| Family Diary |

Ring Me: Chapter 24

Shani Leiman with Zivia Reischer


I knew Esther fairly well and had set her up twice before, and I knew Nesanel well too. I would never have thought of putting them together



hen Nesanel called, he wasn’t asking me if I had any suggestions for him. He already had a suggestion from a different shadchan, and he wanted to know if I knew her.

“Esther Greenberg? Of course. She’s wonderful,” I said warmly.

“But?” he prompted.

“But nothing,” I said. “What do you want to know?”

The truth is I was a little surprised. I knew Esther fairly well and had set her up twice before, and I knew Nesanel well too. I would never have thought of putting them together.

“I want to know if you think it’s a good idea,” Nesanel said.

Nesanel was a brainy guy. He liked to read sci-fi, but also enjoyed plowing through thick books on topics like physics or chemistry, simply for the pleasure of knowledge.

He wasn’t a geek — he had an outgoing, spontaneous personality and was always getting into the kind of situations that are cool to hear about but that you’d never want to happen to you. (Like the time he was on vacation in an unfamiliar area and decided to check out some unusual-looking plants on a property he was walking past. You and I wouldn’t even know the plants were unusual, but he did. He leaned over to examine them; when he looked up again, he was facing the barrel of a gun, at the end of the arm of one infuriated landowner. But that’s a story for another time.)

Esther wasn’t like that. She was straightforward and straight-laced, with no identifiable sense of humor. She could be reserved, and I think she believed that having fun was a waste of time. She was serious and committed: davened with intention, said a lot of Tehillim, learned hilchos shemiras halashon with a friend, and had a Partner in Torah. She was all about getting the job done, and she did that well; in fact, she worked as a librarian, which suited her personality perfectly.

But a love of books was probably the only thing Nesanel and Esther had in common. And now Nesanel was asking me if I thought the shidduch was a good idea.



I told Nesanel the same thing I’ve told every other guy, girl, or parent who has called me for an opinion on a shidduch that someone else suggested: I don’t give opinions on other people’s ideas.

“I’ll be glad to tell you what I know about Esther,” I told him, “and then you can decide on your own if you want to meet her.”

Nesanel asked good questions. He asked whether I thought their hashkafos were compatible (I thought they were) and what her personality strengths were (I said she was reliable, honest, hardworking, kind, and very bright). We talked about her family, education, and what I knew about her plans for the future.

But when Nesanel asked me again, at the end of the conversation, if I thought it was a good idea, I simply said, “Esther is an amazing girl in many ways. Whether it will work or not is up to you and her to find out.”

He let it go at that.


Three hours later, Esther called. Had I ever met this guy Nesanel Horowitz? Could I tell her about him?

I could and I did. But when Esther also asked me if I thought it was a shidduch, I told her the same thing I had told him — he was a great guy, but she would have to decide for herself.

The truth is, I felt bad. I didn’t see this as a shidduch at all. Was I just causing them to waste their time and energy? Dating could be so draining. Should I have broken my rule and discouraged them from meeting each other? What would happen now?

It didn’t take too long to find out. Although I wasn’t the one redting the shidduch, both Nesanel and Esther called me after their first date to report and hear my take. Esther called me again after the third date for some encouragement, and when the fourth date flopped, Nesanel called me for some coaching. By the seventh date their calls had petered out, and on the ninth date they called me, together, to let me know that they were engaged.

All I could think was, Good thing I kept my mouth shut.

I puzzled over this unlikely shidduch for a while. It seemed that ultimately, their shared hashkafos provided enough common ground for them to connect deeply. They both loved books, which provoked many interesting conversations that helped them get to know each other’s inner world. Although Esther herself was not at all adventurous, she enjoyed Nesanel’s spontaneity, which I hadn’t anticipated.

The temptation to voice an opinion is strong, especially when you’re asked outright. I’ve seen this often with siblings — a brother will authoritatively nix a guy for his sister. He feels protective, and maybe there’s a little bit of his own ego mixed in, and before you know it, the shidduch is dead.

“Just ask for information, not an opinion,” I’ll plead, but it doesn’t always help.

In the days leading up to the vort, I thought of so many similar cases. Chevy had been suggested for Dovid repeatedly, but her brother “refused” to let them go out. When Chevy was 25, she got the guts to override her brother, and 15 years and seven kids later, it remains a family joke.

I remember setting up Adina with a slew of Modern Orthodox college professionals, and was stunned when she got engaged to a yeshivish learning boy. I still don’t know what that shadchan was thinking, but she obviously saw something I never did.

And then there was Reuven — he’d told me he only wanted a girl with a gentle, quiet personality. When he was suggested to Yael, everyone told him that she was too strong for him — someone even used the word “pushy.” He was thrown by that and called another shadchan for an opinion, who minced no words: “A waste of your time.” Still, he went out with her, and they’re happy together today.

People will always be unpredictable. When I walked into Nesanel and Esther’s vort, I looked for the shadchan and gave her a hug. Then I looked over at the glowing new couple. I could never have started this shidduch, but I was so happy I hadn’t ended it.

to be continued…


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

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 717)

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