Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cooking Up a Recipe for Marriage

Modesty aside for a moment, I am accounted as an excellent cook and baker. People enjoy coming to our house for a meal. And there starts my problem. Sometimes these guests ask for recipes so they can make dishes they have eaten in my house at their house.

There are two schools of cooking. In the first school everything is measured out exactly using standardized calibrated measuring spoons and cups. Ingredients are exactly specified. The steps are clearly marked. The sizes of any pans needed are given in exact sizes and shapes. Temperature is given using degrees of heat. Cooking time from start to finish is also given. Of course, there are still some problems in this school. Large eggs are clearly marked on the container. Just how large is a large eggplant? As compared to what?

The second school of cooking is a bit different. Cooks in this school are perfectly capable of cooking like those in the first school but.... Their system of measurement consists of "pinches," "drops," "handfuls," "knips" "a touch," "a sprinkling," " a smidgen," "a dusting," "a little" and others like these. They tell you to take a "soup spoon's worth" or a "shnap gleisele's" worth of something. Larger amounts call for a "vein glesele" or a "vaser glesele." Liquid just might call for a "washing tepple's" worth. Sometimes a recipe calls for a large bunch of something. Sometimes these recipes say to add flavorings "to taste." Want to know how long to cook something? Perhaps until the bubbles go from small to large. Or till it is no longer shiny. Or my favorite: "Koch biz sis farteg"--cook until it's finished. Pan sizes and types are variable and depend on what you own and what is clean. Temperatures can depend on how long before you have to serve something to how hot it already is in the house.

I learned to cook in the second school, although I am perfectly capable of following the first school. Except that I'll add a little bit of this or that to the recipe, and maybe change the pan size, and maybe change the temperature and maybe change the cooking time. It is for this reason that I find it hard to give out my recipes. My kids who cook with me in my kitchen can pretty much figure out what to do with a recipe. They've seen the cooking up close and personal. Even so, the same dish does not turn out exactly the same for each of us.

There are those who want to apply the standards of the first school of cooking to marriage. They reason that if they have the exact ingredients and prepare them exactly as stated that the results will suit them perfectly. It's not that they like every marriage they have seen. But when they see a marriage that one of their friend's has that they really like, they are sure they both want to and can duplicate that marriage when they get married. They follow the recipe to the letter--or try to--when they get married and can't understand why their marriage and their friend's marriage don't "taste" the same.

Marriage is like the second school of cooking. The amounts of the ingredients are not exact for any one cook. "To taste" has a different meaning for every person. You change the pan shape, the cooking time, the amount of spice. You mix things up to suit yourself. You and your husband "taste the dish" and decide if you like it this way or if it needs some more "adjusting" to suit both of you.

Marriage works just like this: my friend took a recipe from me for a winter soup she ate in my house and liked. The basic ingredients are split peas, barley, carrots, celery, parsley, onion, garlic, salt and turkey drumsticks. Her family doesn't like turkey so she substituted chicken wings. They aren't happy with split peas so she substituted navy beans. They like little noodles better than barley. They really like turnips. They aren't happy with garlic, and they really like pepper. But in her house the soup that results is called by my name. As far as my friend is concerned, she is making "my soup." The only thing they really have in common is that they are both soup.

And sometimes, no matter how much you like a dish that you have eaten in someone else's house, you can't duplicate it in your house. You see, who is cooking is also part of a recipe. What works for one cook just may not work for another. My friend has been trying to duplicate a forspeis I serve for years. She has finally resigned herself to eating it in my house, because no matter what she does, it doesn't come out the same for her as it does for me.

A recipe for marriage? I always laugh when I see people trying to present one. It's not about having a recipe. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Trying to force marriage into one of the first school's standard recipes results in something that may be edible, but it's not memorable. It's the methodology of the second school that results in "family favorites."

Attention all Writers--and Readers

A new magazine hits the stands today. It's called the Writer's Cafe and is a "literary" magazine for Jewish writers and readers. I'm reprinting below information that the editor/publisher sent to me. If you're a Hemingway in Hiding or just the reader who would like to read that new "Hemingway" take a look.

"We'll consider various types of personal narrative, too, in addition to fiction, poetry & essays, and might even have an occasional column on science, if sufficiently well-written.

Length 500 - 5000 and even longer--something good enough and too long for one issue can be done in a couple of installments, or serialized (e.g. a novel).

