April 9, 2024
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April 9, 2024
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Once in a while I get letters from people asking for advice. And I try to help them out, because if they’re asking me, I know they’re desperate.

Dear Mordechai,

I’ve been asked to speak at a sheva brachos. What should I say?

No. You should say, “No.” In general, more people are asked to speak at sheva brachos than that the audience actually wants to hear. Basically, it’s like how the hosts make way too much food, just in case. “What if the meat doesn’t come out good? There has to be chicken!” So in the same vein, they also ask way too many people to speak, just in case some of the speeches aren’t good.

But I’m assuming here that you’ve already agreed to speak because you were afraid to say “No,” and now you’re asking me what you should speak about. Like that’s my problem. I’m just glad I don’t have to speak.

It’s not just me. A lot of people don’t like speaking, but, unfortunately, everyone has simchos.

So usually people try to find something on the parsha that’s related to weddings. But not everyone is fortunate enough to have their relatives get married during Chumash Bereishis, and there’s not much else in the Torah that is as easy to tie in to weddings. There’s some stuff around, but you have to find it. It’s especially not easy in the parshiyos of korbanos.

But if there’s nothing in the parsha about weddings per se, you can try to find some kind of marriage advice, based on events in the parsha, because if there’s one gift that the new couple can’t have enough of, it’s handy advice based on your particular marriage. So like if someone in the parsha does what someone else asked him to, there’s your lesson. Or if someone carries someone else’s belongings, there’s another. Or if there’s any gold involved.

If there’s no marriage advice in the parsha that you can say without getting into trouble, you’d better hope that either the chosson or the kallah has some good quality that you can tie into the parsha. People perk up when you get personal about the chosson and kallah, and they’re two people, so you should be able to find something. At the very least, you can say, “I don’t really know the chosson and kallah, but they look like they have good qualities, based on the way they’re sitting at the dais and eating pickles.”

And anyway, there’s bound to be some good quality, because, especially around wedding times, everyone tries to be on their best behavior. “I don’t know the chosson, but in every picture I’ve seen of him, he’s always smiling.”

Your last option is to go with a gematria.

Now I don’t mean to disrespect gematrios. They’re a very real thing. Rashi uses them, the Gemara talks about them, and I’m pretty sure the Baal Haturim used one every once in a while.

Basically, gematrios use math to say that A equals B. (Well, of course A equals B. A gematria is allowed to be one off.)

Everyone likes gematrios because they’re very short (especially if everyone just trusts you on the math) and they show that you prepared. No one says, “I wasn’t really prepared to speak, but A is gematria B.”

But when daas Torah comes up with a gematria, there’s probably more behind it than finding a gematria calculator on the internet. I’ve never heard daas Torah say that logically you should say C, but look! A gematria! So B. They always have deeper reasons, but you tend to miss those because look! A gematria!

But when you make one up yourself, you’re not actually saying a vort, no offense. Also, the general rule is that unless things work out exactly, no one likes a gematria except the guy who came up with it. It’s like a pun, but with math.

Yes, there are really real gematrios you can come up with, and they’re very cool. But for every one of those, there are a bunch where you’re one off, or you leave off letters like vav, hey and yud. That’s OK, right? It’s done all the time. But no one will love your speech about how the chosson’s name, Dovid, is equal—if you don’t use the vav—to the kallah’s name, Chaya—if you don’t use the yud and the hey.

(It is. I did the math.)

And even the perfect gematrios—where the chosson’s name plus the kallah’s name actually equals bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael—the chosson, at best, is sitting there thinking, “You’re telling me this NOW? You’re telling me that if I’d asked you a couple of years ago, before I started thinking about shidduchim, you would have just told me that I had to marry a girl named Shprintzi bas Shmerel, but without the ayin? Where were you? Some friend you turned out to be.”

No one has ever accepted a shidduch because the gematrios lined up.

By Mordechai Schmutter

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has four books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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