Monday, July 16, 2007

Ending the Madness

There is an organization called End the Madness whose goal it is to help those orthodox singles find a mate. The organization bemoans the fact that the traditional means of finding your "bashert" currently employed by the orthodox Jewish community does not work. Part of the main problem is that the singles and their families are often more concerned with the things that don't count more than the things that do. Chananya Weisman, who is the founder of End the Madness just wrote an article that was forwarded to me this morning, that really hits home on this. While I don't like to take up lots of space with pasting someone else's articles, since I cannot find a link to it yet, I post it here: (below the article is the actual message of today's blog)

Living a Contradiction: By Chananya Weissman

You work for a living, and you work hard for your living, at that. You spent many years and many more thousands of dollars to receive a higher education, and you value the fact that you are a worldly, well-rounded person. You follow the news in a variety of media. You enjoy the many wonderful advances in science and technology of our modern world.You have a variety of hobbies and interests that may include sports, literature, art, music, travel, and so much more. You are politically informed, place a premium on independent, critical thinking, and believe that every person is and should be unique. You send your children to schools that reflect this understanding of the diverse needs of every individual and that prepare them to have a variety of options as they prepare for adulthood.In your professional life you often have to deal with members of the opposite sex. You ride buses and trains that carry both genders, and frequently dine in restaurants in which men and women stand on line together and sit at tables together. Occasionally you encounter someone who is not dressed appropriately and you avert your eyes, but you recognize that such experiences are normal and don’t feel any religious obligation to eat only at home as a result. You or your children may have even attended schools in which males and females are not completely separate.Your wife either does not cover her hair, covers it grudgingly, or covers it with a very expensive shaitel that is designed to make her appear stunning and the envy of all who see her.When you grew up, and certainly when your parents grew up, it was normal for people to meet and go out on dates. You met at school, in camp, in shul, at chessed projects, at political rallies, and in general through being open to meeting new people. Friends introduced one another. Shadchanim offered their services, but you hardly knew anyone who wanted or needed their services. Personal ads were something you would get a chuckle out of. It was generally pleasant to meet people, go out on dates, go steady with someone, and ultimately find someone to marry. The men were gentlemen, the women were ladies, and people acted appropriately. This was how rabbis met their future rebbetzins, too. It was nice. One glorious day your child announces that he is getting married. Chances are that his dating experience was far less pleasant, and that he relied primarily on shadchanim and online personal ads to find people to date. You understand now that this is more religious, this is what Hashem wants, and this is in fact the way it probably was throughout Jewish history. You accept what you hear. After all, that’s what people are saying, and who are you to question?Your first reaction upon hearing that your child is getting married is not joy, but relief. Your darkest nightmares – which have come true for so many others – have been averted. Your child will get married after all.You plan a wedding. And plan, and plan, and plan. There are lots of details to consider, but one thing is certain from the outset: the husbands will not sit with their wives, and the single men will not sit with the single women. First of all, you have suddenly become concerned that someone may dress or act inappropriately, despite everything else about your upbringing and background. Second of all, you heard that some rabbis with a mystique about them, a certain aura, and a large devoted following are against the idea of men and women interacting unless they are married or planning on marrying one another very soon.Third of all, you don’t want to fight over it. Your kid is getting married. So what if the singles at the wedding would like the same? Besides, maybe someone of the same gender will set them up, or something like that. That’s right. Hashem can work it out if He wants. They just have to daven and believe. It’s not your headache.Fourth of all, you want your chassidishe cousins to be comfortable. That’s the most important thing.You don’t ask yourself why you are suddenly taking an extreme approach regarding the separation of the sexes, one that does not manifest itself in any other aspect of your family, social, or professional life. You don’t ask yourself why you are so vitally concerned with what certain rabbis think about this issue when these rabbis are not your poskim, do not share your philosophies and values, and in fact would consider pretty much your entire lifestyle to be outside the pale. They would accept nothing about you and how you live, they would hurl insults at your religious outlook, and they would accept your children only as reclamation projects, not as good Jews. All they would accept of you is your tzedaka dollars and that you have a yiddishe neshama. But you don’t ask yourself why their opinion on mixed seating at weddings is suddenly so important to you.You don’t ask yourself why you don’t follow these same rabbis when in comes to watching an occasional movie, having an Internet connection, reading a newspaper, reading a book, having colors in your wardrobe, working for a living, allowing your wife to pursue ambitions outside the home, and so much more. You don’t ask yourself why your local rabbi is suddenly no longer good enough to rely upon.You don’t ask yourself why you aren’t living in Bnei Brak and learning in a kollel, if that is what you REALLY believe Hashem wants of a good Jew. You don’t ask yourself why you are being so inconsistent by following these extreme opinions on matters like mixed seating, shidduchim, certain matters of kashrus and the like, yet live a lifestyle that suggests you have a religious outlook that isn’t always black and white, one-size-fits-all, don’t ask questions, just say no.You don’t ask yourself any of these things. Maybe then you would realize that your religious observance is based more on social expectations than religious values, tradition, and compelling teachings. Maybe then you would realize that you are dancing from doorpost to doorpost, desperately hoping only to be accepted by your neighbors. You have separate seating at your child’s wedding because that’s what some people expect of you, not because you really, truly believe it’s right. But you say nothing. After all, you want your grandchildren to be able to get a shidduch.
All of this brings me to the original reason behind this post, which is, of course, "the Boy." The 20 year old daughter of a friend is (make that "was") dating a nice young man from England while she studies in Israel. They met a few weeks ago, and "the Boy" as she liked to refer to him, seemed to be having a very nice time with her. Clearly she liked him very much, and was very infatuated. In fact, she even started changing her behavior for him, like not wearing pants when they went out, but wearing a skirt instead. He was thoughtful, attentive, bright, handsome and liked her very much. Or so he said. He would email her after the dates and tell her what a great time he'd had. and looked forward to seeing her again. And then, apparently, last night, the Boy told her that he came from a family that only used shadchanim, (matchmakers) and that things between them could never work out. And with that, unceremoniously, the relationship ended, and "the Boy" was gone. Just like that. I won't bother to go into the obvious social gaffes here and the feelings involved. Perhaps a different time. It just struck me as amazing that here, the night after this awful event, I am sent Rabbi Weissman's article that seems to me to fit this to a tee, and felt that I had to share it with you. Maybe he, and his organization will be successful in helping other "Boys" or girls who have to deal with them make better choices with fewer outside influences.

6 comments:

donald said...

so is it safe to say that your blogging madness days have ended?

BaruchAttta said...

I agree completely. I do have to hand it to the Haraidim, though. They are very successful in reproduction. So much so, that given freedom of religion in this country and a resonable level of prosperity, that the Haraidim will eventually outnumber the Chinese.
Good Shabbos.

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