The budget is very tight right now, and the max we're paying for any piece is $50; if finances improve, we'll raise rates as much as prudence permits. We ask for First NA Serial Rights for 90 days from day of publication."

For information or submissions, contact Allen Auster at

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Countdown on the Latest Poll

Just a reminder. The latest poll will close in four days. If you haven't already voted, please scroll down below and do so.

Theory versus Practice

I have a friend who is a voracious reader. She is also very bright. She decided to "teach herself" all about computers so she began by reading manuals, lots of manuals. She could quote them chapter and verse. And if asked a question about computers she could rattle off the books' answers with no problem. What was the problem? She has finally figured out how to turn on her computer but anything after that is strictly "Help!" She knows all the theory but has no idea of how to practically apply it.

My cousin's son is a "power user" of computers. He can use his computer quite skillfully, but ask him to tell you how to use yours and he is stumped. He has all the practical experience but knows none of the "rules" that govern that experience. If he has never experienced a particular problem in his use of the computer he can't even begin to figure it out.

Obviously the best person to consult would be someone who knows what all the theory is, what all the rules are, and who also has a lot of experience in putting those theories and rules into action. Sometimes what the "rules" say is not what is going to work in the "real" world.

For many parts of frum Klal Yisroel there are an awful lot of "theories" and "rules" that have been promulgated about dating, about making shidduchim and about what should constitute marriage. Most people in the parsha can quote these word for word. The problem is that when you go to apply some of these rules you find yourself with problems--they don't work the way they are supposed to. Dating and marriage are definitely not a "one size fits all" item. What works for me may not work for you. What works for you may only partially work for someone else.

For those who have been dating for a while, you already know what I am talking about. Somehow you say exactly what you are supposed to say, you do all the "studying" needed, and then things don't work out. It takes experience to be able to adjust the rules to fit yourself.

For those who are married, you also know what I am talking about. You spent a long time observing other people's marriages, older and younger couples. You came to some decisions about how your marriage was going to be based on what you observed. And then you got married yourself and discovered that the practice was a whole lot different then your theories were. What worked for others who you observed didn't always work the same way for you. You liked what you saw husband X doing and determined that you wanted your husband to do the same thing. Only you didn't marry husband X, nor are you wife Y. Marriage is a unique work, constructed by two people in a unique relationship.

Yes, observation and study are one necessary part of preparing for marriage: practice is the other necessary part. It is the adjustment of one to the other that makes for good marriages. Those who are single and who say "I know exactly how my marriage is going to be/has to be" are in for some surprises. Talk to me twenty or thirty years down the road and then tell me how theory and practice mingled in your marriage. I'll bet 'tis a different tale you tell then the one you thought you would be recounting.

Recycling that is a Mitzvah

Millions of adults and children throughout the world have no access to medical care, vision care in particular. You can be a good recycler and help these people at the same time.

Do you have any old eyeglasses tucked into a drawer somewhere? They can be prescription or non-prescription, regular or sunglasses. What you are not using any longer can be a real blessing to someone who would otherwise not be able to get a pair of glasses.

If you have a Sterling Optical or a LensCrafters near you, they have barrels in the store for collecting those no longer used glasses. If not, the following information tells you where to send your glasses. The mailing costs are only a few pennies and the benefits are great. It's a mitzvah and it's recycling at its best.

*If you have used prescription or nonprescription glasses or sunglasses in your drawers, desks, or closets, you can donate them now! Children’s glasses are especially needed.
*Package the glasses and mail them to Lions Clubs International, Attention: Receiving Department, 300 W. 22nd Street, Oak Brook, IL 60523.
*Please wrap the glasses well in tissue so they will not break in transit.
*Used eyeglasses are of no commercial value; therefore, choose the least expensive means of shipping to the recycling centers (usually third or fourth class mail.) Label the box, "No commercial value."
*We have the world’s largest collection of used eyeglasses to help improve the impaired vision of 153 million children and adults in developing nations who have little or no access to basic eye care.

Please pass this along to anyone you know of who wears glasses of any type and who might have an old pair sitting around. To give the gift of sight to someone--how can we pass this up? Tizku l'mitzvos.

Like New--Shopping Green

An article that I read a while back has stuck with me. It was about shopping, consumption and saving the environment. The author made the point that for many of us shopping has become more addiction then necessary life activity. What is worse, too many of the things that we buy are used only a few times and then are tucked away someplace to molder in peace. And off we go to shop for something else. This is not good for us and not good for our environment either.

