Monday, April 7, 2008

Stones and Those in Glass Houses

There's an old English saying that "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." The meaning is fairly obvious but it seems to escape some people. It goes hand in hand with "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

A recent conversation about shidduchim brought these sayings to mind just now. The question raised was about something physical that might set the questioner apart from the others out there and how to handle that for shidduch purposes.

First let me say this: everyone has a "something" that might be different from the others out there. Some of these differences are more obvious than others, but they all exist. When we try to weed out shidduchim based on obvious "somethings," that isn't protecting us from a darn thing, because the unseen "somethings" are still there.

Which family is totally disease free in its history? Really? And do you know what the future might bring you? Pick a condition--strokes, high blood pressure, heart problems of all kinds, diabetes, cancers of all types, endocrine problems, stomache disorders of every hue, arthritis in all its manifestations, allergies etc.--and somewhere on everyone's family tree the problem existed, exists or may exist in the future. How about Alzheimer's and the various forms of senile dementia? And what about the many and varied mental and emotional disorders? What about the various learning and behavioral disorders? How about just wearing glasses? Or being prone to tooth decay and various other mouth disorders?

There are no perfect people out there. And yet, when it comes to shidduchim, there are those who require perfection in others, who turn down shidduchim based on what they see as a problem, because they can actually see it. And most of the time it is not really any grounded worry about that problem being passed down through the coming generations that is the problem. The problem is that age-old one: What will the neighbors/friends/relatives think?and the other problem that is also an age-old one: I deserve better.

There are members of Klal with hearing and vision and mobility issues. They may need hearing aids or the types of vision lenses that preclude their every driving a car, or they may walk with a gait that is different from ours. They may suffer from obvious skin disorders. They may have scarring. They may smile crookedly. And off some people run in the opposite direction. They are "throwing stones" with a vengeance when they do so.

A young man in the community where I lived before I got married had suffered from leukemia and was in remission. "Everyone" thought he would never get married. Well, yes he did. To someone who looked at him, not his disease. They were married about 15 years when the leukemia came back and took his life. At the time of his death there were people who wondered aloud why his wife had married him. She had to know something like this could happen. And this was different how from the young woman who married a "perfect specimen" only to have him have a heart attack and die when they were married only a year? Or get hit by a car? Or have rage problems so serious that he put her in the hospital for 6 months?

Just what is it that we think we can guarantee ourselves when we throw stones? The newspaper ran a story many years ago about a couple who purchased the safest car on the market and added all the extras to make it even safer. And when they had a fatal accident in that "safe" car, it took the fire department longer to extricate their bodies from the wreckage because of all those safety features. They were dead anyway, despite all their elaborate machinations to keep safe.

Some people live in clear glass houses, where everything seems to be open to vision. Some people have built their glass houses out of opaque or colored glass so that looking in by others is much harder. Some people have painted over their glass so that seeing through it becomes impossible. But the one thing all people share in common is that their houses are made of glass. It might be hard to see through to the inside, but cracks can develop in every last one of them. It might be really easy to see through the windows of other's houses and to throw stones. But when they throw stones back there is no reason to be surprised if your own windows crack and break. We all live in glass houses, and not a darned one of us should be throwing stones.

15 comments:

G said...

Please correct me if I am wrong. In your opinion the only things that should be of concern are those that pertain exclusively to the individuals dating and only those things that pertain to those individuals in the here and now.

SaraK said...

Bravo!

There are no perfect people out there. And yet, when it comes to shidduchim, there are those who require perfection in others, who turn down shidduchim based on what they see as a problem, because they can actually see it. And most of the time it is not really any grounded worry about that problem being passed down through the coming generations that is the problem. The problem is that age-old one: What will the neighbors/friends/relatives think?and the other problem that is also an age-old one: I deserve better.

I think this is one of the biggest problems with the "system".

BrooklynWolf said...

At the time of his death there were people who wondered aloud why his wife had married him.

Please, please, please tell me that you're kidding... that people werent' crude enough to actually ask this of her after her husband passed away...

The Wolf

mlevin said...

