In the fall of 1991, I was living in New York and studying for a master’s degree at Yeshiva University. I was 32 years old, and an alter bachur (a Yiddish term for an “older single”) by everyone’s standards. I had been dating intensely while studying in Jerusalem over the previous five years, and I continued dating upon moving to New York. I desperately wanted to get married and spoke regularly with rabbis and shadchanim,in search of the right woman.

One day, I received a phone call from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, who taught in a school for baalat teshuvah on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Rabbi Weinberger was famous for his classes in chassidus and served as a magnet for all the spiritually oriented, artistic young women studying there—precisely my types.

Eliezer, I have the perfect shidduch for you,” Rabbi Weinberger told me. “Her name is Devorah. She’s 27 years old and one of my best students. She’s a sensitive and spiritual young woman.”

Rabbi Weinberger sung Devorah’s praises and, indeed, she sounded wonderful. I agreed to meet, and a date was arranged for the following week. Devorah and I met at a Manhattan restaurant, and she was indeed everything Rabbi Weinberger had promised: gentle and refined, attractive and spiritual, sensitive and intelligent. We finished the date on a positive note and agreed to meet several days later.

Over the next few weeks, we met numerous times—for dinner, a walk in the park, a visit to a museum. Everything was moving along smoothly, and it seemed as though our engagement was the next natural step. Yet, something deep inside me was holding me back. I just didn’t feel a “click.”

“Ah, but who really needs a click, anyway?”—the voices of a thousand well-meaning rabbis, friends, and shadchanim echoed in my mind. “Romance is an illusion! You should marry someone based on compatibility. Anyway, true love comes after marriage. She’s a fantastic girl, and you have so much in common. And you’ve been dating so long! What more are you looking for? You’re being too picky, for goodness’s sake. Be realistic, at your age!”

These thoughts churned inside me day and night, and I didn’t know what to do. And so, I continued dating Devorah, hoping that something would change. Like a stalled car on a frozen morning, I kept pressing the gas and turning the key, hoping the ignition would start, but the engine remained silent. Devorah, on the other hand, seemed delighted with the way the relationship was progressing and was ready for the next step. I felt like a fraud.

Weeks went by, and I reached an impasse. I had to make a decision, but I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help.

And so, the following Sunday, a cool October morning, I took a bus to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to get a blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Now, I am not a Chabad chassid, though I have a deep connection with chassidus. Nevertheless, in those days, everyone knew where to turn for a blessing. Stories about the miraculous blessings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe circulated almost daily—sick people who recovered, childless couples who were blessed with offspring, beggars who became rich.

The Rebbe was 89 years old at the time and still maintained a rigorous daily schedule. Each Sunday morning, starting at about 9:00, a long line would form inside the cavernous Chabad synagogue on Eastern Parkway. At a designated time, a door would open to the adjoining building—the famous 770 Eastern Parkway—and people would stream through into a small vestibule, where the Rebbe would give a dollar to every person who walked past. The money was meant to be given to tzedakah, to add goodness to the world, though most people kept the Rebbe’s dollar as a souvenir and gave an equivalent bill to charity. The line moved quickly, as hundreds of people sought blessings, but if a person was stubborn, he could stop for a moment and exchange a few words with the Rebbe. I planned to ask the Rebbe for a blessing to get married. My hope was that his answer would give me the clarity that I needed.

I took my place in the line at about 9:30 a.m. Little did I know that Devorah had also come to get a blessing from the Rebbe that very morning and was somewhere behind me. Though we hadn’t discussed our plans, she had a feeling that I was there and was even looking for me. I did not see her, however, nor did I sense her presence.

As I waited in line, a young Chabad chassid walked by carrying a large stack of Shabbat parshah pamphlets in various languages—English, Hebrew, Russian, etc. I reached into the pile and pulled out an English publication at random. Before I could read it, however, the line started moving, and so I folded the paper and slipped it into my pocket. A minute later, I was standing before the Rebbe.

“Rebbe, I would like a bracha to get married.”

Amen, b’karov!” the Rebbe announced, and handed me a dollar.

A minute later, I was standing out on the street, having been pushed from the building by the flood of supplicants behind me. All around me, people had dollar bills in their hands and smiles on their faces. I felt the same. “Amen, b’karov —soon!” the Rebbe had said. Only two words, but they filled me with hope and confidence.

I boarded the next bus home and found a seat in the back. I removed the publication from my pocket and started to read. I turned first to the back page, to read the weekly chassidic tale. I read the first words, and my mouth dropped open in shock:

“Many, many years ago, in Southern Russia, two families joined in the joyous celebration of the marriage of their children, Eliezer and Devorah.”

I could not believe my eyes. I read the lines again and again. My hand started to shake. A thousand people are reading this story, I told myself, but these words were written for me.

I read the rest of the story. It related how, in the middle of the wedding celebration, the town was attacked by Cossacks. Guests were murdered or taken captive. The newlywed couple was separated, and Eliezer disappeared. Devorah escaped but was now left alone. Time passed and she made her way to the Holy Land, where she found residence in Jerusalem. Several years later, Eliezer showed up, the couple reunited, and they lived happily in Jerusalem together for the rest of their lives.

The truth is, the rest of the story didn’t interest me much. All I kept looking at was the first sentence, “the marriage of Eliezer and Devorah.” That story, and the Rebbe’s blessing, left me no question as to what to do next.

The following night, I met Devorah for dinner and related all that had happened. She told me that she had also received a blessing and had also seen the story. Together, we were amazed. And so, I asked her to marry me, and she happily agreed.

But… but… but…

I still felt unsure. And so, I asked her to wait a day or two before announcing the engagement to her friends. I don’t know what difference it would have made, but my heart was holding me back.

The next night, we met again. I bought her flowers and put on a happy face, but she could see through the charade. It was pathetic. The following day, I received a call from Rabbi Weinberger.

“Eliezer, what’s going on? Devorah tells me that you are unhappy.”

“Oh, Reb Moshe,” I cried, “I don’t want to marry her!”

“Then why did you propose?” he asked.

I told him about the Rebbe’s blessing and the story with our names in it.

“Eliezer, you don’t get married for reasons like that.”

“You don’t?” I asked him.


“Oh, thank G‑d!” I replied and breathed a sigh of relief.

To make a long story short, with Rabbi Weinberg’s help, I broke off the engagement. Devorah’s feelings were badly hurt, and I felt terrible about it, but it was better than the alternative.

I continued studying in the States for about another year, and then returned to Israel and to yeshivah. I heard through the grapevine that Devorah had gotten married and started raising a family. I was happy for her, though of course we had no further contact. I continued dating for another two years, until I finally met my wife, who had recently arrived in Jerusalem from Argentina.

Her name is Devorah.

And so, it turns out that the story in the publication was more accurate than I had realized. An engagement, a breakup, and a reunion years later in Jerusalem. I should have read it more carefully, from beginning to end.

Several years later, Devorah and I visited New York and had lunch in a pizza shop in Brooklyn. On the table was a recent issue of the Chabad publication that I had seen so many years earlier. The back page had a reprint of the story of Eliezer and Devorah. Sitting in the restaurant with the real Devorah, I felt that the matter had come full circle and that the Rebbe’s blessing had finally been fulfilled.

Below is a copy of the story, as it appeared in the publication I found years later.