There are some people who claim that a growing repertoire of shiduchim helps clarify the mind. Perhaps that was just meant to reassure people like myself - people who were fast becoming increasingly confused and burnt out.

What do I really want; how much do I compromise, and how should I feel? I felt I was starting to lose touch with reality, and the uncertainty was preying on my personal fears. If I found someone I liked, would he actually want someone with my temperament and background?

I decided a "time out" was in order- that might clear my head. I put my energies into making plans for my future parnasa- using my rights to enroll in a course in my field and "get on with life"- and so a few months passed in preparations.

It was my special friend Reisl who encouraged me to get back into the shiduch scene. She gave me a list of addresses of matchmakers in Mattersdorf and elsewhere and made me promise to call them. I also agreed to humour her by going to the cotel for forty days in a row- what could it hurt? My heart just wasn't in it, though. I met the matchmakers, registered myself in their books and went back to mine.

Some time that summer I visited Tiverya with friends. I particularly wanted to visit the kever of Rabbi Akiva- a sage for whom I always had the greatest admiration. I loved and respected his sense of balance- a passion for erudition and also a connection to his fellow man. He was emotionally grounded enough and spiritually developed enough to go into the PARDES and emerge whole. In my eyes he was clearly a tremendous man.

Two emotions assailed me at that kever. The first was joy- joy that the kever of Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato was right there, a few metres from Rabbi Akiva's blue painted structure. I felt especially connected to the writings of the Ramchal and was amazed and delighted to learn that he was considered to be a gilgul of Rabbi Akiva. The second emotion was not so easy to bear.

I felt a strong sense of simple unworthiness- that it was a chutzpah for me with all my rough edges to daven at the kever of Rabbi Akiva. I felt rather intimidated and apologetic about it, as if sensing divine disapproval, but finished my humble tefila and left the holy site.

Now, HaKadosh Baruch hu has strange and wonderful ways of working things out, as we know. A year earlier my friend and flatmate, Shulamit, was married- on the seventeenth of Av to be precise. Since she was heavily involved in her Chasene preparations she had to find an obliging someone to take over her jobs. I needed the money and was happy to have the zchuyot, so I took them all, much to her relief. This is how I found myself a practitioner of acupressure, a nurse for a lady with Parkinson's and an official ironer for Shabbos and Yom Tov- all practically overnight.

My y'shua was destined to come from the ironing job. Almost a year later a young bochur by the name of Akiva (named for Rabbi Akiva), with an interesting background and very special, balanced temperament, walked into that home with "my" ironing board. There he met a girl who was totally unsuitable, but he caught the attention of Leora, the Ba'alat habayit, and she thought of me.

To this day I remember that Sunday afternoon vividly. There was definitely something in the air- although, to be honest, I did not take the shiduch business totally seriously. Hey, it seemed like a worthwhile way to while away part of the day, so I put on in a pretty flower print dress I'd just found in a box outside Leora's apartment- freshly ironed of course- and went to meet my destiny. It was, by the way, the seventeenth of Av.

Epilogue: Well, we've been married for almost fourteen years, and there is every indication that we'll stay married for at least that long again, G-d willing!

Copyright © 1999 Gila Atwood

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