Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Tishrei 5761 - October 25, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Chance Encounters?

by Malka Mashinsky
Published by ArtScroll - Mesorah, 251 (irresistable) pages

It was Mindy's first time on an airplane, flying to a friend's wedding in California. Everything had been well planned in advance until... the bride asked her to pick up a heavy suitcase of smorgasbord food on the way to the airport - and she did. A disagreeable old lady screamed for an aisle seat - and Mindy gave up her place. A cranky young boy pestered her throughout the flight but she remained calm and treated him as a loving big sister would have. Could such a series of annoyances and mishaps possibly have a happy ending? Yes, indeed! In fact, it was a finale made in Heaven.

This is just one of the 47 fascinating stories in "Chance Encounters?", recently published by ArtScroll. Its main theme is Divine Providence -at different times in history, but mostly in the present and at very personal daily levels, especially focusing on shidduchim, which is always fascinating.

This book is for all ages and backgrounds. It holds everyone's interest and we predict that it will soon be translated in other languages and become an international favorite. There is one problem with this book, however: everyone in the family wants to read it at once! You may have to buy more than one copy to keep the peace in the house [but you can always donate the extra to a library...].

It seems there are two types of readers: those who must keep reading until they finish the entire book and those who prefer to savor one story at a time. I had to finish the book in one sitting; each story whetted my appetite for more. And there were some that I read again to savor its various facets fully - humor, inspiration and human insight.

I smiled at "Haircuts", was fascinated [actually held my breath] by Marguerite Cohen's bravery in rescuing four Jewish children trapped in Nazi controlled territory, and was impressed by one lady's kindness for owners of cars that were parked at expired meters. In fact I was tickled by the fact that I knew her! She was real, and so are all the other characters featured in the book, which makes it all the more inspirational, that is, sets examples for us to emulate. History, recent and less recent, comes to life in many stories, while the book maintains an upbeat rhythm of our daily venue. Each story appealed to the emotions as well as to the intellect, but why analyze something so thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile? It simply appeals - to all tastes.

Optimistic, cheerful and richly rewarding, we will step aside and let two samples speak for themselves:


David Miller was driving along the highway at a steady clip of 60 miles per hour. It was erev Shabbos and the car was crowded, the kids were fidgeting impatiently, the baby needed a change - every good reason to maintain the greatest speed permissible on that road.

Suddenly there was a queer noise. The rooftop rack was rattling and scraping. From the racket overhead, it seemed about to fall off. David slowed down; luckily, he was in an outside lane, with no cars near him.

As he slowly went around the next curve, he saw a family crossing the road right in front of him. It was a family of deer: a buck, a doe and an adorable little Bambi. Now hitting a deer is dangerous for the animal - and even more so for the passengers in the car, which was inches away from the animals. At his previous rate of speed, David surely would have hit at least one of the deer.

The rack did not rattle again until they reached their destination. When they got out to inspect the car, they saw that one single bolt was loose.

"I can't imagine why this should have made such a racket," said David.

"Well, I can," answered his wife.

And one on shidduchim.


Elke Friedman met her friend and former neighbor, Susie Goldberg, at the annual N'shei Chesed gathering in Flatbush.

"How are you, Susie? I haven't seen you for ages. And how's that cute little Motty of yours?"

"Cute he is, but not little. He's almost six feet tall, 22 years old and just about ready to get married."

"You don't say! Well, I know the perfect girl for him. Same background - a little bit Hungarian, a little bit `Poylish', mostly American. It's Chavie Engel, the daughter of my neighbor down the street. Very sweet looking. Also tall, brown eyes, brown curly hair - why, she reminds me of how your Motty used to look before he got his haircut! And her parents are the nicest people! Her grandfather was a nephew of Reb Yossele Kopolner, and..."

"That sounds very interesting," said Susie. "But tell me," and she looked around to see if anyone was listening, and whispered into Elke's ear, "tell me, are they comfortable?"

"Comfortable? They're very comfortable! In fact, they're just about the most comfortable family I know."

"All right, Elke, we'll be in touch. I can't wait to get home and tell Sol about this. It sounds great!"

The friends parted amiably, and a few days later, the telephone rang in Elke's kitchen.

"Hi, Elke, it's Susie. Thank you so much for thinking about our Motty. We discussed it and we're very interested in this Chavie Engel. So please get in touch with them. You did say they're comfortable?"

"Oh, very much so, Susie. I'll call them and get back to you soon as I have an answer."

A few days later, Motty Goldberg met Chavie Engel. After several more meetings, they knew they were meant for each other.

The Engels inivted Motty's parents to their home to get acquainted, and the Goldbergs accepted the invitation with pleasure; they could hardly wait to meet the wonderful girl and her wonderful parents whom their Motty raved about.

They were surprised when they pulled up in front of the Engel's house. It was so small, so - so - ordinarly looking. But perhaps the Engels were people of that European type, plain outside, lavish inside?

No. The interior consisted of several box-like rooms, with old furniture that verged on the shabby. The Engels gave the Goldbergs a very warm, friendly welcome. Soon everyone was chatting easily, seated arund the broad dining room table. Mrs. Engel brought in tea and delicious chocolate chip cookies. In the course of conversation, they found that they had many friends, and even relatives, in common.

Motty and his parents stayed much longer than they had planned. After dropping off Motty at his yeshiva for night seder, Sol Goldberg asked his wife, "Didn't you say they're comfortable? it sure didn't look like it to me."

"Well, Sol, Elke Friedman said they are, and she should know. Maybe they're the kind who don't flaunt their money... and the girl seems very nice."

Pretty soon an engagement was announced. A happy, noisy crowd gathered in the small Engel home to congratulate the young couple and their parents. Elke Friedman, whose idea it had been, had a place of honor among the ladies.

The mother of the groom turned to Mrs. Friedman.

"We're very happy with Chavie - she's a darling. But didn't you say that the Engels are comfortable?"

"Oh, they are! They are! They make me feel so comfortable whenever I come, so warm and welcome, and just look - I bet everyone here feels the same about them. The Engels are the most comfortable people I know! And did you ever taste her chocolate chip cookies?"


A word can make a difference. If Mrs. Goldberg had asked, "Are they well-off?" or more crassly, "Do they have money?" woudl Motty and Chavie ever have met?

It's like that old joke, "If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be an automobile." But grandmothers don't have wheels.

It was fated that this particular expression should be used by Mrs. Goldberg, and that Mrs. Friedman should understand it in a different sense. When a couple is destined to be united in marriage, not a word or a world will stand in the way.


Forty-five great more stories to go...


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