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Chapter Five

My Bashert

    I think G-d must have let out a big sigh of relief the day I came into the Chabad House and said to Rabbi Eliezrie "I think I'm in love with Dovid Seigel." I had finally found my bashert, and G-d had definitely put in a lot of overtime helping me find him. After hearing my statement, Rabbi Eliezrie's immediate reaction was to fall down on the floor and laugh and laugh and laugh for about ten minutes. When he got up, he said "You know, this could really work out well. He's very logical and you're very emotional and maybe you'll be good for each other."

    Rabbi Eliezrie also told me that Dovid was the kind of person who never held anything that a person had done in their past against them. The more I got to know him, the more I was sure that we were meant for each other. That wasn't the way it had started out. Actually, I had seen Dovid around the Chabad House for about a year and a half and he seemed like someone I might be interested in getting to know. One time, we sat down and talked and I decided he was a big jerk. After that I also decided I didn't want to go to the Chabad House anymore.

    Part of the reason for my decision was because Dovid had so much enthusiasm for life I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up with him. He had so many different layers to his personality. I found myself wishing I had met him earlier when I was 14 or 15. By the time I met Dovid I felt like I had been married 27 times and I was tired. Although I liked Dovid's enthusiasm, some of the comments he made were immature, and that's why I thought he was a jerk. I wasn't sure I had the patience to be with someone like that even though I sensed that underneath the immaturity, there was someone worth getting to know.

    A few months later I was talking with my Hebrew Professor at the University. I told her I was confused about whether to become Orthodox or not and whether I would ever meet any nice Jewish guys. She suggested we go and sit somewhere to talk. She was nice and she made me feel a little more hopeful. After talking with her I decided to go and see what was going on at the Israel Day program the University was having. When I walked in, Rabbi Eliezrie came over a little hesitantly because he probably wasn't sure if I was interested in talking to anyone from the Chabad House anymore. But he's such a warm and funny guy that it's hard to resist him. We talked for a few minutes and then I noticed Dovid was there at a booth selling books. He came over and we started talking, and this time he seemed a lot more mature than the last time we had talked. I asked him if he would like to go out sometime and he said "Sure!"

    We decided to go on a picnic. I left thinking maybe he wasn't so bad after all. Before we even went on the picnic he called me and we talked and talked. He talked even more than I did. We found out we had a lot more in common than I had thought. He was honest and helpful to people and he didn't have a mean or hateful bone in his body. He also smiled a lot when he talked and he had beautiful sparkling eyes. I had this feeling that we were meant to be together to help each other grow and mature.

    Actually it was really pretty amazing how we ended up together. He wasn't the type of person that you would think would go to the University of Miami. Back in high school, he had thought about going into Music. He was in the band in high school and since he wasn't the greatest trombone player, he figured that the saying "Thems that can't do, teach" applied to him, and decided to be a music teacher. The funny thing is that he is very smart. His SAT scores were exceptionally high, especially in Math, and he probably could have gone to MIT or Harvard if he wanted to. But since he had decided to study music and he wasn't that great at it, he wasn't able to get into any of the really great music schools. His next best choice was the University of Miami, which had a pretty good music school. Although it also had a large number of Jewish students and a Hillel House, he certainly wasn't the fun and sun type, so it wasn't really the type of atmosphere that normally attracted a person like him. Not only that, he didn't even go into music after all. So why did he really end up there? To meet me, of course! G-d is really quite the master when it comes to enabling certain people to connect with each other at just the right point in their lives.

    We were planning to get married in June of 1980 when Dovid finished school, but his parents were coming to Florida for a vacation in February, so we decided that we might as well get married then instead. We wanted to get married someplace special, so we chose Vizcaya, which is a beautiful mansion by the bay in Miami. The Eliezries still talk about our wedding there. We were fortunate to have all kinds of people attend. We had the Lubavitch crowd from Miami Beach, our friends and families and even my Catholic ex-boyfriend and his parents. I wanted everybody who had ever helped me with anything in my life to be there.