The article talked about the "hoarders," those who keep things that will have no use for them but who can't bring themselves to give anything away. And the article also mentioned how some people look down their noses at anything that they didn't buy new--used is verboten.

I am definitely not shopping addicted. Unlike some I know who must go up and down every aisle at the supermarket, because there might be something new they would miss otherwise, I go shopping with a list, go only to those aisles where those products are and I buy what is on that list. Yes, I may buy one of the "front of the store" specials, but only if it is truly something that I use, I need and the price is actually worth it. Ditto for all other kinds of shopping. Yes, sometimes I have to visit a few stores to get what I am looking for, but I sure would not pick shopping as a way to wile away the hours of the day.

I admit, however, to a fascination with "used anything" shopping. I like garage and yard sales and used book stores and "gently used" clothing stores. I especially like those "whole house" sales that are advertised in newspapers. Our garden center had medium sized clay pots for sale at $11.00 each. At a garage sale I picked them up for 35 cents each. I don't think my flowers cared. And even I, who believe that high-priced couturier dress designers have a special place in hell reserved for them, bought one of those designer gowns that a family member needed for a one-time wearing to a wedding. At a resale shop. Of course, it was worn once before, so I cleaned it. And the price was still less than 20% of what the gown sold for new. And when we were done with it, I donated it to a charity. And darned if I have not seen the gown "around town" a few times since. The best kind of re-cycling. Do curtain rods really care whose house they inhabit? Or how many houses they have inhabited? Or lawn chairs? Or garden rakes? Or Organic Chemistry for Dummies?

There's one area here in Staten Island where the inhabitants seem to change the decor in their houses every season of the year. Sales in these houses are true treasure troves. Some items are so "gently used" that they still have the original sales tags on them. And the prices are far, far less then for the same item in a retail store. Every community has areas like this.

Don't think of it as buying someone else's castoffs; think of it as recycling to protect our environment. I look kind of strangely at those ads which announce "genuine certified pre-owned car," but they write the ad that way because who would get excited about seeing "used car" written. Maybe more of us should get excited. Help the environment and put extra money in your pocket. The "money in my pocket" has a nice ring to it. So does keeping our environment livable.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Anonymity in a Non-anonymous World

Blogs are an interesting phenomenon. They are "out there" in public places and accessible to just about anyone, and yet they are looked at as private little nooks. Most blog owners use pseudonyms to protect their privacy. Their thoughts may be going public but their names will not. They assume that their real identities are thus protected.

A legal suit, brought against the owner of the orthomom blog, wanted the courts to rule that the blog owner's name could be given out by the service provider. Someone was mad as all blazes about something that had been said about her on the blog and wanted a name to go with the blog. The courts said no way. The right to privacy still lives!

And yet, within the general frum world a lot of people know who the blog owners are without having to resort to legal means. You start a blog and you want readers, so you tell a couple of friends to come to your blog. They know who you are. Then they tell a few friends to go to their first friend's blog, and maybe they use your real name and maybe they don't. Possibly, by the time you get to the friends of friends of friends of friends no one knows who is writing the blog, and quite possibly doesn't care either.

You get personal on your own blog, and yes, in commenting on others' blogs as well. Small life details get thrown out. You were at a wedding last night in Williamsburg. You work in a particular field. You go to/went to a particular college. You live in a particular community. Even ages are revealed. Over time a picture of the blog writer begins emerging. (Oh and yes, some blogs even have a picture of the blog owner on them. Don't know why they bother with a pseudonym if they do that.) Hobbies and habits become clear. In short, the privacy on a blog is not all that private.

Some people use pseudonyms because they don't want it known that they have a blog, know what a blog is, or know what the Internet is because, chas v'shalom, it might hurt for a shidduch. The privacy of a blog allows them the best of both worlds. For some it is a respite from a "real world" that can get kind of oppressive in its rules and regulations. For some it is a chance to connect with those from different communities and offering different viewpoints then their own. Their "real" world would restrict such connections or ban them altogether. On a blog male and female voices mingle in commenting, a mingling that is not available to some of those who have a blog or visit blogs. Those in the frum world who have blogs or visit blogs do not always "toe the party line" in their comments. In fact, they vent their frustrations about that very "party line."

