddenly started liking fish.

“That’s… nice,” she said. I could see her picking words from her astounded mind. “Is… uh…. Did you start this habit in Eretz Yisrael? That’s really special.”

I shrugged and picked up two plates to take in to the dining room.

No, I had not started this habit in Eretz Yisrael.

But I knew that Zissi had been waking up early on Shabbos every week since she was like 14 years old. “Going to shul is free, ha ha,” she’d always joked when I told her how much I admired her. “No Hillel Hazakein sacrifices required.”

“Does that mean you’ll miss our kiddush?” my mother asked.

Oh, I’d forgotten about that “minhag.” My sisters always came over for a ladies’ kiddush Shabbos morning, at around 11:00. My mother ordered cheesecakes and cheese pastries from Devorah’s Delectables every week, and we all chain coffee drank while we nibbled and yakked.

I couldn’t tell her why it was suddenly so important to me to do this. Way more important than a slice of cheesecake.

“I guess so,” I told my mother.

I didn’t have to listen to Binyomin’s side of the conversation to know that it was over. His face said it all.

We’d been walking through the streets aimlessly, watching the hours tick by while we waited for this date to end.

And now… this.

I couldn’t believe it. What could have gone so wrong? And it had been a four-hour date — it couldn’t have been a series of painfully awkward attempts at conversation.

Binyomin was still on the phone, mainly listening. I pantomimed my urgent curiosity, but he motioned for me to wait. Finally, he hung up and looked at me oddly.

“He liked her,” he said. “Very much, in fact.”

“Yeah, but?”

Binyomin continued strolling, his shoes clicking on the sidewalk with exaggerated sharpness.

“But honestly, I’m a hundred percent confused. There must be some misunderstanding. Yossi says… he doesn’t want to marry a girl from a rich home?”

I ignored Zissi’s call.

It was a horrible thing to do, but I couldn’t talk to her before I heard more. Did more.

It was nearly 3 a.m., but it didn’t matter. My in-laws were up, and this couldn’t wait. Binyomin and I were a few short blocks away. We hurried over.

“It’s the same story yet again,” my mother-in-law told me warily. “He’s nice enough to agree to a second date, and after that, it’s a no.”

“Nobody can talk sense into him,” my father-in-law added.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. It was Zissi, I knew, and I couldn’t avoid her any longer. I excused myself and stepped out onto the back porch.

Only the place was already occupied.

“Uh…” I stammered, stupidly waving my phone at Yossi.

He looked at me with a blank face, then nodded and headed inside. But before the door closed, he was back outside, together with Binyomin.

I answered the phone and whispered to Zissi, “I’m calling you in a few minutes. Wait.”

“Well?” Binyomin asked Yossi pointedly.

Yossi leaned over the porch rail, his back to us. After a minute, Binyomin approached him and leaned over the rail as well, so I was now facing two backs.

I took a few soft, silent steps closer, so I could make out their words.

“I don’t want it, Bin,” Yossi said. “I tried. You know I tried. This is the fourth girl I dated for Tatty and Mommy’s sake. I have to say, of the four girls, this one is the hardest to say no to. She really doesn’t look like she’s from that stock. But it’s still there, you can’t miss it. The way she talks about living in Eretz Yisrael — I’m already picturing her sitting over iced coffee with her friends for hours every day.” He lifted his palm in supplication. “I can’t.”

“What?” Binyomin asked. “What stock? What in the world are you talking about?”

“You know good and well what I’m talking about. Money. As though money buys happiness. Like, with a few dollars, life is going to be just great. Happily-ever-after great. I’m the youngest in this family, right? So I’ve seen a thing or two with all my sweet sisters-in-law.”

No, seriously, I did not belong out here on the porch. Did he realize that his sweet sister-in-law was still there, standing a few feet behind him?

“Yossi Feig,” Binyomin stated. “I am so confused.”

