The Novel "Bread Givers" The History of Marriage

The story of an arranged marriage is seen through the relationship of Reb Smolinsky and his wife Shena. When Shena turned 14, “the matchmakers from villages, far and near, began knocking on our doors telling father the rich men’s sons were crazy to marry themselves to me.” Shena Smolinsky was of high standing. “But father said, he got plenty of money himself. He wanted to buy himself honour in the family. He wanted only learning in his son-in-law. ” Shena’s father was only interested in a religious scholar for his daughter, someone who would bring honor back to their family.

When Shena was called upon to look at her husband, something different happened. In telling her story to her daughter, Shena tells us that, “When the matchmaker brought your father to the house the first time, so my father could look him over and hear him out his learning, they called me in to give a look on him, but I was so ashamed that I ran out of the house.

” Shena was not interested in a learned man. She wanted a rich husband so she could maintain the lifestyle she had grown up with. But, her father had a different idea and she had no choice but to marry the man he chose for her. Even her running out of the room when she was brought to meet her potential husband did not change her father’s mind about Reb Smolinsky. In continuing to tell her story, Shena says, “But my father and the matchmaker stayed all day and all night.

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And one after another your father chanted by heart Isaiah, Jeremiah, the songs of David, and the Book of Job.” Reb Smolinsky was a learned man because he was able to recite all prayers by heart and was willing to go all day and all night with his prayers without complaining.

“I didn’t give a look on your father till the day of the engagement, and then I was too bashful to really look on him. I only stole a glance now and then, but I could see how it shined from his face the high learning, like from an inside sun.” As was the custom in Eastern Europe, Shena didn’t even get to meet her husband before the engagement or even talk to him before she married him. It was also expected that the bride’s family would provide a dowry to the groom and his family for the marriage. “Nobody in all the villages around had dowry like mine. Six feather beds and twelve pillows. I used to sit up nights with all the servants and pluck the down from the goose feathers. So full of down were my pillows that you could blow them away with a breath” , said Shena.

In the dowry there were also, “sheets that had her name embroidered with a beautiful wreath of flowers of it” and “towels were half covered with red and blue embroidery and on each was some beautiful words, but the most beautiful thing of the whole dowry was my hand crocheted tablecloth”. Shena’s family was wealthy and was able to provide a substantial dowry. Shena herself put in a large amount of time to make these things for her dowry because she cared. As time went on her father died and Shena and Reb Smolinsky inherited all of her family’s money. Reb Smolinsky tried to run the business but wanted to do it while singing the songs of Solomon. “But your father wanted to sing first and then attend to business,” Shena said. They were able to inherit the fortune but to Reb Smolinsky, learning came first and everything else came second, including his wife and the family business.

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The Novel "Bread Givers" The History of Marriage. (2021, Dec 17). Retrieved from

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