Zundle was a poor peddler who resided in a small shtetl in the lush countryside of Galicia. He more or less managed to make enough money to afford a loaf of bread and some onions for his family and if it was a good week, maybe even a chicken for Shabbos.
But Zundle was getting worried. While his blessing from G-d for parnassah was limited, he and his wife were blessed with a dozen healthy and happy children, eight of them girls. Now the eldest, Sara, was already reaching a marriageable age. It’s one thing to support a family, it’s another to marry off a daughter, let alone eight of them!
One day as Zundle was walking down the road selling his schmattes, Shmerl the shadchan approaches him: “Zundle! You must listen to me! Do I have a shidduch for your Sara’le, – a diamond of a boy!” “Nu? Let’s hear something about him” replied Zundle.
“He’s a ba’al midos, a refined young man, a good head, a learner, any father would take pride in being his father-in-law!”
“Shmerl, I hope you remember that I’m not a big g’vir!”
“Zundle!” He furrowed his eyebrows feigning insult, “I’ve known you ever since I remember myself! There’s no need to worry about that! He comes from a wealthy family and I’m sure that for an Eishes Chayil like your Sara’le they’ll be happy to cover your side of the expenses too!”
“Sounds wonderful!” exclaimed Zundle. “Who’s the boy, may I ask?”
“It’s Stephan, the oldest son of the Poretz” replied Shmerl the shadchan enthusiastically.
“Are you out of your mind?” shouted Zundle. “I’ve always heard that shadchanim have chutzpah, but I never imagined it’s this bad!” he said, his face reddened with anger.
Shmerl quickly ran off before he could get singed from Zundle’s fury.
The next day as Zundle was making his rounds Shmerl returned: “Did you talk it over with your wife? Don’t worry, I didn’t expect you to agree right away. It’s definitely not a regular shidduch offer, but you never know!”
“Shmerl!” Zundle snapped back, “It’s not nice to make choizek on a poor Jew’s account, come back to me when you have something more reasonable.”
“But I’m dead serious! Shmerl replied. “Listen, he’s a very fine young man, very intelligent. He’s a goy indeed, but with an eidele neshomah, your daughter could surely convince him to convert!”
Zundle turned his back to Shmerl and kept schlepping his merchandise not wanting to waste time with this jester.
“One more second!” Shmerl ran after him. “I have an offer you can’t refuse. Just listen and think about it, and let me know if it works” Shmerl tried his luck. “If this shidduch works out, the mechutan will pay the dowry of the rest of your daughters, all seven of them!” And off he went.
That night Zundle couldn’t fall asleep. That really was an offer he couldn’t turn down. “Imagine!” he thought to himself, “I get one goy¸ but I will be able to marry off the rest of my maidelach without having to pay a penny!
Early the next morning he convinced his wife. He confessed to G-d about his plan and begged forgiveness, but he reasoned: “What’s better Ribbono Shel Olam? One goy and seven Talmidei Chachamim, or eight Am-Haratzim like me?” he cried over his Tehillim. “And besides, Shmerl the shadchan says there are good chances he’ll convert!”
The time came to go to shul. As Zundle was taking off his teffilin he spotted Shmerl the Shadchan leaving Shule: “Shmerl! Wait a second” he called out as he ran towards him, out of breath. “Listen, we talked it over and we decided that we are interested in the shidduch.”
“Great!” Shmerl said. “I knew you’re a reasonable man!”
“Now I just need to find out if the other side is interested!”
This story, quite amusingly, and clearly, contains within it the dynamics of many aspects of Jewish history both ancient and recent.
The Jewish enlightenment movement in Europe tried to pursue this “shidduch” and instead got this spit in the face from their “enlightened” gentile neighbors during the pogroms in Russia in the late 1800s and amplified many times over during the Holocaust.
How ironic is it that the policy makers of Israeli foreign relations haven’t learned the lesson while negotiating with their Arab neighbors, – they keep on sending Shmerl back to the Poretz to find out if maybe now he’s ready for the shidduch. Meanwhile, Sara’le is getting older and older and her chances to find a suitable Jewish boy are getting grimmer and grimmer.
Let’s hope Zundle will start consulting with a better shadchan soon.
(The tale was adapted from an op-ed by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Drukmann, Kiryat Motzkin, Israel)