    In fact I still remember when I personally invited the family of a very special Rabbi, Rabbi Lehrfield. The story behind it goes like this: As I mentioned earlier, when I finished High School I went to Israel, and since my life didn't seem to be going anywhere at that time, I basically screwed it up even more by attaching myself to this guy who was originally from South Africa. He wasn't born Jewish but his father who was Jewish converted him when he was three years old. Both his parents passed away when he was a kid and he was raised in an orphanage in South Africa and came to Israel when he was sixteen. Some months after we were divorced the Rabbi who worked in the orphanage in South Africa and later moved to Israel came to visit this guy. He asked him if we had gotten a Jewish divorce and suggested that we go to a Rabbi Lehrfield on Miami Beach to obtain one. At the time I was still going out with Patrick and I decided to bring him with me for moral support when I went to Rabbi Lehrfield's house. While we were there somehow Rabbi Lehrfield figured out that Patrick wasn't Jewish. Maybe it was his name that gave him away. Rabbi Lehrfield called me over and asked "How is it that you are so interested in getting a Jewish divorce but yet you are going out with someone who isn't Jewish?" I didn't really have an answer for him, but he made me think a lot about what was going on in my life and I appreciated his concern.

    So you can imagine how thrilled I was a few years later when I stood again at the door of Rabbi Lehrfield's house. This time I had come to bring them an invitation to my 'chasana.' His wife answered the door, and I happily explained to her what her husband had said to me only a few years earlier. I continued by telling her how I had managed with a lot of help to become orthodox and I just wanted to say thank you to her husband and to ask their whole family to come and help celebrate with us. She immediately gave me a great big hug and a hearty Mazal Tov.

    Rabbi Samuels came in from Milwaukee to marry us, and he explained each part of the ceremony so everyone there would know what was going on. Later, most of the people from my husband's family and mine got up to speak, but I'm pretty sure I forgot to thank Dovid's family for coming. So I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to my in-laws and everyone in my husband's family who participated in our Simcha.

    Even though the Lubavitch community in Miami Beach was especially warm and friendly, my husband and I had not planned to stay there. I had always disliked the hot and humid weather in Miami and my husband was interested in living in a bigger city. Although we had both thought about moving to Israel, we decided that we were just not ready. My husband thought about living in New York City, and even though for many years I wanted to be from Brooklyn because I thought people from Brooklyn had character, now I wasn't so sure I could handle living in such a tremendously large city like that. We finally decided to move to Boston. We had both been there separately and we both remembered liking it. The idea of moving to Boston made me excited and a little scared as well. But at least I knew that whatever experiences I would have there, I would not have to experience them alone, because I would have my bashert by my side.

    And so we prepared to leave our little studio apartment on Alton Road in Miami Beach. But we were taking with us all of the wonderful memories we had in the short amount of time we had lived there. We knew that one of our fondest memories would be the time when we hosted a Passover seder only two months after we were married. We invited my parents, my sister, the person who was my brother-in-law at the time, a friend of his, my grandmother, Jesse Blum (my band director from Junior High who was my friend for almost 20 years until he passed away), his wife and one of his daughters, our zany friend Carol and a guy I met at work. We didn't know how we were going to fit everybody. The guy I met at work said he was in the construction business and could lend us two sawhorses and a big piece of wood, so this became our table. My husband and I both love to cook, and we've always cooked well together, so that's what we did. We cooked and cooked: potato kugel, salmon loaf, vegetable soup, a turkey, a roast, a great big salad and a whole bunch of other foods. When you walked in the door of the apartment, there was the table, and it went clear to the other end of the room, and we only had one room. That big board and those two sawhorses filled up our entire apartment. But everything worked out beautifully, and it was such a nice feeling to host our own Passover seder.