“I’m not sure why you’re confused. I’ve been saying this from the day I entered shidduchim. I don’t want a girl from a wealthy home. I want to live a simple, low-key life, Binyomin. And I want a girl who appreciates simplicity. Not a girl who needs to upgrade her wardrobe every season. Not a girl who expects a new piece of jewelry for every Yom Tov. Not a girl who is such a frequent flyer, she actually dreads long and boring flights. It’s not for me. I don’t want to chase luxury like it’s running away. I’d rather spend Succos in my tiny porch succah than in some fancy-schmancy hotel in the UAE.”

I watched Binyomin’s shoulders rise higher with every word. I pictured the mush of creases on his forehead as he tried to make sense of what his brother had just said.

Okay. Moment of truth, here I come.

I took two loud, deliberate steps forward. The men turned around.

“Is that what you saw in Zissi?” I asked.

Yossi blushed. “No. No, I can’t say I saw all that. But I know how these girls turn out. They can afford luxuries, so why not? But it’s not for me. I want to marry a hardworking, independent adult, not a coddled, spoiled, clueless little girl.”

“But—” Binyomin spluttered.

“So really,” Yossi continued, “your friend is a very nice girl — I mean it, and you should tell her that — but I can’t handle all the glitz. The fact remains that she never had to learn the value of a dollar, and for me, that’s a real problem.”


Hooooooow did this happen?

“So it’s weird,” I told Zissi at 4:05 a.m., breaking away from Binyomin. “But I won’t have an answer for you before tomorrow. He enjoyed the date,” I said quickly. “It’s just… let’s talk tomorrow, ’kay?”

“Um, no. Not okay. I wouldn’t let any shadchan get away with that. You don’t expect me to let you get away with it.”

Zissi Matyas — glitz!

How would I explain this to her? What would she think if I told her that in my effort to find her a great chassan, I had sabotaged the perfect shidduch?

“Fine, you win.” I thought for a moment and then said. “He said no tonight. But he’s going to say yes tomorrow.”

Adrenaline works way better than caffeine at keeping a person alert. I’d been up for 21 hours straight, but I didn’t feel the least bit tired.

“No rest for the con-matchmaker,” Binyomin sang as we headed down the stairs to our private basement entrance.

I paused at the door and looked at him earnestly.

“I meant their good,” I said. “Zissi’s and Yossi’s.”

“I’m sure.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Okay, Yehudis. Now tell me the truth. What exactly happened here? You told my mother that the Matyases have money?”

“I didn’t actually tell her.”

“No, of course not. You just added a few zeroes to their tax returns and accidentally dropped a copy in her mailbox.”

I punched in the combination code and flicked on the basement light. “Isn’t it crazy?” I said, peeling my jacket off, “that Yossi wants to marry a girl from a pashut home — and for this very reason, he’s saying no to… Zissi?”

Binyomin kicked off his shoes. “Do you really want to talk about what’s crazy?”

I swallowed. “Look. All you need to do is explain it to Yossi. And then to your parents. You’ll tell them that—”

Binyomin wagged his finger. “Nuh-uh-uh, Mrs. Shadchan. You made this mess, now clean it up. I’m not telling anybody anything.”


He yawned. “I don’t know about you, but I’m bombed. I have to be at Shacharis in around three hours.”

Seriously. He would have no trouble falling asleep now?

I roamed around the basement for the next hour, trying to make sense of the bind I’d landed in. How did this work, really? A few dollars a month, a few thousand dollars a month, but still only money. Could that really be a determining factor in something as eternal as marriage?

There was no way out but to make certain uncomfortable confessions. I guess there were some problems that money couldn’t fix.

But really, was it such a big deal? I’d fabricated the Matyases’ wealth. I could fabricate their downfall.

Binyomin was kind enough to accompany me to my in-laws’ house-cum-courtroom.

We spoke to Yossi first, cornering him in the turned-over kitchen where he was frying crepes for Pesach lokshen.

“I, uh… spoke to my friend,” I started, falteringly. I threw desperate, pleading eyes at Binyomin, but he simply stole a crepe off the top of the pile and crumpled it into his mouth.

