“L’Chaa Dodi Likrat Kallah, Penai Shabbat Nekabala.
Come my Beloved to greet the bride, The Sabbath presence, let us welcome.”
I scan the room searching for a familiar face in the crowd. The sea of women are swaying rhythmically to the rise and fall of voices singing songs to welcome the Sabbath.
I slowly make my way to the front of the shul to an empty seat next to my cousin. In a few days she will be a bride. Achoti, my sister, as we fondly call each other.
I close my eyes and soak it in.
“Bo’ee Kallah! Bo’ee Kallah! Enter, O bride! Enter, O bride!”
I slowly wrap my arm around her waist. The kallah. The long awaited moment is only a few short days away. Her search is over; she has found her bashert. Her prayers have been heard and answered.
“It’s your turn!” a woman beams as she takes my cousin’s hand and leads her towards a circle of ecstatic women. We dance as tears start to well up in my eyes. Women come to her, one by one to wish her mazal tov. She glows with the radiance of new love and released pain. We jump. We dance. We sing. We laugh.
I cry. Big, hot, salty tears mixed in with a thousand emotions start to blur my vision as I struggle to stay in the moment. My bottom lip begins to quiver like a child who fell and scraped her knee. My throat tightens and my voice vanishes as I struggle to keep my shaky smile strong. I continue to dance and clap and sing.
Much like the white curtain partition fluttering in the artificial wind of the air-conditioning unit, I find myself swaying as we slowly make our ways back to our seats.
The chazzan’s beautiful voice starts to reverberate as he begins to sing again. The congregation joins in, elevating the songs of Shabbat towards the heavens.
My cousin understands the mixture of complete joy and overwhelming pain.
The tears are stronger and bigger now. My heart is overjoyed with love, yet feels broken and empty. My search has been shared with her. My journey has been her journey as well. Together we have shared tears and broken hearts. We have grown together. Searched together. Shared joy and pain together. Achoti, my sister.
I turn to my cousin with a quiver in my voice and muster the strength to say, “You know I’m so happy for you, right?”
With tear-filled eyes she nods and says a simple, “I know.”
“Your last Shabbat as a single woman. Your last Shabbat alone. It’s your time. You deserve this,” I declare.
“Soon by you,” she says.
‘Soon by you’ must be the most common refrain that has been said to me recently. It’s meant to be a blessing, a prayer perhaps. It’s meant to make me feel better, to give me strength and courage. Perhaps it’s a mantra I should be saying to myself over and over again, Soon by me. Soon by me. Soon by me. It comes from a place of love, of that I have no doubt.
Yet these three words have started to pain me more than strengthen me, like a knife digging deeper and deeper into my heart. I smile and hug my beautiful cousin. She knows how I feel. She understands the mixture of complete joy and overwhelming pain. I turn my blurry tear-filled glaze back to my siddur as the rise and fall of another song clogs my ears. I can’t even hear the words anymore, just sounds. I’m lost in another world watching the fluttering of the white partition continue to oscillate.
I’m 32 years old and still searching, still looking for my “knight in shining armor.” My tall, dark and handsome stranger that will come knocking on my door to whisk me away on his white horse. Or maybe I’ve seen too many romantic comedies to know the difference between reality and Hollywood.
The older I get the more set in my ways I become. The harder it becomes to integrate a new person into my life. I have my routine, my schedule, my goals, and my “to do” lists. My entire existence has been built around ME, while I’m constantly longing for the WE. I’ve built a life that works perfectly for my own current existence. Yet somehow I expect to fit another person, God willing children as well, into my perfectly organized and structured existence.
My best friend, a married woman with four children, told me once that the hardest decision to make when looking for a partner is “to choose.” To be brave and really choose one person out of millions to make a life with. Then once the choice is made, to keep choosing that one person everyday from that point on. To choose to accept their strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and quirks with love and respect. To choose to stop searching and allowing that little voice in the back of my head to say, “but maybe there’s something better.” To know that the Hollywood romance is just that – a Hollywood fantasy made to sell a movie.
To make the choice of what values I’m truly looking for in a spouse, partner, friend, lover and accept the truth of human beings’ perfect imperfections. Until that day comes when I can finally stop searching and start choosing the same one man for the rest of my life, I’ll keep an open mind to the quirky imperfections that might be insignificant in the face of their beautiful inner core. .
I struggle to attain the patience and faith I need to make one of the biggest choices of my life that will lead to my bashert. Until that day comes I pray, soon by me.