    We had a great beginning, but it was time to move on. The hardest part of moving was leaving all of the wonderful people who had helped me become a religious Jew. Through Ita I was given the chance to get to know some incredibly special people. They were all people I knew I would always keep in touch with. Pearl Shapiro was one of the most interesting Chasidic women I had ever met. She was outgoing, energetic and lots of fun to be with. Pearl was a nurse and she was extremely health conscious and encouraged other members of the community to exercise and eat right and take care of their physical selves so they could have more energy to devote to their spiritual selves. I found this concept very enlightening, especially considering the fact that I had grown up with parents who were both into taking care of their bodies but purely because of vanity. At least that's the message I had gotten from them. For many years I also spent much of my time trying to look good but eventually I decided that I didn't really care what I looked like. I just wanted people to like me as is. But Pearl taught me that being a spiritual person didn't mean you had to ignore your physical self. Pearl was supportive but never pushed her opinions on anyone. She was a good friend to everyone in the community.

    One of the sweetest women I had the pleasure of knowing was Chaya Wuensch. Chaya was an angel. She was always there, ready and willing to do a mitzvah for anyone. She was goodness and kindness and she had a special way of looking you straight in the eye with such a trusting nature that you just couldn't lie to her. Chaya was true beauty, inside and out.

    The most entertaining and amusing woman I came to know in that very special community was Rivka Korf. Rivka was constantly bubbling over with personality. She had a quick wit and an incredibly fantastic sense of humor. There wasn't any situation that Rivka couldn't handle. She only saw the positive qualities in life and everything she did, she did with great finesse. I also appreciated that underneath her jovial surface was a woman who possessed a genuine commitment to G-d, to Torah, and to her family.

    After I got to know Tzippora Brusowankin from North Miami Beach it was easy to see why Kasriel had spoken so highly of her. She was an amazing woman. Tzippora was highly intelligent, greatly insightful, quite worldly and unbelievably organized. She had this incredibly innate ability to survey the situation, decide what needed to be done, and then she would take care of everything in the best possible way. Her determination and her many skills and abilities served as an inspiration to everyone. Tzippora was not only a competent speaker but a gifted writer as well. There was no end to this woman's talents. No one who met Tzippora Brusowankin could ever think that Chasidic women were mindless machines carrying out the ideas of their husbands. Tzippora was a superior role model for every woman, whether they were Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or even non-Jewish. Knowing Tzippora had definitely made me a smarter person.

    And then there was Stella Eliezrie. She was an interesting mix of modern and Chasidic personality, probably because she grew up sort of Modern Orthodox and was now a full-fledged Lubavitcher Chosid. She once shared a story with me about herself which made me realize that without Chasidic thinking, a Jew, no matter how Orthodox they feel they are, will not grasp the ability for upward growth. Stella told me about the time she was studying in Israel when she was eighteen years old. Since she was Modern Orthodox she wore pants. Because she was dressed in this way, someone she met assumed she was not a religious Jew and this assumption upset Stella quite a lot. So she made the decision right then and there to do something to change her situation, and she immediately went out and bought herself some skirts. Stella suddenly realized that being a Torah Observent Jew involved more than keeping kosher and keeping Shabbos. It involved the whole Jew, how one dressed, how one carried oneself, and how one behaved. A true Jew dressed not merely for comfort or style, but in a modest way which G-d clearly defined for all Jews. And, especially when it came to the Jewish woman, her great beauty and strength was physically concealed by her clothing and yet at the same time it was spiritually revealed because of the fact that she dressed modestly. Stella and all of these other special true Jewish women had certainly revealed to me their considerable strength of character and a beauty that even the most beautifully thought of models in this world would never possess.

    Knowing all of these women had made me a better person in so many different ways. They all had a strong sense of commitment to Torah, and they all had a great sense of humor. I knew these were important qualities a Jew should have to help them get through life. I also knew that wherever Dovid and I moved, as long as we continued to remember Mount Sinai we would always be all right.