“So, I mean, she doesn’t even know about this, honestly. But, like, it’s not even true.”

“I told you, it’s not about your friend. She made an excellent impression.”

“Right. Because that’s really her.”

“Yes, yes. Of course. And I don’t blame her. The minute she has her first baby, she’ll have a decorator come down to design a nursery. Not because she’s a bad person, just because that’s normal for her.”

“It’s not,” I said fiercely. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

Binyomin helped himself to another crepe. “Yoser mi’mah sh’karasi lifneichem kasuv kahn,” he drawled.

I had a vague recollection of learning these words in Chumash class, something about the Kohein Gadol on Yom Kippur, I wasn’t sure exactly, but to Yossi, these words appeared to be an illuminating revelation.

He flipped a browning crepe over in the pan. “Uh… oh?”

“Yeah,” Binyomin said.

“You mean….” He turned away from the flame to face me. “My mother specifically told me that the Matyases are quiet about their money. I understood from her that they choose to live below their means, on principle. That’s how she got me to agree to meet this girl. Although it doesn’t really matter, because even if the parents have shittos about spending, it doesn’t mean the kids will know how to handle an unlimited credit card. But now I’m confused. Are you telling me that the Matyases aren’t wealthy in the first place?”

I shook my head in humiliation.

“Oh,” he said. He removed the crepe from the pan and poured in another ladle of egg and potato starch batter. “Oh… Well. I see. That kind of… changes the whole the picture.”

I watched him rotate the pan to distribute the batter, and at that moment, I was struck by an absurd urge to laugh. Imagine. Were I to suddenly reveal that my father’s wealth is a farce, would my in-laws come to recognize my own value, the core Yehudis in me? Would they still want me for their son?

Wasn’t Yossi’s change of heart absolutely comical? Reverse stereotypization. As long as he’d thought that Zissi came from a wealthy home, he’d judged her and found proof of her shallowness and materialism. The minute he found out the truth, she suddenly turned into a tzadeikes.

If only I could hock about this irony with Zissi.

WE were a team of three now.

My mother-in-law was cleaning up the room in the basement where they’d eaten their meals on Shabbos. She turned off the vacuum cleaner when we trooped in.

“Hey! Yehudis, Binyomin. What a nice surprise, hmm?”

She didn’t look the least bit surprised. A funny feeling settled over me.

Binyomin slapped open two folding chairs and sat down on one of them. Everyone was strangely silent.

Make way for awkwardness.

“So, like, about Zissi—” I started.

“I think I’ll go out with her again,” Yossi interrupted casually.

He could just go out with her again. Then they could have a few more dates, and he could propose to her, and they could get engaged, and married, have kids, and… and my mother-in-law didn’t even have to know.

I nursed the wild idea for a luxurious six seconds.

My mother-in-law planted the vacuum cleaner wand down on the floor. I watched her timorously. Why did her face look so… smug?

“Welllll,” she said. “Four can play this game. Eh?”

I stared at her in shock. A swift glance at Binyomin and Yossi told me that they were equally bewildered.

“It was… a misunderstanding,” I stammered.

“A misunderstanding,” she echoed, “definitely.”

She spread her lips in a thin, sugary smile. “I understood everything quite well, my dear. What did you think? That I wouldn’t make my own inquiries about the Matyases’ ‘assets’? This isn’t my first child in shidduchim, you know.”

She turned to Yossi. “The joke’s on you, tzaddik. Zissi’s parents are poor as church mice, but Zissi is a gem of a girl, and you were ready to walk away because of an immature hang-up with money.”

“You told me the family has a lot of valuable assets!” Yossi cried.

“They surely do. Their daughter, Zissi, for one. Didn’t you see that for yourself?”

Yossi was quiet.

Me, I could barely breathe.

“I gave you your chance,” my mother-in-law went on. “Great girl, no money. So tell me, Yossi, now that you’ve met Zissi, can you really tell, just by meeting a girl, if she comes from a wealthy home?”

