One Year Later
By Rav Aryeh Z. Ginzberg
One year ago, when the calendar turned to Tu B’Av, an article of mine was published, titled “The Hidden World of Shidduchim,” that, in today’s vernacular, went “viral.” In it, we spoke about the terrible gezeirah our generation is facing with so many in our kehillos remaining single well past their youth. (The article was reprinted in last year’s Yom Kippur issue of the 5TJT, October 7, 2016.)
We made reference to the famous insight of the Maharsha (Shabbos 10a) on the question “Asakta b’piryah v’ribiah–Did you pursue the mitzvah of bringing children into the world?,” which is one of a series of four questions that Chazal say will be asked of each of us in the Olam HaEmes. The Maharsha explains that it means “Did you involve yourself in shidduchim in your time in this world?”
In that vein, we introduced a “segulah” from the zakein ha’dor, the rosh yeshiva Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, who shared both his pain over the situation of so many older singles and his suggestion as how to help resolve this colossal communal tragedy, which he linked to the tragedy of married couples who are unable to have children. He shared his thoughts with my yedid Rabbi Schlomo Bochner (of Bonei Olam fame), who shared them with me. The rosh yeshiva’s segulah was rather straightforward: Chazal tell us, “×›×œ ×”×ž×‘×§×© ×¨×—×ž×™× ×¢×œ ×—×‘×™×¨×• ×•×”×•× ×¦×¨×™×š ×œ××•×ª×• ×“×‘×¨, ×”×•× × ×¢× ×” ×ª×—×™×œ×””–Whoever davens on behalf of his friend for something that he himself needs, he will be answered first (Bava Kamma 92a). When Sarah Imeinu was barren, she decided to give her maidservant Hagar to Avraham Avinu so he would be able to have a child with her. Sarah says (Bereishis 16:2), “Ulai ibaneh mimenah–perhaps I will be built up through her” (see Rashi). Only afterward did Hashem send the malach to tell Sarah that she would give birth. The Torah is teaching us that only after a person enables another to have a child does there come the assurance that this person will also be zocheh to a child–which, in the case of a single person, also means being zocheh to first find a zivug. So if a single can provide the financial support that enables a childless couple to access the many fertility programs available today, it would be a Torah-directed “segulah” for a successful shidduch.
My wife and I were searching for something unique and powerful to do as a z’chus for the aliyas neshamah of our beloved daughter Sarala, z’l, whose incomparable and infectious simchas ha’chayim was needed in Shamayim. Upon hearing from Rav Schlomo this “segulah” from the gadol ha’dor, our search was over. We established an eâ€‘mail address (email@example.com), and singles of all ages were invited to contact us to be paired with couples from Bonei Olam who are experiencing difficulty having children and are undergoing extremely costly fertility treatments.
The single provides his or her full Hebrew name (to ensure confidentiality, no last names are required) and is given the opportunity to financially assist (no minimum required) in defraying some of the costs of the treatments. Ohel Sarala then gives the single the couple’s names (again, only full Hebrew names), and the couple is given the single’s name through Bonei Olam. Both the couple and the single then daven for each other each day–the couple for the single to be zocheh to find his or her zivug b’karov, and the single for the couple to be zocheh to a zera shel kayama.
A year ago, we were thinking that if we would indeed be zocheh to facilitate even one shidduch or even one baby being born by using this segulah, it would be a z’chus for our Sarala. The Hashgachah Elyonah had decided she would not be zocheh to have her own biological children, but we thought that any child born through Ohel Sarala (through Bonei Olam) would be considered “hers” as well. And so Ohel Sarala was formed.
One Year Later
A few weeks ago, almost one year to the date of the launch of Ohel Sarala, we were happily informed by one of our singles that she had become a kallah–the 22nd single to get engaged after joining Ohel Sarala. (That actually translates to 44 singles finding their zivugim!) In addition, we have been informed by Bonei Olam of five couples who celebrated the birth of babies and, b’H, six more who are expecting. There are a few more at the beginning stages of pregnancy, but because of the sensitivity of the situation we are not informed about them. We inform our singles when we are given updates regarding their couples, and Bonei Olam informs the couples when their single gets a mazal tov.
