By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Last week, I reminisced with you about my courtship with my Rebbetzin. Let me share with you how one of the Gedolei Yisroel played a pivotal role in our eventual union. On our second date, my Rebbetzin told me that she had a troubling dilemma. On the one hand, she wanted to get married and start a family. On the other hand, she was the last remaining child at home since both of her sisters, Hindie and Breindy, were already married, and both her parents were ill. Her father had just survived a heart attack and had a very weak heart and her mother was struggling with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. How, she asked me – as we already felt close on our second date – could she in good faith get married and abandon them? I answered her that it was indeed a weighty question and she needed to ask an Adom Gadol, a great Torah sage.
At that time, my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein, was already ill so I set up an appointment for our third date with the venerable Rav Avraham Yaakov Hakohen Pam, zt”l, zy”a. As we entered Rav Pam’s house, I remember how he greeted us so graciously and then he told me, Let me speak with the young lady first. She went upstairs to his office on the second floor as I sat downstairs feeling my future at stake, wondering what he would tell her. After an agonizing fifteen minutes, she came down smiling, telling me the rabbi wants to speak with me and “He told me to say that it looks good.” I went upstairs to that wondrous man and he greeted me with a smile and simply told me, “I told her that her parents would not be losing a daughter; they would be gaining a son.” And then he gave us a bracha.
We became chossen and kallah after seven dates and during our engagement I remember taking her mother to the hospital and to doctor visits. There was even one time that I substituted for her in Torah VoDaas for her 2nd grade English studies class, the only time in my life that I taught secular studies. This was so that she should be able to be there for her parents. (I even remember the lesson I taught them – that a word starting with a ‘q’ always needs a ‘u’ following it. Being a scrabble player, I couldn’t resist telling them that there are some exceptions like the word ‘qat,’ which is a type of shrub.) Eventually, her father would move in with us and he lived the last two years of his life happily in our home.
When thinking about what Rav Pam said, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the fact that that’s the way our in-law children were to my Rebbetzin. They were and are completely like our own daughters and sons. Miriam Libby’s motto was, “Treat your in-law children even better that your own children.” Upon her passing, our daughters in-law wanted to rip kriah and sit shiva, for they too lost a “mommy.” They didn’t because, baruch Hashem, they have wonderful parents living but in the words of our daughter in-law, Rivky, “If I can’t sit shiva, then I’ll stand shiva,” and that’s what she did, taking off from her very successful job to ‘stand shiva’ with the family. My wife and I both ascribed to the belief of our good friend Rabbi Herschel Solnica, zt”l, zy”a, that, “If you want to keep your sons, treat your daughters in-law like queens and if you want to keep your daughters, treat your sons in-law like kings.” And she did just that all of her beautiful life.
In the merit of our strengthening all of our important relationships, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmas of Miriam Liba bas Aharon.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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