Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Savlanut--the Lack Thereof

Ever take a very little child on a very long trip to somewhere? Young kids have no real sense of time, so telling them "we'll be there in just three hours" has no effect. Every five seconds or so (or so it seems) they ask "Are we there yet?!" In addition to their lack of time-telling ability, they also lack savlanut--patience. If you've told them you are going somewhere they want to be there NOW, not later. Waiting to see the results of something is also foreign to them. I remember when we were young that my mom planted some vegetable seeds together with my brother and I. Every day, multiple times a day, my brother would go and uncover his seeds to see the vegetables that were supposed to be there NOW.

In many ways the adults of today have not changed from the children they were yesterday. They still lack patience to wait for anything. It is no longer just children whose time apparatus is not fully developed, whose ability to be patient has never grown and flowered. What we want we want NOW, not later. Stand on line and wait for a check out line to progress forward? All you hear are the complaints about how slow the line is moving. Tell someone they will need to spend 4-10 years studying in college/grad school in preparing for a career and their eyes roll back as they chant "No, no, no! TODAY!" I'm sure you can fill in with many more examples, hundreds of examples, thousands of examples.

But what, to me, is possibly one of the most egregious examples of this lack of savlanut? The shidduch scene today. This lack of patience is seen in every single aspect of shidduch making. "Someone" has decided that all people looking for shidduchim have a limited, very limited time frame in which to get married or they are out of the race. The concept of waiting, never mind waiting patiently, does not exist. And the side affects of this lack of patience are horrifying to see. We live in a time that a woman of 20 has already begun to worry that she will never get married. A girl of 21 becomes frenetic every time a shidduch is suggested because she knows she is on a very limited countdown clock and her clock has almost stopped ticking. A girl of 22 believes that she is in deep trouble and hysteria ensues. And our so not benign society refers to unmarried women of 22 or 23 as older singles, as if it's some kind of terminal medical condition. Pass 23 or 24 years of age and you know for sure that life has passed you by and marriage is such an out of sight possibility that the only way it's going to happen is if you close your eyes, point at just anyone and say "I'm desperate so someone get that one to propose and I'll accept, although I know that I'm just settling and this isn't what I really want deep in my heart."

Hello, reality check time. We are told that Hashem is m'zaveg zevugim. What we are not told is when that zivug foretold for us is supposed to arrive at our doorsteps. And please forget that shemoneh esrim l'chupah nonesense for a moment. I'm sorry, but which of our avos and imahos got married at precisely 18 years of age? And then there was Yaakov avinu who put in 14 years of hard labor before he managed to marry both Rochel and Leah. Talk about having patience!

By today's unfortunate standards of telling time, I should never have gotten married, nor should a whole bunch of other people that I know. We were over that dreaded 21 mark and we should have buried our marital ambitions by that point and prepared ourselves for a life of spinsterdom. What utter and complete nonsense! Not once in all the time that I was dating and looking to see what God had prepared for me did anyone around me every suggest, in word or deed, that I was "over the hill" and headed for a life alone. What they all did counsel, however, was patience. I got married when I was 24 1/2 and just what is it that I am supposed to have missed by getting married at that "ancient" age? I missed nothing, absolutely nothing. And what I did get was the gift that God had prepared for me, at the time that He had prepared to give that gift to me.

We don't have that blasted shidduch crisis today--what we have is a crisis of faith. We have decided to over ride God's plans and institute our own instead. WE have decided that there is a time limit and only the "first horses out of the gate" are going to win the race. We have set ourselves up as the ones who know just how and when a shidduch is supposed to come about, and oh boy are we failing miserably in our attempts to over set God's timetable. We have decided, contravening God's intentions, that if you are over 22 you are going to be just "settling" for something, anything, instead of actually being paired up with your basherte shidduch. We are meddling in God's business, and the results aren't very gratifying. What unadulterated gaivoh on the part of mankind to think that plans hatched by humans, and not awfully well-made plans at that, can easily replace what God has in mind.

