Rena overhears her mother and Suri speaking about Yedidye.
* * *
Suri knew she was behaving recklessly. The boys were waiting for her to come home, and here she was, getting ready for a meeting with a man she knew little about, in a country far from home. If her conversations with her sons were any indication, she was not going to have an easy time wresting them from Leib’s and his mother’s grasp in any case. Even though they were definitely spoiling the boys, that wasn’t such a problem; spoiling was something they may not have had enough of in her home when funds were so scarce.
The worst of it was that Leib was introducing them to new and fascinating things that she would never be able to keep up with, and wasn’t even sure she wanted to. She had accustomed them to a simple — some would say boring — routine, but it was one that had worked for them. Until now.
Suri knew she should go straight home, but she felt strongly inclined to look into this opportunity. She had received a few offers for remarriage since her divorce, but nothing had come of them, and she had been so busy and distracted by all her difficulties that she hadn’t seriously put her mind to it, either. But as she discovered so painfully today, her parents hadn’t even considered helping her remarry until they’d seen Rena to the chuppah.
Yet, Suri wasn’t angry or bitter. It wasn’t as if she had been asking them to help. She was only surprised at her mother’s wrath towards her for even considering the meeting.
There was something about the way Rena had described Yedidye that made Suri feel hopeful. A talmid chacham, living in Eretz Yisrael, whose life was centered entirely around the Torah, had been her dream back in seminary days. She didn’t as much regret the fact of her marriage to Leib as she wished that she had stuck to her original intuition about the type of husband she believed would be best for her. She knew better than most how much more important it was to share goals than to be impressed by someone’s personality. If Yedidye could offer her a life of Torah, she was interested.
* * *
It was only afterwards, having sat with him for nearly three hours, that she realized there was so much more to him than she had originally thought. It wasn’t just that he was a talmid chacham. It was that he had incorporated all of what he had learned, and had used it to build himself into a Torah-true personality. He did possess a natural charm, as had Leib. Yedidye Asoulin’s charm was suffused with the teachings of Chazal to such an extent that, compared to Leib, he was a rare piece of fine china. He had asked her interesting questions that made her feel valued and important, and he didn’t seem bothered at all by the fact that she was the mother of two sons.
“I grew up in a family of 12 sons,” he’d assured her. “Sons are the air that I breathe.”
He hadn’t asked much about her marriage to Leib, but he was shocked to hear that he had signed away his custody rights. “That’s very strange,” he’d commented. She could tell from the expression on his face that he wanted to say more, like perhaps “What kind of a man gives his sons away, and what type of woman marries that kind of man?” but she hoped she was only projecting her own insecurities and that it wasn’t the way he truly felt.
Rabbi and Mrs. Asoulin remained quietly in their kitchen, while the meeting progressed in their living room. Suri felt as if she were imposing, but at the same time she relished the setting and the lovely surroundings. Mrs. Asoulin was a creative homemaker, employing simple, easily-accessible items, such as fresh flowers and a colorful tablecloth, to enrich the atmosphere and the decor. The lighting was clean and not too harsh, casting low shadows over Yedidye’s features as they spoke.
He asked her many questions about her family and her childhood, and when she responded, his reactions and follow-up inquiries revealed a deep understanding and acceptance of human nature.
After finally bringing the meeting to a close as the hour grew late, Yedidye explained that while it would not be appropriate for him to walk her home through the streets, his brother and sister-in-law would escort her in his place. She protested that it wasn’t necessary, that she was perfectly capable of finding her way back, but he insisted that they were simply acting in his place.
“It was nice to meet you, Mrs. Weinbach,” he said. “Please be in touch with the shadchanit.”
“I will,” she said. She very much appreciated Yedidye’s formality. Leib’s casual approach, while not offending her outright, had often created a dissonance in her mind. Now she understood that she had been seeking a certain level of modest distance in marriage. It was unfair to make comparisons, but the differences between the two men were so blatant it was painful to think about them.
To be continued …