As their bus slowly made its way through the crowded Jerusalem streets, two young women passed the time discussing the recent engagement of an aquaintance.
"Actually, it's a little hard to understand how the two of them ended up together," said the woman to her friend.
Her companion agreed wholeheartedly, and had her own piece of intelligence to add. " I know. Isn't she a lot more modern than he is? You wouldn't think of a girl like her for a boy like him."
" I really can't see it. I'm surprised the families went along with it."
Suddenly, the first young woman felt an insistent tap on her shoulder. She turned around and looked into the agitated face of the woman behind her, a neatly dressed middle-aged woman.
"I'm sorry to intrude on your conversation," the older woman began. "But I couldn't help overhearing. And I just want to tell you how grateful I am to you. You see, you've really stopped a tragedy before it happened."
Each of the young woman quickly replayed the conversation in her mind, wondering what, in their idle speculation, could have prevented a tragedy.
"It so happens that I'm the mother of the boy you've been talking about," said the older woman. "And I have to admit that, even though we carefully looked into this shidduch, I had no idea that my son's fiance was quite so modern. You're absolutely right that someone like that wouldn't be right for our son. I'm only grateful that I found out about this while I still have a chance to put an end to it."
The woman's words sank into both of the young women's hearts, leaving them speechless and panic-stricken. What could they say to undo the harm? They barely knew anything about either of the parties to the marriage. Both simply had been repeating what they had heard, and even that was second-or third-hand at best.
As they scrambled, each in her own mind, to find the words that could erase the effects of their previous words, the bus came to a halt at a bus-stop, and the older woman rose to leave. One of the young women reached out to hold her back, even for a second. Just for the chance to say something-anything-that might mitigate the harm.
But before her hand touched the older woman's coat, the chasan's mother turned back, momentarily, looking directly at the young women sitting, still dumbstruck in their seats.
"I'm not the boy's mother," she said, "but you know, I could have been."