Our job is to have bitochon, and in that we are failing miserably because we have attached an illogical, artificial timetable to that bitochon. Our job is to have savlanut, and in that, too, we are failing miserably.

What set me off? A posting on Bad for Shidduchim floating the idea, perhaps tongue in cheek and perhaps not, that women in their early to mid twenties who are not yet married might want to consider joining together commune-style and at least have the joy of raising children with those other women. After all, they are over the hill and marriage is unlikely, even if you find someone that would just be settling instead of what you really want. My generation may be guilty of an awful lot but that is one thing you cannot lay at our feet. We understood patience far better than today's younger people do. And even if we sometimes wondered just what was taking so long for Prince or Princess Charming to show up, we didn't throw in the towel and say we were defeated. What we did do was trust that God knew what He was doing and that eventually we would reap the goodness of His decision.


Lion of Zion said...

"My generation may be guilty of an awful lot but that is one thing you cannot lay at our feet."

so then who brought up my generation to think this way? or if you prefer, who sent my generation to yeshivot, camps and seminaries that taught us this drivel, directred us toward rabbonim who idealize it and raised us in communities and social circles that foster it?

it's the same story with all the MO (and formerly MO) parents who complain about having to support grown children in kollel and beyond.

in the majority of cases, all these lifestyle choices were not made overnight but are the result of parents abdicating the role of hashkafic molding to others.

but anyway, the rest of the post is on target.

ProfK said...

Okay Lion, I'll concede that part of the blame can be placed on my generation. What are we guilty of? Not seeing/believing that yeshivas and rabbanim and rabbinic groups would be planning a coup to take over parenting and parental responsibility and privileges. We didn't foresee that we would be in competition for our own children with others. We sent our kids to yeshivas to be educated but we didn't foresee that that education would contravene the philosophy of the home, certainly in areas such as getting married. And yes, by the time we saw what was happening the outside "they" had caught the kids and reprogrammed them.

Plenty in my generation who did not bow to the pressure that was starting and who railed against it--sort of like trying to empty a sinking ship with a teaspoon.

Anonymous said...

When our 29 year old daughter got engaged there were plenty of people who asked what she was marrying---yes what, not who. It made me sick then and makes me sick even thinking about it now. But when you make kids into merchandise that has to be moved off the selves now while they are still in style then you get whats not whos.

Anonymous said...

We sent our kids to yeshivas to be educated but we didn't foresee that that education would contravene the philosophy of the home, certainly in areas such as getting married. And yes, by the time we saw what was happening the outside "they" had caught the kids and reprogrammed them.

Wow, what a statement. What did you expect your kids to learn in yeshiva? You didn't foresee a heavy dose of hashkafa? I think people place such trust in yeshiva because they have been warned of the evils of public school. They think that at least in yeshiva, their kids are safe. In reality, they're probably safer in public school where NO religious agenda is being pushed.

Lion of Zion said...

"We didn't foresee that we would be in competition for our own children with others . . ."

that only works for the first child. what about the parents who are complaining about the route their 20-year-old son has taken, but then continue along the exact same path with their 7-year old son? as they say, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice . . .

(and yes, feel free to throw this back in my face if i complain to you in 8 years that my son mumbled throught his bar mitzvah parsha, mispronouncing every word and not understanding any of it :) )

ProfK said...

Err, I don't suppose it would help if I mention that if someone has both a 20 year old and a 7 year old that that is not my generation but the next generation of parents? Close friends became great grandparents last week at the ages of 65 and 63. So this is all the fault of the great grand parents or grandparents' generation? A nice way of excusing all those younger from any culpability in the problem. We caused the problem? And just why are the younger generations living with that problem? They can't expend some effort to change things?