Is it healthy to have this kind of "split personality"? Yes and no. Getting rid of pent up frustration can avoid blow ups in the real world that might have very far reaching consequences. On the other hand, allowing such frustration to be present to begin with cannot be very healthy. If the world you are in is driving you crazy then why aren't you doing something to alter that reality? I guess it is a question of degree. Everyone at some point needs to vent. It is those whose only place to vent is a blog that I worry about. Nameless, voiceless online friends, as much as they may care, are not a substitute for flesh and blood friends in the "real" world. They should be considered an "addition to" rather than a "substitute for."

Plenty of visitors to blogs will not even go to the point of choosing a pseudonym. They certainly won't have a blog of their own or a profile available. They want what they see as the absolute "safety" of being "anonymous." A lot of people get upset at commenters who never move beyond "anonymous." And if they call themselves "smileyface" does that make them any more real? I've come to the point where I don't care either way: what you call yourself here has to meet with your approval, not mine.

I got a smile in school the other day when someone was talking about privacy issues on the Internet and on blogs. I'm fairly sure that he knows just who I am, pseudonym or not. That's okay. I'm also pretty sure I know which persona he has adopted in the blog world. The key, however, is that he doesn't tell me what he knows and I don't tell him what I know, and they all lived happily anonymously ever after.

Heads or Tails

Every year for Rosh Hashana I cook up a fish head and every year the reaction is the same when I go to pass it around: "No way!" This year I got a little sneaky and just ground the head meat in with the rest of the gefilte fish. All that effort and sneakiness just so we can say "Sh'nihiyeh l'rosh v'lo l'zonov."

My mother has a related saying. "Besser tzu zein a shvantz bahn a kop vi tzu zein a kop bahn a shvantz"--better to be a tail attached to a "good" head then to be that good head dragging along a useless tail. I can see where this would apply but I also see where it doesn't. I don't think it applies to college students.

Why bring this up now? It must be something to do with the weather change--or maybe not--but I've overheard and read dozens of conversations that all seem to be dissing everyone's favorite college in Flatbush. It would seem that the college is everyone's candidate for "shvantz of the year" and no one's candidate for a "kop." Or the speakers believe that they are the "kop" and everyone else around them is that useless "shvantz," the college included.

College is what you make of it. You can learn anywhere you attend college. It's not about how good a college is or isn't--it's about how good a student you are or aren't. A poor student at Yale (Can anyone spell Bush?) is no better than a good student at T. College.

Of course, it is easier to diss the college then to look in the mirror with a finger pointing. Here's how I see it: if you are that "kop" at college, then you got what you wanted when you ate the fish head; you can't now complain that you are dragging along a tail. And if you are that "tail" just remember that "tail-ness" is not a permanent condition--it's up to you to do something about it. Blaming the fish for your position in its anatomical makeup is counter productive, not to mention unrealistic.

Midterms are over and final exams are just around the corner. The talk "blaming" the college for bad grades will start intensifying. It's always the professor who is too hard a marker. It's always the professor whose exams contain "impossible" questions. It's always the professor who "didn't teach enough." Mediocre colleges have mediocre teaching staff. Mediocre colleges "cause" mediocre students to come into existence. Of course, in a "good" college you would have had stellar grades; that's a given. Therefore, if your grades aren't what you want them to be, the college must be at fault.

Let me repeat what I've told thousands of students over the years--it still holds true: I do not "give" grades; I merely record the effort that you have shown me. Whether you are a "kop" or a "shvantz" lies in your hands, not mine. "You can bring a horse to water but you cannot make it drink" still applies. It applies to all teachers and to all students. And yes, it applies to all colleges.

Carnival workers have long known that if you toss a coin you can influence the toss of the coin so that the side you want ends up facing up. It's about time college students learned the "trick." It takes work and study and diligence to learn that "trick."

Here's a coin for you college students. It's got two sides. YOU toss it--heads or tails?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Real Fakes

I take most advertising with a grain of salt, heck with a whole bucket of salt. I'm not an easy sell and have become even more "ad resistant" over the years. But the following caught my eye, and as an English teacher I was floored.

Genuine real imitation diamonds like you've never seen them before! Diamonaire for the discerning.

Strange world we live in where you can have real imitations--as opposed to what? Imitation imitations? And if it's only an imitation imitation wouldn't that make it real?

Let the buyer be ware!

A Note on the Poll below

This poll is not just for singles. If you are the parent of a single, what is your or your child's position on age? If you are still a young married person, what was your position on age as regards shidduchim? Thanks.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

When the Shadchan is Inhuman

Stories about how mom met dad are usually pretty prosaic. Mostly they are carbon copies of everyone else's stories. But once in a while a "meeting" story is worth telling about for its very unusualness.

