Terms of un-Engagement

I have wanted a Times of Israel blog for a while.  I am no scholar or great thinker, but I think I have, to put it in yeshivish terms, “what to give over to the world.”

As a lover of obscure knowledge, both Judaic and secular, my first thought was to play to my strengths and write about what I know best. Perhaps my first post was going to be about the responsum of R’ Yishmael Hakohen of Modena that I was studying this week, a fascinating piece of writing where he speaks quite highly of Enlightenment thinker Naphtali Hertz Wessley. Perhaps my first post would have been dedicated to my thoughts on the upcoming Pesach holiday; one thing is for certain, I never thought I would be writing about my emotions and a personal trauma I experienced.

Handling emotions may not be something I do terribly well, a middle school teacher of mine erroneously thought me to be autistic due to my perceived lack of emotions, but I do have them, and I am not always hesitant to express them. While I may not cry in the presence of others, at night when no one is there, to quote King David in Psalm 6, “I drench my bed.”  Maybe at a future date I will share my thoughts on Pesach, the Enlightenment, or whatever else I am studying at the time, but this post serves as a catharsis of sorts for me in the midst of my heartache.

For her sake and mine, I will spare you, my readers, the gory details of how it all went south. You see, until two weeks ago I was engaged to be married and a week ago was supposed to be our wedding day. In the immediate aftermath of my last-minute broken engagement, I was told that broken engagements were relatively common in the frum world, probably and hopefully, not as common as the 20% figure of the wider American populace that has been quoted to me ad nauseum. However common these unfortunate situations may be in my community and social circles, it is difficult to take comfort in the fact that others too have experienced this heartbreak; these happenings are about as personal and unique as an event can be.   Each couple that is no more has its own story of what went wrong and when, what made one or both parties conclude that they would fare better on their own than with the person they once thought the ideal partner to whether the storms of life with.

A trusted rabbinic mentor of mine explained to me that all the parties involved are suffering through an avelut of sorts. In the Jewish tradition, mourning is often seen as more than just a time to be sad, but rather also a time to reflect and think. Thus, as I file away the meticulous notes I took in chosson classes that are now just a matter of derosh v’kabel schar, I reflect on how and why I got to the situation I am in. While I may be alone in the traditional sense of the word, many have undergone the same, each with their own story that they may or may not wish to tell. All that we can ask of the communities we live in is to be sympathetic, but most importantly not to pass judgement on any of the involved parties as we try to rebuild.

About the Author
Zechariah (Zachary) Ottenstein is a student of History and Judaic Studies at Yeshiva University in New York. He is a proud alumnus of Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi and Torah Academy of Bergen County. He lives in New Rochelle, NY with his extensive library.
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