She didn’t give him a chance to answer. “Saying no to a girl because she has money is the same as saying no to a girl because she doesn’t have money.” The smirk vanished from her face, and a layer of hurt spread over her eyes. “Middos has always been number one on my list of shidduch requirements. Yes, I want the money, for practical purposes, to make long-term learning possible. But I wouldn’t let that come before the girl, who she is as a person.”

The tiny room filled with a heavy silence. I felt like I was going to choke.

Yossi was the first one to find his tongue. “I need to go back to my crepes,” he mumbled.

I have no idea how I made it through Pesach with my sanity intact.

“How much space do we have to give him?” I whined to Binyomin approximately twice an hour throughout the entire Yom Tov. “A square block? A city? A continent? I bet he’s so spaced out by now, he doesn’t even know where he started out.”

I also had to endure Yom Tov meals at my in-laws, during which everyone pretended that I wasn’t a shadchan who had stirred up any turmoil at all.

My mother-in-law was sweet. She pulled me aside while I was helping her clear the table and said, “I’m sure you’re a bundle of nerves. Just give him a little more time. He’s processing stuff.”

I knew that. But still!

Yet at the same time, I had my own “stuff” to process. Basically, that my whole unnerving discovery wasn’t valid. My mother-in-law had not chosen me for my parents’ wealth. I’d impressed her as an individual; I’d heard it from her own mouth.

That should have put all my insecurities to rest, but it didn’t. Not entirely anyway. Something had shifted inside of me, and I wasn’t at ease.

Bless my mother-in-law, she didn’t seem to bear a grudge toward me for pretty much lying in her face and possibly pushing her son into a spot she’d been avoiding from day one. At least, she didn’t let on that she felt that way.

Zissi was another story. “Tell him to say no already,” she begged me on Chol Hamoed, “I could handle it, I promise. It’ll be way easier than this torture.”

The third day of Chol Hamoed, my family left for a whole major overnight trip upstate, including ATVing and horseback riding. Binyomin and I opted out. “I prefer smooth roads,” I told my mother lamely. What should I have said? That I was so jittery about my friend and my brother-in-law, and what if the call came while I was making a 90-degree turn two inches away from a cliff?

We rented a rowboat instead. A nice, low-key, Zissi-ish type of activity. “If, in the future, I ever tell you that I have a shidduch idea,” I told Binyomin as I slapped my oar into the water, “you are to cut me off before I finish the sentence.”

“Unless this shidduch happens.”

Even if this shidduch happens.”

To my disbelief, we went into the second days of Yom Tov still in a state of limbo.

Two days after Yom Tov, while Binyomin and I were shopping for all the things you can’t buy in Eretz Yisrael, Yossi finally called. We abandoned our wagon and fled outside to our rented car to take the call.

“I’m with Yehudis here and you’re on speaker,” Binyomin told him. “What’s the good word?”

“I’m ready to meet her again,” Yossi said simply. “Do you want to find out if tonight works for her?”

I couldn’t know if he’d had some epiphany or had simply broken past his pride. But really, did it matter? My fingers literally shook as I dialed Zissi.

We drove through the streets at random, working with both parties to figure out the whens and the wheres for this date. When it was all finalized, Binyomin turned to me and asked, “Is it premature to celebrate?”

“Nope,” I said. “I vote it’s the perfect time to celebrate.”

He laughed. “Definitely. A third date, have you ever gotten that far in your shadchanus career?”


We’d arrived in front of my parents’ house. The gardener was pruning the bushes that concealed the basement entrance.

“Okay, so where do you want to go?” Binyomin asked. “Which American steakhouse are you going to miss the most?”

A steakhouse. Because where else would a girl who has Daddy’s credit card nestled in her pocket go to celebrate?

The smell of freshly cut grass hit my senses sharply.

“I’m thinking…” I said slowly. “Should we, like, rather, just go out for ice cream?”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1008)

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