Of course we understood that hashkafah would be taught. What we didn't understand or believe was that the yeshivas would go beyond this to areas that aren't hashkafah in a Judaic sense but used to be strictly the purview of parents. My generation didn't believe that summer camp fell under hashkafah, nor did what color and type of barette a girl could wear in her hair. The younger members of my generation found themselves facing just these issues. Who a child played with outside of school hours and what they wore outside of school used to belong to parents to decide. The next generation under mine found yeshivas that subtly and then not so subtly said that just isn't so--we get to decide what your kids do, not you. So what are they doing about it?

Yaakov said...

We have 3 kids ages between 19 and 25 looking for shidduchim and a 4th one who'll be 19 next year. We tell the kids and tell them and tell them that they need to have patience, that God has things all arranged and they don't believe us really. Their schools and their friends all tell them differently.

Sometimes my wife and I look at each other and wonder if we will ever eat a meal together again that won't end up as a discussion of shidduchim and when am I getting married.

Anonymous said...

Sorry ProfK, but your (and my) generation is part of the problem. We have to take responsibility, just like we have to take responsibility for lots of other bad decisions our generation made, such as not doing anything about dependence on foreign oil even though we got a big warning by way of the opec embargo in the mid-1970's, but then continued to demand and buy gas guzzlers and ever bigger homes, and just like our generation has to take responsibility for not treating the viet nam war vets better.

JS said...


Very interesting post and also very interesting discussion in the comments as to how we got to this point. It's not really clear to me how to counter these influences beyond sending to public school or having very frank (and possibly rude) conversations with yeshiva rebbeim and administrators to keep their hashkafas off your child and that you'll raise your children the way you believe is right (good luck with that).

Someone half-jokingly told me over Shabbos that when their kid goes to yeshiva for the first time later this year for kindergarten they're going to have to give the kid a long talk about how not to tell anyone that they take showers on Shabbos or that mommy wears pants, etc etc. Sad, but all too true.

Finally, pretty sure Yaakov worked 7 years for Leah, then after 7 days married Rachel, then worked another 7 years for Rachel.

ProfK said...

Anonymous 10:20,
Fine, you want a mea culpa you can have it. The whole shidduch mess we have today is all, read ALL the fault of our generation and no one else shares the blame. And does that change one darned thing? So the two generations below ours, and the third one already being born, get to skate? And having identified that there is a problem that needs fixing and even being willing to find ways to change things is going to work if only our generation is willing to admit that there is a problem? It's far, far easier to point a finger of blame at someone else, deserved or not, than to pick your behind up off a chair and DO something to change the situation.

Re the Vietnam vets (and please keep in mind that I'm married to one of those Vietnam vets) and did today's generations learn anything from that treatment? Have you taken a look at the treatment that many of the Iraqi/Afghanistan vets get?

Anonymous said...

JS: The person who feels that they have to tell their 5 year old not to tell the truth about their parents at school has no business sending their children to such a school. They are doing a horrible disservice to their children and are putting them in a terrible position. It would be much fairer to send the child to public schools or a solomon schecter.

Trudy said...

Turning the conversation back to shidduchim for a minute, it's not just patience that today's daters are missing. It's also that they are so hung up on perfection and what constitutes perfection.

They make up a list of qualifications that no one short of God Himself could match and they stick to that list no matter what. Could be that part of the problem is that they really don't have all that up front and personal experience growing up in talking with and closely observing people of the opposite sex. They assume that their lists mirror reality, and they don't. Then they talk about settling as if that were a really bad thing, instead of seeing that settling is just a word for replacing the fairy tale with real life.

Really kind of audacious for an 18-19 year old with no real experience of the world to decide that their list represents God's thinking.

Lion of Zion said...


it's not a half-joke. where i live it's the reality for many parents. personally, there are many things i don't like about my son's school, but one thing i'm grateful for is that (so far at least) they don't dictate what goes on outside of school and the interview process is not an inquisition. the day this changes i pull him out. (for my daughter we are going to have a real problem if we want to keep her local.)


"They make up a list of qualifications that no one short of God Himself could match and they stick to that list no matter what."

it's part of the problem i call checklist dating. everything from the backround checks to the שבע ברכות and beyond is directed by checklists and very formal expectations.


