In yesterday’s Makor Rishon, Yael (Freund) Avraham published an entertaining interview with matchmaker Tova Schmessian. Despite being bedridden because of paralysis, she has fixed up some of the most hopeless prospects and made 550 matches over the last 40 years. Many of her clients have disabilities, but she “does not close the door to anyone whose head is working.”
Her secrets, perhaps? She doesn’t believe in love. And she always tells the truth, even if it hurts.
In this excerpt from a documentary about Schmessian, “Hashadchanit,” the matchmaker introduces two young people in wheelchairs. She tells the man to be patient, after the woman reveals that she is still pining over a boyfriend who cheated on her a year earlier. She also warns him not to touch the woman unless she wants it, “or I, Tova, will get involved.” “Only after the wedding,” says the prospective bride.
Schmessian told the interviewer about a young, handsome young man who arrived with his parents. She asked, “For whom did you come?,” but the man didn’t reply. Eventually the mother answered, “For our son.” Schmessian asked him directly if he wanted to come, He replied, “I don’t know, every so often they take me and we go to someone else.” “I felt sorry for the boy, you understand?, Schmessian said. “He didn’t know what they wanted from him, he wasn’t mature enough.”
The mother said that they had a house and a salary for him, and “we want him to marry.” Schmessian told them to start looking into a hostel, for after the parents are gone. “As long as you are alive, he will be with you.” After the wife got up and left, the husband put shaking hands on the matchmaker’s head and said, “Mrs. Schmessian, you are larger than life. No one else will explain to my wife that these visits are a waste of time. I’ve known it for a long time but she hasn’t come to peace with it yet.” Schmessian didn’t hear from them again. “People need to know that a shidduch (match for marriage) isn’t a psychologist. Problems must be solved.”
(To clarify: The matchmaker realized that the boy could not live alone independently nor was he capable of being married.)
Schmessian used to provide her service for free, but her children convinced her to charge NIS 10. Now, she asks for NIS 100 for a consultation. (You can read my post about paying for matchmaking here). Some people pay her when she makes a match, but some are ungrateful. One time, a package of olive oil, lemon juice and a salt and pepper shaker set arrived at her home. She asked the sender what it was for. He told her that she had introduced him to his wife, who had since given birth to three daughters. When he asked the rabbi about his bad luck, the rabbi said it was because he hadn’t compensated someone properly in the past. Hence the oil.
The interviewer concluded her piece by asking Schmessian what women are looking for. Women want men who are taller than they are, because it makes them feel secure. They also want to know if he works, whether he works at a government company, and if he spends a lot of time as his job. Not smoking and having a car are also important traits. “A 70-year-old woman asked me whether a potential shidduch had a pension. “So what will happen after he dies?,” the woman wanted to know. “It’s all business,” says the matchmaker.
Schmessian says that men want women who are feminine and attractive, “but how many creatures are there in the world?” Everyone has someone who is right for him or her. One man, though, wouldn’t settle for a woman who weighed less than 100 kilograms (220 lbs.). His first wife was too obsessed with her figure.
Unfortunately, Schmessian was diagnosed last year with cancer and is gradually turning over her notebooks to her daughter.