Sunday, July 21, 2019 -
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Checking references

Dear Tzviling,

My cousin sent me a number of your columns discussing shidduchim (matchmaking).

In particular, the column dated Oct. 23, 2009, raises a vital issue when researching our potential life partners. Namely, the need for accurate descriptions as we check for references.

I am in the process of looking into a shidduch for my daughter and need your advice. The boy comes with glowing recommendations. How literally do I take the references?

Andrew, Flatbush

Dear Andrew,

You are raising a very good question. The following Tzviling Alert should prove useful:

Tzviling Alert: Checking Honestly when Looking Into Shidduchim (T.A.C.H.L.I.S.)

  • “The boy is very responsible” (Whenever there was trouble in school or at home, he was responsible)
  • “The boy was never fired from a job” (He never had a job)
  • “He always has a smile on his face” (Especially at funerals)
  • “He is well rounded” (He needs to lose a lot of weight)
  • “He always keeps his head above water” (He never goes to the mikveh)
  • “He is like Shakespeare” (He knows not a word of Hebrew)
  • “He is like Moshe Rabeinu (Moses)” (He stutters.)
  • “He is like an angel” (He is not a mentsch)
  • “His Shabbos attire looks natural on him. His Shabbos hat looks like he was born with it. (He needs a new hat.)
  • People have nothing but shvach (Hebrew for praise) to say about him. (He’s shvach [Yiddish for weak] in his learning and shvach in his generosity.)

Dear Tzviling,

I recently moved to Denver. I have received many invitations for Shabbos meals and am enjoying the opportunity to expand my knowledge about Shabbos and mitzvos in general. I noticed some interesting customs at the Shabbos table and am curious for the reasons behind them:

1) Why is challah round on Rosh Hashanah and oblong the rest of the year?

2) My hosts don’t hand pieces of challah directly from hand to hand. They place the slices in front of the guests. Why?

3) Why do we take special care to wipe up every challah crumb from the table?

I thank you in advance,

Melanie, Denver

Dear Melanie,

Welcome to Denver. You are perceptive in noticing the interesting customs unique to the Shabbos table — wait until you experience Pesach (Passover)!
Feast on the following food for thought:

1) The two challahs on our table serve to remind us of the 12 loaves baked every week and kept in the ancient holy Temple in Jerusalem, reflecting the 12 tribes.

Some people use 12  challahs or 12 braids in the challah for this purpose.

For the rest of of us, the oblong challah is shaped like the Hebrew letter vav, which is the sixth letter and carries the numeric value of 6. Two challahs, and voila, we have the number 12.

On Rosh Hashanah the round shape resembles a crown, since we coronate Hashem as King at this time.

2) Passing a slice of bread directly into someone else’s hand is a sign of mourning, based on a verse in the Book of Job.

3) We wipe up every crumb, because we don’t wish to waste even a drop of food. Remember, this is G-d’s food, G-d’s blessings.

Taking great care not to waste the challah invites the blessing of wealth into our lives. Allowing the crumbs to fall to the floor and be stepped on invites the opposite. From a kabbalistic perspective, there are sparks of souls in our food, so we treat them with the proper respect.

Send your questions to, to be answered with wit, wisdom and humor by identical twins Rabbis Yisroel Engel (Denver) and Shloime Engel (Montreal) who share their combined 100 years of experience.

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