I doubted Yocheved even knew that fresh flowers went against the takanos deal. I never shared the nitty-gritty takanos details with her. I avoided takanos conversation with her in general
The children giggled. The photographer snapped. I squeezed Shevy’s hand.
“Can we get all the lovely aunts over for a shot?” the photographer sang.
My sisters and sisters-in-law lined up around Shevy, Fraidy warning Blimie not to tiptoe — “If you tiptoe, I tiptoe, so there” — and Blimie frantically begging Gila to switch spots. “I can’t stand next to Yocheved. Too bad she isn’t tall enough, next time she should wear heels.”
The same scene played out at every family simchah, but we all laughed anyway. I couldn’t believe we’d made it to this point, rejoicing at Shevy’s vort.
When it was the Engels’ turn in front of the camera, I stepped back, quietly observing Shevy’s future in-laws. They were a small family — Gavriel and two girls. A small and wonderful family. All of them bore that same grace, a certain authentic quality, reflected in their warm smiles. I sighed happily.
But then I felt something tug at my insides again and I anxiously surveyed the wallpaper, the chandeliers, the sweet tables. Was this place too low-key? Were the Engels disappointed? It wasn’t the most opulent hall, but it was definitely nice. A far cry from our dining room, where we’d planned on hosting Shevy’s vort before… before this whole…
Yocheved materialized at my side. “Gorgeous flowers,” she gushed. “They have good taste, your mechutanim.”
She said it sincerely, and yet my throat tightened. Because the flowers were gorgeous. Too gorgeous. The square border of greens, the polished chrome props, the rows and rows of orchids… Orchids were expensive.
“Tova’s brother is a florist, you know,” I rushed to explain. “Kornreich?”
Yocheved nodded. “Right, she’s a Kornreich girl, you told me. Well, he did a fantastic job. I guess he’ll do the wedding as well?”
Another catch in my throat. She didn’t mean to taunt me. I doubted Yocheved even knew that fresh flowers went against the takanos deal. I never shared the nitty-gritty takanos details with her. I avoided takanos conversation with her in general.
But Rebbetzin Paneth and the others knew the rules very well. I was the one who’d enlightened them. How was I going to explain these over-the-top flowers to them? How would I explain the photographer and the centerpieces, and the fact that we were hosting this vort in a hall instead of in our house?
And most of all, how could the same hall be too plain and too ostentatious at the same time? The thought made my head spin.
I quickly collected myself as Tova Engel approached. Graciously, I made introductions. “My sister, Yocheved,” I said, motioning.
“Mazel tov!” Yocheved exclaimed, flashing her trademark smile.
If Tova was surprised that this was my sister, she didn’t let on. We certainly didn’t look like sisters. Me in my classy black two-piece and short, neat auburn shaitel, and Yocheved in her white shift dress, gold, glass-heeled shoes, and long, sleek black sheitel.
Tova smiled. “Ooh, so you’re the famous Yocheved Lewin? So nice to meet you!”
Yocheved’s face lit up.
We stood around chatting — Tova was a small talk guru — until someone tapped my shoulder. I turned, ready to greet another guest, and stopped short, my stomach sinking. Smiling sweetly at me were Rebbetzin Paneth, Zehava Goldfinger, and Shoshi Karp — the takanos ladies.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 656)