But at the same time, since mother are the ones doing the choosing, how could she [mother] set her daughter up with a boy whose sister has childhood diabetes, or whos mother has severe alergies.

It reminds me of a couple I met a few weeks ago. They are married for over 25 years and have two healthy teenages.

They met waiting in line to AVIR in Oddessa applying for permission to leave. She was 15. He was 17. They liked each other so much that they persuaded their parents to leave together. Both families left together and young couple spend their whole immigration process together. When she was 18, they got married.

So, what is amazing with this couple is had they gone through the traditional shidduch scene, no shadchan would have ever set them up. Why? Because her step-father is a goy and because both of his (boys) parents are deaf. His mother was deaf from birth and father lost his hearing at 9.

Bas~Melech said...

I could comment, but I think you've said it well enough.

The only problem is that the people who need to hear aren't listening.

ProfK said...

G,
The answer is both yes and no. First the no, it is not only about the here and now. I support the work of Dror Yeshorim. I personally saw what happens to parents who have to bury two young children because both parents were Tay Sachs carriers. I hope never to have to see that again. Should two diabetics marry each other? I don't know the medical opinion on this, but if it were that they shouldn't because that is definitely going to make their children diabetics as well, then I would support knowing this ahead of time and not making a shidduch for the two people involved. Where a clear and present danger exists because of BOTH parties then I suggest caution and common sense.

A frum doctor friend has spoken with me about the very real problem in making any kind of judgement about the health status of most of the US Jews, particularly the ones who arrived after WWII. The type of stress, both physical and mental, that these Jews were put under should be looked at as causative for many of their health problems, both while young and when older. It is impossible to know what would have been in their "family illness tree" and what was exacerbated by their wartime experiences. We don't know what type of illnesses their parents might have suffered, or what the real cause of death was when people died younger. He also feels that this extends to my generation, the first children born by those survivors. Mothers were having children right after the war, mothers whose bodies were not yet ready, perhaps, for that assault on their systems. They were undernourished. It is possible that my generation did not get the adequate "head start" it needed and might also be prone to medical problems because of it. In short, a medical history of bubbies and zaydies and of parents may prove to be of no practical use when deciding yes or no for a shidduch.

When we moved to NY my parents became friendly with a couple where the wife was completely blind. Anyone turning down a shidduch with one of her children would have been doing nothing but showcasing their ignorance. She was born seeing and then got the measles and got measles induced blindness. And yet, there were some who would not take shidduchim with her children because "you never know." There are some problems that develop "in utero" and are not genetic. Some problems are as a result of the birthing process itself. Some medical problems don't manifest themselves in every generation or in every person in a particular family but may or may not come up later on. Some problems may first start with your generation.

One person I know believes that any person with a "moom" should only marry another person with a "moom" so as to not "pollute" the rest of us. I hate that word and I really despise this person's attitude. So someone cannot hear well--does that negate all the things that person does have?

With the attitude that abounds today you do realize that Moshe Rabbenu could not have made a shidduch--after all, he stuttered or some form of speech disability. Yitzchak Aveinu suffered from visual problems later in life--you do remember the "Hakol kol Yaakov, hayedeim Esav" speech?

I am not advocating throwing every caution to the winds. Where the grandmothers on both sides died young of breast cancer, where the mother of a girl has had breast cancer and where she has sisters with breast cancer, and where the boy also has first degree relatives with breast cancer, there I would advise caution. Figure the medical odds and they truly aren't good for any daughters born of that marriage.

If only people were only worried about what might be real problems. Unfortunately, they aren't.

ProfK said...

Wolf,

I don't know if anyone said it directly to the young widow or the boy's parents, but they talked about it at the shiva and outside of the shiva house. That was bad enough.

Dani said...

I was my parent's miracle child. And I was their second family. They were married with children before the war and although my brothers and sisters did not survive my parents did both of them and found each other again after the war. My father was well into his 40s when I was born.My mother almost 40. Unfortunately neither one was alive when my own children were looking for shidduchim. And people wanted to know what they had died from and were there other health problems in the family. Those people I just hung up on. These were the same people who never bothered to ask about my kids personalities or talents. I think you are 100 percent right about those who went through the camps. What was done to them caused problems for the rest of their lives.

