I've Got a Name

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Matot 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

I've got a name. Or, more precisely, I had one. When I was a little girl, I had a name – Leah. As a teenager, as well, that was still my name. Then I got married. My husband affectionately called me Leah. Later on, he hated me, but he still called me Leah. After a long struggle, with the help Rabbis, I succeeded in getting divorced, much the worse for wear, but I still had my name -- Leah.
I get divorced at age 23, but I was so worn out that it felt like I was 30. When I received my get [divorce document], I radiated happiness before the judges, and I felt like I was 25. I said to myself, "Leah, you've been through the wringer, but you're still young. Your world is before you. With God's help you'll find a nice bridegroom, build a new Jewish home, and your future happiness will eclipse your past sorrow. Mazel Tov, Leah!
Yet I was so wrong! I fell into an even darker abyss than that of my awful marriage.
Why? Because previously I had suffered, but I had hope, and I waited for the morrow full of light. Yet now the horizon seems bleak.
You will certainly ask why. The answer is simple. I have no name. When I was a child, I read a story about an unfortunate man who lost his shadow. And I have lost my name. I am no longer Leah. I am no longer an occupational therapist. I am no longer my parent's daughter. I am no longer the graduate of a religious high school and a post-high school seminary. Instead, my entire personality has been consumed by a terrible black hole that is swallowing up everything: I am a divorcee.
All the fine young men to whom my name is suggested as a match listen appreciatively to all of my virtues, and when they hear the expression, "She is divorced," their faces turn somber, and they end the conversation coldly. This awful guillotine knows no mercy.
Rabbis have told me, "It’s very simple. Don't tell!" In other words, don't say it immediately, but when a bond is formed. That is what I've started doing, but now I face a new scenario. Everything is going great. There is chemistry. There is understanding. There is a bond. And then, after three or four dates, I get up the courage, and in a trembling voice I say, "I am divorced." Then my world turns dark before my eyes, and I add, "Ask the Rabbis. They will tell you all: that I don't have horns, that the divorce was not my fault, that I was a wonderful wife, that something was wrong with my former spouse, that I invested above and beyond to save the marriage, then I gave in on everything, really everything! But the end was unavoidable, because my life was hell. As the Hebrew saying goes: 'Better a terrible ending than for things to be terrible without end.' You can ask all the Rabbis in the world." The boy listens with lack of interest, with obvious boredom, and then he says with forced politeness: “I'll check."
And indeed he does check, and within several days I receive a laconic SMS: Not interested. Thanks.
I stop my crying and feel profound disappointment. Leah! Leah! I say to myself – for at least in my own eyes I’m still Leah – you are silly, you are naïve, you are innocent, you forgot that you're divorced. Get this deep into your thick skull: You are divorced! You thought Moshe, a wonderful boy, steeped in Torah, a lover of the Jewish People and of the Land of Israel, very God-fearing with fine character, would want you. Wake up! True, he’s full of the love of Israel -- but that only goes so far. Try to understand, Leah, you've got Rabbis, but so does he, and they said to him, "Why expose yourself to trouble?" I am trouble? I'm a great catch! That's true, but Leah dear, in our false world, you are used goods. You hear me? Used goods! That's it! I'm finished! I'm divorced! I'm used goods! So well-meaning souls with a smile full of mercy come to me with rickety proposals: one leg a little shorter, one arm a little longer, etc.
By the way, I have no trouble marrying a boy with a problem. He could very well be pure gold. But I am insulted that he is being offered to me just because I'm divorced. Apparently, he, too, is insulted that he is being offered a divorcee, just because one leg is shorter than the other and one arm is longer than the other. That, however, offers me no consolation.
But don't think that I've given up, that I am broken, that I'm depressed, that I've lost hope. No way! I haven't given up on my name! I'm Leah forever, with my character, with my positive traits, which make me a good wife and a good mother. I’m the same Leah with the fine traits that I always was. I haven't gone down in value just because I'm divorced. Quite the contrary, my stock has gone up. The crises have exalted me, refined me, strengthened me. Out of the pain, I have continued to grow. I am happier than ever. I go to singing classes and dance classes. I go to Torah lectures and do benevolent deeds. I am waiting for a boy on my level, looking and waiting. Nothing has changed. It's just harder. I know that a lot of boys are frightened off by the word divorcee. They should live and be well! I don't need them.
And anyway, I won't be able to marry a lot of boys -- I need just one. One boy who knows how to value a person according to what he really has, and not based on a tag stating his category. One boy who is open and genuine. One who is wise and happy. I will find him.
Mazel Tov, Leah!