" And just why are the younger generations living with that problem? They can't expend some effort to change things?"

many have the status of תנוק שנשבה in this matter. but you are correct regarding the rest.

as far as the parents with the 20- and 7-year-olds, was writing in literary present tense, not historical present tense. there are plenty of people now in their 60s who will work till they die because 20 years ago they didn't learn from what happened to their older children to change the path for their younger children

katrina said...

I am not a part of the shidduch community. I got married last year at 29, a few years at least after most of my modern Orthodox/Conservadox friends got married. I have to say that I find it a little troubling, ProfK, that you put this in terms of bitachon. I understand that you are contrasting it with lack of patience in the process of getting married, and that could be said in any part of the religious Jewish community, although to different degrees. But if you take the argument in another direction, what would you say to an older single woman (say 35+) who came to you and said she has been dating for years, taking care of herself, going to school, getting a degree and establishing a career, all while dating regularly, and yet she is STILL not married? Would you tell her that God doesn't "want" her to get married, as it were? That her not being married will work out for the best?

ProfK said...

I'm really not sure how we got from the posting to your last questions. Of course God wants her to get married but His timetable and ours may be very different. Far from thinking that her not being married will work out for the best, I don't concede that she won't get married, I don't care how young or old she is. There needs to be faith to keep hope alive, to keep a person still looking for that shidduch, to keep them believing that they aren't too old. Someday may not be this very second but it could be tomorrow or any tomorrow after that. For a community to crush hope by calling a 20-something over the hill, by conditioning that single to believe, this is abominable. While there is life there needs to be hope.

And not that I've kept it a secret, but I'm the mother of three children in their 30s who are not yet married--note that is not yet. Yes, I have tremendous faith that they will get married and they haven't given up hope yet either.

katrina said...

Ok, ProfK. I understand what you are saying. Thank you for clarifying. I wish you and your children all the best.

Miami Al said...


I agree with every single one of your observations.

However, I agree with the other commentators, the "blame" for a generation that lacks patience or sense does not fall on the generation of children coming of age, it falls on the generation that reared them.

America's Greatest Generation defeated the Nazis, contained communism, and created a modern economic miracle. However, as parents, they over indulged their children, and the baby boomers have gone through life as a pampered, spoiled, and selfish generation.

Somehow, the Greatest Generation was prepared to sacrifice everything so that their children could have a better future, but somehow they communicated to their children "you are amazing, I sacrifice for you," instead of "children are amazing, one sacrifices for ones' children," as a result, the baby boomers went from spoiled children, to oversexed spoiled young adults, to hypocritical adults, and now back to being petulant children demanding that after a life of being catered to by their elders, and the youth, they will now be financially supported by the youth.

We had a delightful Shabbat, but a very strange conversation with some friends. They explained that their child (in elementary school) was only going to be around the house a few more years, which seemed like a strange comment, before they explained that he'd leave for Yeshiva after his Bar Mitzvah.

The parents felt that they have enjoyed their time with him, but that home was no place for a teenage boy, as mothers and fathers weren't equipped for hormonal teenagers, and that only the Rebbes were.

My wife and I found this very strange. The idea that someone other than us was most qualified to handle our child's formative years is simply not on our radar screen.

It is very strange to see an entire helpless generation set out upon the world without the means to support themselves, or the ability to make decisions and run their lives for themselves.

ProfK said...

Miami Al,

The word "Boomers" is something of a misnomer--there are two distinct classes within that boomer designation, mostly divided along where they fall in age--among the oldest or the youngest of the boomers. Rather than describe that distinction in more detail, please see http://conversationsinklal.blogspot.com/2009/04/then-and-now-holocaust-generation.html

The distinction is important because everyone likes to blame the boomers for all that is wrong in Klal today. Not the case.

Miami Al said...

Prof K,

I think you and I just know people of different socio-economic backgrounds of that era, and live in communities of the descendants of different groups. The Jews I know, Frum or otherwise, aren't really that distinct from the surrounding American culture except in their own mind.

