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Yardsticks: Chapter 9

I urgently tried telepathizing a warning to Shlomo, don’t get worked up. We wanted Shevy to marry their son, this was mortifying. Chesky was going to kill us


It was my turn to straighten tassels.

The Engels’ tassels were decidedly different from ours; no threads fraying along the edges. They evidently weren’t subject to the tugs of war popular in the Genuth household.

Everything was different in this house. There was a sense of refinement here, a stillness that blanketed the room, reassuring, but at the same time formal, a tad stifling. It was a study in contrasts to our home, where the dining room table sagged under school projects, and noise and energy and endless chatter prevailed.

Moishe Engel was tapping his fingers on the table. “So you want to make this wedding affordable.”

“Weddings,” Shlomo corrected him. “For everyone. The wedding standards have gotten so out of hand, we realized — the board, I mean — that the only way to tone things down would be by introducing guidelines. An incentivized plan, you know.”

I stole a glance at Mrs. Engel. Her lips were a thin line, shoulders aristocratically straight as she followed the conversation with her eyes. Tova was a beautiful woman. High cheek bones, narrow nose, green eyes, piano fingers. Gavriel was a spitting image of her.

Chesky was right. We were idiots — jeopardizing a perfect shidduch.

Mr. Engel leaned back in his armchair. “I’m trying to understand. If we don’t sign up, you can’t get your loan? Because if that’s the case, maybe—”

“No, no, that’s not the point.” Shlomo shook his head vigorously. “I want to sign up as the trailblazers, to cool the waters, so to speak. Give others the courage to do it.”

My cheeks burned. This was a disaster. We had to leave. N-o-w.

“I get it,” Mr. Engel was saying. “I get everything, and it does sound nice. Help people marry off their kids, I’m all for it.”

Hope flickered in Shlomo’s eyes.

“But, look, I’ll be honest. We don’t need the help.” He gestured at his wife. “We have funds for Gavriel’s wedding. So this whole plan, it’s really not relevant for us. We appreciate it, but there’s no need.”

“Yes, of course, I hear that,” said Shlomo. “But it’s not only about affording. This is a klal endeavor. We want to lower the standards of marrying off, so that those who do need help — and believe me, they’re the majority — shouldn’t feel deprived. We want to make this the new normal.”

No, no. No soapboxing. I urgently tried telepathizing a warning to Shlomo, don’t get worked up. We wanted Shevy to marry their son, this was mortifying. Chesky was going to kill us.

Mr. Engel creased his forehead. “So it’s not about affordability?”

“It is,” Shlomo said. “Also. But it’s also about examining our values, what’s really important. And teaming up as a community, making responsible decisions. Because our decisions influence others’ decisions. If we model extravagance, it forces people to spend above their means.”

Mr. Engel lifted his brows. “But why should people spend over their means? Let everyone do what he’s comfortable doing. No?”

Was he for real? I opened my mouth to say something but changed my mind. We had to finish this conversation. We had to leave.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 653)

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