By Larry Gordon
Yes, there is a shidduch crisis out there. It may not be official, because the agency or authority to declare such a crisis does not yet exist, but for those mired in this process of finding matches for their children, the consensus is that, yes, indeed, there is a problem of a complicated nature.
And while there is not much that folks can do other than call matchmakers and shadchanim and scour the shuls they daven in and the weddings they attend to keep an eye out for suitable prospects, a recently released Israeli film by chareidi filmmaker Rama Burshtein is recommending an interesting and novel approach to deal with the matter.
“I’m known for being a Jewish, religious, crazy person in love with Hashem. This is what I am,” she said in a newspaper interview last year. “It’s my life and it’s what I am so proud of. It’s believing that everything is possible when you’re a believer.”
The film, now available for purchase on Amazon for $14.99, was known in Israel as Through the Wall, but here in the U.S. it’s been retitled The Wedding Plan. It is a fabulous, well-done film, kosher in every way possible that a film can be, and contains a vital and poignant message about emunah and bitachon, especially for those who are referred to today as “being in the parashah.”
Even if I give away the entire story here in print, it will still be worth seeing this film, as the scenes are similar to things we have witnessed our own children enduring, or at the very least other people we know who have been subjected to the bureaucratic shidduch system, which can be extremely frustrating for thousands of young men and women.
The film’s focus is on Michali, a young woman in her mid-thirties. She is a returnee to observant Judaism, a ba’alas teshuvah with a deep and abiding faith in the ability of Hashem to not let her down and to find a suitable match and marriage partner for her. But it is not easy.
She is set up with a series of men with beards and long peyos. To illustrate what I will reluctantly call her desperation, she gives every suggestion a chance. As a result, the process is sad, dramatic, and sometimes even comical. At one point early on in the story, she visits a woman who apparently has some kind of power or dabbles in segulos that are supposed to help facilitate the shidduch process for these young women.
In this scene, the woman takes the blood of a dead fish and rubs it on Michal’s forehead and under her eyes while murmuring a prayer. The voodoo indulgence aside, Michal demonstrates a remarkable faith that whatever she is agreeing to do will work and she will shortly be married.
In the film she says that she has already been dating for about 11 years. She’s tired and exasperated by the process of constantly being set up with young men and dating them, which leads nowhere. At one point she is set up with a deaf young man who arrives on the date with a friend who can sign and help Michali and her date communicate.
On another date, the prospective suitor refuses to look at her, explaining when she asks that the only woman he ever wants to look at is his wife, and until that time he will have to either keep his eyes closed or look away when speaking to a woman.
At the beginning of the film, there is Gidi, to whom Michal is engaged and whom she is scheduled to marry on the eighth night of Chanukah. The next scene is in a wedding hall in Jerusalem, where the couple is having a tension-filled tasting of food items that will possibly be on the wedding menu. After some disjointed conversation, Michal says to Gidi that she senses that something is troubling him. He insists that he is fine and that nothing is bothering him. She continues to insist that he looks like something is wrong and is acting uneasy and that he must tell her. After some hesitation, Gidi blurts out to Michal, “I don’t love you.” She is obviously taken aback, if not shocked, and bursts into tears. She is inconsolable. One is not sure if she is so upset because she lost Gidi or because she now has to resume the shidduch process.
In the meantime, after the breakup, Shimi, the man who manages the wedding hall, says to Michal that she probably wants to cancel the date, as the shidduch is broken. Michal looks at Shimi and after a brief moment of reflection says that no, she wants to keep the date because she will be getting married on the eighth night of Chanukah and Hashem will provide the chassan.
She has given herself just 30 days, and as the day draws closer and the prospects of finding a groom are diminishing, she remains steadfast, certain that Hashem will provide her with a man to marry. The wedding day arrives and still there is no groom, but Michal remains undaunted and insistent that G‑d will provide. She had already sent out invitations to over 200 guests, with the spot for the name of the groom left blank. She ordered a full menu, hired a band, bought a wedding gown, and so on. On the day of the wedding, all the guests arrive looking lost or confused. I’m not going to tell you how the film ends, but let it be said that this is a remarkable and creative display of an abiding and real faith, considering that it is a fictional story.
Like the lead character in The Wedding Plan, writer and director Rama Burshtein is a ba’alas teshuvah. She studied film in New York before moving to Israel. As to her audience, a few months ago Burshtein told the Jew in the City website, “People who see this film do not become religious, but they become believers. My role isn’t to make them ba’alei teshuvah. My role is to help them see that they are believers and that they have to find their own way.”
“I’m just a storyteller who happens to believe in Hashem. I don’t have a public agenda and I think this is why people are interested in what I have to say. This is my secret and this is why my voice is being heard strongly around the world,” Burshtein said.
This is Rama Burshtein’s second film. The first was Fill the Void, the story of a young chassidic woman who passes away after giving birth. The child’s grandmother would prefer that her other daughter—the deceased woman’s young, still-single sister—marry the deceased sister’s husband so that the baby will remain in the family, as opposed to the child being raised by another woman.
As you can see from the description here, Rama Burshtein has a creative and innovative mind. Not unlike another film that we wrote about a few weeks ago in this space, Menashe, the exciting and interesting thing here is that these films offer a unique public insight into a world that is usually well-insulated and firmly closed off from the outside world.
The latest offering, The Wedding Plan, is worth seeing, and there is no doubt that regardless of your level of emunah and implicit faith in Hashem, you will come away from this film with an elevated belief system and a renewed, enthusiastic faith in the ways of Hashem in both good times and not-so-good times.
As to what happens at the end of The Wedding Plan, well . . . here’s a hint—Mazal tov!
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at email@example.com.