We're observing the SAME behaviors, that you are linking to the Shoah, which I link to general American trends.

My family came over in the 30s, not the 40s, and was wealthier in Europe and able to engineer a softer landing than your family. With a few exceptions, my family didn't live in tenement housing in NYC.

However, the SAME generational currents run in my family and those around me.

Which leads me to conclude that the issues are generational and surrounding events, NOT the Shoah and it's aftermath as you define it.

Those that survived and fled Nazi occupied Eastern Europe had it tough, but my Grandfather that married my Grandmother and shipped out to the Pacific front ALSO had a tough experience. It might not have been AS bad, but the same "bad experience at similar point in life" resulted in similar approaches towards ones children.

Everyone says that there is no "sit and learn" outside of Frumkeit. Hogwash. Plenty of over-indulged and spoiled secular Americans, Jew and Gentile, go to a 4 year school to party and have fun, take a semester/year abroad, pick up a "silly" Masters degree (a friend with a mathematics degree went to work for his father-in-law's business, and took 2 years off to get a Masters degree in Poetry to expand his mind), go and work feel good jobs, etc.

Plenty of people drift in their 20s for self enlightenment.

Other than the self-defined "Holiness" of it, from a sociological and economic point of view, I really don't see two years in Kollel as fundamentally different than my friend's poetry degree.

Another friend decided he didn't like working and found RAships to pick up two Masters degrees and a PhD before returning to the workforce in his 30s... 8 years of extra schooling accomplished for him what a MBA or JD would have done, but he enjoyed the mental exploration for 5 years...

And since it was grant-funded RAships, he also did it on the government's dime. And like the Section-8 Food Stamp Frummies, he has no qualms about voted for Republicans, decrying welfare, and picking up government benefits for self exploration either. :)

I just don't think that the Shoah had, long term, a dramatically different effect on people in their decision making process than the Great Depression and WW II had. They no doubt have more nightmares, more physical scars, and more personal problems for the decades after, but in terms of how their raised their children? A shell-shocked WW2 Vet that came back to meet their 3 year old that was conceived before deployment acted roughly the same as his survivor fellow Yid, despite differences in experiences, language, and Frumkeit.

L said...

Yeyasher kochach Prof.

I nominate you to lead a bitachon and savlanut support group.

"I remember when we were young that my mom planted some vegetable seeds together with my brother and I. Every day, multiple times a day, my brother would go and uncover his seeds to see the vegetables that were supposed to be there NOW."

I find this pretty interesting. Actually I think the natural world is a great teacher of emunah, bitachon, and savlonus. Chazal say that the term emunah in a certain posuk they expound upon, refers to seder zeraim, the order of Mishna that discussed many agricultural matters. Why? Shema'amin bichai olamim vizorea - because a farmer (I dare say gardener too) believes in Hakodosh boruch Hu, who gives life to the worlds/universe, and plants. Someone who plants, does so because they have faith, they believe that there will be growth.

I believe that the further we are disconnected from the natural world, e.g. buying our food instead of growing it, the more we are distanced from such emunoh. I think big cities, in certain ways, are inimical to such spirituality, and NYC, being one of the biggest, is a leader in that category (although it is possible to keep a connection with nature even in NYC, as you sometimes write, but not all are like that).

How many of the panicking frum grow gardens? I think they could use some horticultural/spiritual therapy.

Anonymous said...

You will learn more appreciation for the miracles of Hashem's creation by planting a tomato seed, watching that little seed grow into a vine, and eating dozens of tomatoes over 3 months than you will learning Gemara you entire life.

Our Rabbi gave a brilliant D'var Torah about the Levite cities and the difference between being connected to the land, and grounded, than being in a city, with a disconnect. Part of the reason that the Leviim were involved in spiritual pursuits is that in their city life, they were disconnected from Hashem's world, and needed to be in the service of Hashem, while the agrarian tribes were more intimately connected to Hashem through working the land.