In honor of Tu B’Av, the 15th of the month of Av, “the Jewish Valentine’s Day,” we are launching a series on couples from different parts of the Orthodox world; how they met, shidduch dated (got set up by a friend or matchmaker), and decided to spend their lives together. The Madsens are a yeshivish ba’al teshuva couple. (Ben Madsen works for Project Makom.)
Ben told us of how he and his wife, Shoshana, found each other. “We met in 2013 at a Shabbos meal. The people who organized the meal were attempting to host a large meal. But in the end, everybody cancelled for the meal except for me and her. I was becoming frum, but wasn’t yet. She was already frum and had been for a few years.”
The hosts were worried that it would be awkward to have two singles who were totally not on the same stage in their Jewish growth, alone at a meal. What if they liked each other and it messed up Ben’s plans to go to yeshiva in Israel? They asked their rabbi who knew both Ben and Shoshana who said ‘don’t worry they won’t like each other.’ Ben was a senior in college, and Shoshana was in grad school. He went off to yeshiva for a year after the meal as planned.
Ben was visiting Boston while in yeshiva, and a rabbi he was close to called the hosts who had made the initial introduction and said ‘I know you didn’t mean to do it the first time, but please don’t invite them both again right now. We think Shoshana’s really great, but Ben’s planning on going to yeshiva for a second year and I’m afraid he might get sidetracked by Shoshana if they meet again right now and he sees she’s single’. Fortunately for Ben and Shoshana, this rabbi didn’t warn his own wife of the issue of inviting both of them!
While Ben was over their house for lunch, Shoshana walked by. The hostess, unaware that her husband thought they shouldn’t hang out until Ben was truly ready to date, called Shoshana inside for a visit. Ben hopped up and went into the kitchen. Shoshana knew that some guys get “too frum” after their first year in yeshiva and wondered if Ben was still the normal guy she had met the year before. To her relief, he reappeared with a glass of cool water and said, “Hi Shoshana, it’s hot out there, I thought you might want a cool glass of water.” Shoshana was pleased and impressed to see that Ben had not only not gotten out of touch in yeshiva, but had actually refined his middos to notice the needs of another in a caring way.
They had a great time talking over lunch, and some people recommended that they at least go on one date. They agreed that it seemed like a good idea, but the timing still wasn’t right and Ben went back to yeshiva in August. By March, he felt ready to start shidduch dating. He heard that Shoshana was available and decided to not pass up the opportunity to date her. He didn’t have a return date yet, but got in touch. Here’s Shoshana: “I was excited about the possibility, because we had really hit it off the summer before. But, since Ben didn’t know when he was actually getting back, I said ’this is pretty awkward but, I can’t wait around on a maybe for what could be months, two weeks before you get back I’ll stop looking into any new shidduchs, but in the meantime…’” Ben called her back two days later saying “I’m coming back in three weeks, which in a week will be two weeks, so there’s really no point with you going out with anyone else in the meantime!”
After two months of dating, Ben and Shoshana were ready to get engaged, but they waited one more month to be respectful to Ben’s parents, who did not want them to get engaged so quickly. Ben knew that once they got engaged Shoshana and her mom would do an amazing job planning the wedding, but he really wanted to do something exciting and unexpected for the engagement. The short video below feels like an episode of an Orthodox TV show, but is just part of Ben’s fun and caring approach to life!
The happy couple is about to celebrate their fourth anniversary. Their son is 1 years old. Ben’s advice for those who are shidduch dating is that people should go do fun things. “Don’t just sit at a restaurant. We did archery, we went on fun hikes. I’m a big energy and outdoors kinda guy. Not just that, but we had a lot of fun doing it. It was very clear that there was a certain period of our life that we could do that, and we’ll always have that. We always watch our wedding video on our anniversary.”