The success of 22 engagements is not all that has been accomplished. Recently a woman approached me at a chasunah and, with tears in her eyes, told me she does not have the words to describe the depth of her and her family’s hakaras ha’tov to Ohel Sarala. Upon reading the article in these pages last year, she was moved to action. But before reaching out to Ohel Sarala, she realized that she could put this segulah to work in her own immediate family. She had two older single daughters, and months would go by without hearing of any shidduch suggestions. She also has a younger brother who has been married for quite a few years without being zocheh to start a family. She called a family meeting and matched her daughters with her brother and sister-in-law. In the eleven months that ensued, one daughter got married, the other recently got engaged, and her brother is preparing to welcome his first child before Rosh Hashanah. She had tried for weeks to express her heartfelt thoughts in a letter or eâ€‘mail to Ohel Sarala but just couldn’t find the right words. When she saw me at the chasunah, she just felt the need to express herself. She also asked me to relay these thoughts to Rabbi Bochner as well.
So we have no real idea of just how many singles and couples benefited from the gadol ha’dor’s segulah, even beyond the 22 (44) that we were directly involved with. And there is more. One older single shared in a heartfelt eâ€‘mail that she has not yet found her bashert, but after not having been on a date in almost five years, she was redt several shidduchim in the few months since joining Ohel Sarala. This has given her tremendous personal chizuk and the confidence to continue the process, which she believes will end successfully for her in the very near future. How does one even try to measure the significance of that?
The father of one of the “Ohel Sarala kallahs,” who is a distant relative of the Karelitz family, went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, for a special berachah for the engaged couple. Upon sharing with him how the family attributes their special simcha to the segulah of Rav Shteinman, Rav Chaim responded that too many people are involved with pursuing shidduchim for their children by doing hishtadlus on so many fronts except the most important one–and that is tefillah. He quoted his father, the Steipler Gaon, zt’l, that without the full realization that HaKadosh Baruch Hu is mezaveg zivugim, and without tefillah in this regard, it can’t be successful–and that’s what the rosh yeshiva’s segulah is all about. This is true for every stage of life as well.
As the Kedushas Yom Tov was about to escort his son to the chuppah, he said to him, “The Gemara (Sukkah 2b) says that the word chuppah is a synonym for sukkah. What does chuppah have to do with sukkah? Just as we place all our faith in Hashem as we go from our homes into the flimsy structure of the chuppah, as you enter the chuppah you have to internalize that you cannot rely on me or on your wife’s family, but only on Hashem. Now is the time to turn all your attention to Him.”
The anonymous singles sometimes share their personal feelings of the joy and sense of purpose as they daven every day for their couples. One single who joyously notified us that she had become a kallah (at age 32) asked, or rather pleaded, if she could continue to daven for “her couple” until notified that her tefillos for them have come to fruition, as theirs had for her. (Upon Bonei Olam’s recommendation, we do advise our chassanim and kallos to continue davening for their couples and their couples to continue davening for them, as they are now both davening for the same thing–to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.)
One particular kallah was so grateful to “her couple” for their successful tefillos on her behalf that she asked if there was any way she could send them an invitation to her wedding, as she would like to thank them personally. As the request was relayed to the anonymous couple via Bonei Olam, they replied that they would be honored to attend her simcha. They received the invitation, but never did attend, for the wife was feeling too weak, as she was coping with sickness that often accompanies the first trimester of pregnancy.
After hearing about Ohel Sarala and Rav Shteinman’s segulah, a gadol in this country commented that while he is amazed at the number of engagements and births in such a short time, he is not sure whether it is the segulah itself that is working or the fact that it came from Rav Shteinman, and it is a kiyum of Chazal, “Tzaddik gozer v’HaKadosh Baruch Hu mekayem.” Then, upon reflection, he added, “It has both aspects to it.”
A dear chaver asked me if my wife and I participate in the chasunos of the Ohel Sarala chassanim and kallos. I responded, “No, we do not.” Sensing his surprise, I explained that in keeping with the privacy of all involved, even when they send us the wedding invitations, we keep their identity a secret. However, while we do not attend, we feel to the depth of our souls that our Sarala, z’l, is front and center at every vort, chasunah, shalom zachor, kiddush, and b’ris of “her children” married or born via Ohel Sarala/Bonei Olam.
To conclude in the same manner that we did one year ago, we as a community cannot afford to leave any stone unturned to alleviate this gezeirah in our midst. Hopefully by following the segulah of the zakein ha’dor, we can shine a light on the “hidden world of shidduchim,” and, through Ohel Sarala, we can be zocheh to continue building new generations in Klal Yisrael until, in the words of Chazal, “sheyichlu kol ha’nefashos she’b’guf,” all the Jewish souls will be born, ushering in the era of Mashiach.
May it happen speedily in our days.
Please eâ€‘mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the Ohel Sarala/Bonei Olam initiative.