G said...

G,
The answer is both yes and no.

--So the only thing that should be of concern outside of those that pertain exclusively to the individuals dating and those things that pertain to those individuals in the here and now is overwhelimng proof of a health risk?


If only people were only worried about what might be real problems. Unfortunately, they aren't.

--You mean if only people were worried about what you consider real problems.

As I have stated elsewhere, by and large I agree with you on this issue. However, i do not think it right to simply take one extreme in response to another and label it the obvious correct approach.

G said...

And for the record:

A young man in the community where I lived had suffered from leukemia and was in remission. "Everyone" thought he would never get married. Well, yes he did. To someone who looked at him, not his disease. Her parents where not in favor of the marriage (and not bec they disliked the young man, quite the opposite in fact). They were married about 15 months when the leukemia came back and took his life. At the time of his death there were people who wondered aloud why his wife had married him. She had to know something like this could happen, that she could end up a widow having to care for twin boys.
---
And this was different how from the young woman who married a "perfect specimen" only to have him have a heart attack and die when they were married only a year? Or get hit by a car? Or have rage problems so serious that he put her in the hospital for 6 months?

--It is different because people live there lives with eyes open. Of course nobody knows the future holds or what God has in store for us. However, I do not think that gives us license to ignore reality. One is not responsible to know or anticipate the unknown, they are responsible for both when it comes to what is known ahead of time.

ProfK said...

G,
Truly wish I had the time right now to be more specific in my answer, but I don't. I believe that my comment above should have made it clear that those things that are known to present a danger to life at the time of a shidduch should be taken into consideration. There is a really gray area when it comes to other problems--If a doctor says you are in remission and cancer free, for instance. Plenty of people who live a full lifetime after such a problem. Some don't.

But what of what are seemingly small problems? Is bad vision the same as breast cancer? Is poor hearing? Does wearing a hearing aid make you a medical risk for a shidduch? Unfortunately, most people don't distinguish between the smaller things and the bigger issues. It seems not to matter at all--a shidduch is turned down.

And yes, I'll stand by my original assertion that we throw way too many stones. Extremism on both ends is not the answer.

Just an interesting note here. Our new governor in New York is legally blind. Apparently no one told him that would be a problem in living a full life--or maybe he didn't believe whoever told him. And I do believe he is married.

As someone--many someones--told a doctor: "I'm not a disease--I'm a person!"

If we are using medical statistics and probability tables for every possible medical/physical problem as part of shidduch making, I'm very surprised that anyone gets married at all. Hey, according to the insurance tables we are all going to die. And while we might pray for "arichas yomim," God doesn't promise us that either.

Of course you have to use common sense--and stone throwing is all too common and mostly has nothing to do with sense.

G said...

Of course you have to use common sense

--That is all I'm advocating.

and stone throwing is all too common and mostly has nothing to do with sense.

--Usually not, but sometimes it does depend on the stone being thrown and the house of the person doing the throwing.

Anonymousbychoice said...

Physical problems like heart troubles or cancer in a family don't scare me but what does is when people don't tell that someone is on medications for a real mental illness. I was engaged to someone who was on drugs and that I did not know about. Only after the marriage did they stop taking the drugs because you weren't supposed to get pregnant while taking them. You cannot ever begin to imagine how different that person was from the one I married, and how scary to live with. We are divorced--I am remarried--but it took along time to get over the first disaster. it's not what you know that can be a problem, it's what you don't know.

miriamp said...

Now I'm confused. ProfK's account clearly says they had 15 *years* before the leukemia came back, and G's "quote" says 15 months.

But at any rate, personally, I'd rather have the 15 whatevers than have nothing. I'm sure being married and having that happiness made the end of his life better. Who would have been served to make him suffer alone instead. And the cancer returning was never a given any way, just a much higher risk than the general population.

If we have problems with shidduchim (when the time comes) for our children because my father is totally blind (an accident of birth, and in no way genetic, but even if it were) then I'll "just hang up on them" the way someone said earlier. I'm sure there are worse "skeletons" hanging on our family tree anyway.

G said...

Two different accounts for two different real life set of events.