Part of my making Shabbat a special day is to read the OU newsletter, Shabbat Shalom, at least in part, after I have printed a few articles prior to candle lighting.
Less than two months ago, one of these articles was The Last Kindness by Ruchama King. It dealt with the beautiful mitzvah of chevra kaddisha and denoted its writer’s tact and respect. She explained that she had begun to take interest in this mitzvah as she needed the background information for a new novel she was currently writing, had inquired about the ritual involved and then been asked to help when a woman in her community had died and a member of the burial society could not attend.
Because of the tone of this piece of writing, I wanted to read the novel she had already written and which she briefly mentioned in the article. That’s the reason why I ordered Seven Blessings and then read it over the winter holidays.
The title refers to the seven blessings (or sheva brachot) said during the religious wedding ceremony as well as part of the festive meals that go on for a week after the wedding.
In Judaism, marriage is highly considered and it is often seen as a failure in one’s life not to find one’s bashert (soulmate) and have children. Because of this very traditional and oversimplistic view (nice and decent people find it difficult to find their soulmate or do get divorced), I had a few reservations about the book but started it all the same because of the numerous praises I had read on the Amazon website.
In fact, it is a lovely novel. The characters are likeable, especially the women. Two of the main protagonists are matchmakers (sadchan) and see their action, not as little personal victories or achievements, but as a means to help G-d by introducing peope who are destined to be married to each other. One of them, Tsippi, is a particularly delightful character; the sort of person one would like to meet in real life. All characters have flaws as well as qualities, which contributes to making them more plausible.
I also enjoyed the subtle creation of an atmosphere: the little grocery store, the women’s yeshivah, the mental hospital, the hotel where the prospective partners meet since they are not allowed to meet in private, etc.