Hasia and Nathan Snipper
The rains had come early to Koydanov, and Hassia Glazer’s mother asked Hassia to bring her boots to the cobbler’s shop. “They need to be repaired and waterproofed, with grease taken from the fat of a sheep. Don’t worry about the babies. Hencha will help me, she’s twelve and more than able.”
Hassia walked the muddy dirt road into town and had to sidestep a million and one muddy puddles along the way. As she walked, she counted each puddle to the cobbler’s shop - Hassia counted everything.
Inside there was already a line, and after counting the bricks surrounding the fireplace, she waited patiently. In Koydanov you learned how to wait – the people in Koydanov were very good at waiting. In autumn they waited for the rains to stop. In the winter they waited for the snow to cease and the ground to thaw. In the spring they waited to plant and sow. And when they weren’t waiting for the weather to change, they waited for the mosquitos to leave, and the governor to quit hassling them. Every Shabbos the rabbi reminded his congregants that they were waiting for the Messiah.
As these thoughts floated through her mind, Mindel Eisenztein, the girl who sat next to Hassia all through the gymnasium and recently married, came into the shop and got in line behind her. Mindel told Hassia about the beautiful warm blankets they received as wedding gifts and how her husband rose early each morning to fix her a cup of tea before leaving for prayers.
Hassia did not hear Mindel. Instead, she noticed how Nathan Snipper worked the bellows with vigor and pounded the last with great strength. She observed his sweating arms working through the light and shadow cast by the nearby fireplace and noted Nathan’s handsome, intelligent forehead and soft facial hair. But more than anything else she noticed the way his eyes shined when he listened to a customer explaining what they needed and how much they were willing to pay, “and not a cent more”.
Hassia caught herself and tried to focus on Mindel but it was now her turn, and she found herself looking into the two bright and warm pools that were Nathan Snipper’s eyes.
She handed Nathan Snipper her mother’s boots, and he said they’d be ready on Thursday. Hassia bid goodbye to Mindel and left the cobbler’s shop. She’d only taken a half dozen steps when Mindel called after her. She had left her purse on the cobbler’s counter.
“Are you okay Hassia? It’s not like you to be so absent-minded.”
“Thank G-d I’m fine,” she answered as she took her purse from Mindel’s hand. She’d only walked a few more steps when Mindel called to her a second time.
“He’s a charming man. He makes a decent living and is a chossid of the Holy Rabbi Perlov, the tzaddik, and Rebba of Koydonov.”
“Who? What are you talking about?”
“Nathan Snipper, the cobbler, I noticed you were preoccupied with him, yes?”
Hassia shyly answered, “nothing of the sort ... I just have a lot on my mind. My father is away on business, and I have to hurry back and help with the babies.”
“Okay, that’s fine Hassia. But remember …”
“Matches aren’t made in heaven, they’re made by people right here in Koydanov.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that unless you’re planning to fly to Palestine on eagles’ wings, you’re going to marry someone from Koydanov using a matchmaker from Koydanov. Besides, I think he likes you.”
Hassia’s eyes grew hard but only for a moment before softening. She took a step closer to Mindel.
“Do you really think he likes me?”
“It’s only my guess. If you would like to know for sure, I can have my husband ask him. Would you like me to do that for you, Hassia Glazer?”
Hassia smiled and nodded, “Yes, yes I’d like that.”
And the two smiled and hugged before Hassia let go, turned on her heels and headed back home without counting a single mud puddle.
Less than six weeks later Hassia Glazer married Nathan Snipper in a ceremony witnessed by dozens and overseen by the One Above. For all who attended it was a joyous event.
It’s noteworthy that Nathan and Hassia Snipper fathered nine children. And after each child was born Hassia would ask Nathan, “Are marriages made in heaven or Koydanov?” Their nine children spread across three continents and gave them dozens of grandchildren and those grandchildren would ask their mothers, “Are marriages made in heaven or Koydanov?”
The couple’s union produced a few hundred children before they peacefully passed away and were buried in the Holy Land. By that time Koydanov was gone, its grand synagogues and rabbis almost a myth. But the great-grandchildren still asked, “Are marriages made in heaven or Koydanov?”
Anyone who has ever gone to a wedding has heard the rabbi say the late grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents are in attendance. Some believe it and others ...
But you didn’t have to convince Hassia and Nathan that it was true. Although they both passed away in the first quarter of the twentieth century, they hadn’t missed a single wedding and had over five hundred descendants. Hassia counted each one.
Some married Jews, and some married Japanese. There were those who lit menorahs and others who had a Christmas tree in their home. Nathan and Hassia didn’t love them less – they just cried more over some of them.
Sometimes a descendant from the Snipper family would marry a descendant of the Eisenztein family, and Mindel always took the opportunity to ask Hassia, “Are marriages made in heaven or Koydanov?” and the two would laugh.
Recently they were at a wedding when Hassia leaned to Mindel and whispered a request in her ear. It seems that Hassia had a great-great-great-granddaughter, single and living in Israel. And Mindel had a great-great-great-grandson who was also alone and living in Israel. Both children had similar passions and values and wouldn’t it be something special if they could be fixed up. Mindel asked, “Are marriages made in heaven or Koydanov?” She said she would work on it.
A few weeks later Hassia’s great-great-great-granddaughter caught the genealogical bug and started investigating her ancestry. She discovered she descended from Koydanover Chassidim and that she had great-great-great-grandparents buried in the Holy Land. This discovery added a new dimension to her life and gave her a sense of self that previously had been hidden from her.
When this girl went to a L’chaim, she spotted a group of friends standing with one guy she didn’t know.
“Hey Miriam, great to see you. What’s new?”
“I just found out that I’m descended from Koydanover Chassidim.”
“I’m also from Koydanov,” responded the stranger who was hanging with Miriam’s friends. “In fact, I even have a Koydanov Haggadah.”
Shimmy Eisenztein and Miriam spent the rest of the night talking, and three and a half hours later he asked her out. They went out ten times in six weeks when he proposed to her.
At the wedding all their friends and relatives were in attendance, those living and those no longer living. Hassia and Mindel beamed and hugged as only two eternal friends can beam and hug.
“Are marriages made in heaven or Koydanov?” asked Mindel.
“Nobody knows about Koydanov anymore,” answered Hassia.
“Yes they do,” interjected Nathan, “Koydanov is in heaven
– where marriages are made.”