Most people don't have a 1996 Volkswagen Beetle as their shadchan. One very happily married couple did. The young man was on a college campus in the tri-state area to visit his friend who was the acting Chabad House rabbi. He was mulling over something he and his friend had been discussing and, because it was a campus road not a public street, he stepped into the road without looking. A young woman, obeying all the speed regulations, was crawling along the road when the young man stepped out in front of her car. Yes, she hit him. She slammed on the brakes and ran out to be of assistance. The young man was dazed but not hurt, but he couldn't convince the young woman of this. She quickly bundled him into her car and took him straight to a local emergency room. (Note: in the emergency room he finally happened to notice her long sleeves and long skirt and she happened to notice his white shirt and tzitzis out. Surprise, surprise!) She waited there with him. She took care of all the registration and made sure he was attended to. Then she drove him back to the Chabad house and put him in the hands of the rabbi's wife. She gave over all the instructions the hospital had given her about checking for a possible concussion.

Before she left the young man to his friends she took the rabbi's home phone number. She called when she got home to make sure he was okay. She also called the next morning to make sure he had passed the night well. And that ended that, sort of.

The young man, when he got over his embarrassment, thought the young woman had shown incredible midos and caring. He wanted to do something to show his appreciation to her and to his friends. A gift would not be acceptable he reasoned. So he decided to take the rabbi and his wife and this young woman out for a thank you meal. With the rabbi along how could anyone misinterpret what was going on? Fortunately, the rabbi's wife happened to know this young woman and had her phone number.

The two couples met at a local restaurant for dinner. Whatever awkwardness there might have been, given the circumstances, was soon overcome as all four people discovered mutual interests, and a lovely dinner was had by all. The young woman thought that she should be the one paying for the meal because she was the one who hit the young man. As he was taking out his credit card to pay for the meal the young woman blurted out without thinking "Then I pay for the next meal!" She was mortified--the young man was not. He had been trying to think of how he was going to get the rabbi to red this shidduch and here was his golden opportunity. He answered "Fine, how's next Tuesday?" The young woman looked at him appraisingly and said "Make it Wednesday and you're on."

Yes, they would do some checking out just to make sure that they could say they had done so. Both sets of parents listened to how they had met and decided that something greater then a mere human had taken a hand in getting these two together. Neither one was supposed to be on that campus at that particular time and yet there they were. And each one had been looking for just the qualities that were present in the other one.

"Tate, how did you meet mommy?" "Well tatale, she ran me over with her car and then we got married." Sure beats the run of the mill stories.

A Hat by any other Name...

My friend Devora sent me this via email. We neither of us know who the author is or I would certainly give credit. It's got a message worth reading. Note: thanks to the reader who sent in the missing information--see comment below.

The Coming of Moshiach, Sadly True

T' was the night of the Geulah, -- And in every single Shtiebel
Sounds of Torah could be heard -- Coming from every kind of Yeedel.
This one in English, -- Some in Hebrew, some in Yiddish.
Some saying P'shat -- And some saying a Chiddish.
And up in Shamayim--The Aibishter decreed:
"The time has come -- For My children to be freed.
"Rouse the Moshiach -- From his heavenly berth.
Have him get in his chariot, -- And head down to earth.
"The Moshiach got dressed -- And with a heart full of glee,
Went down to earth and entered -- the first Shtiebel he did see.
"I am the Moshiach! -- Hashem has heard your plea!
Your Geulah has come! -- It's time to go free!

"They all stopped their learning; -- This was quite a surprise.
And they look at him carefully, -- With piercing sharp eyes
"He's not the Moshiach!" -- Said one with a grin,
"Just look at his hat, -- At the pinches and brim!"
"That's right!" cried another -- With a grimace and frown,
"Whoever heard of Moshiach, -- With a brim that's turned down?"
"Well," thought Moshiach, -- "If this is the rule,
I'll turn my brim up -- Before I go to the next shul."
So he walked right on over -- To the next shul in town.
Sure to be accepted, -- Since his brim was no longer down.
"I'm, the Moshiach!" he cried, -- As he began to enter
But the Jews wanted to know first -- If he was Left Right or Center
"Your clothes are so black!" -- They cried out in fright.
"You can't be Moshiach--You're much too far right!"
"If you want to be Moshiach, -- You must be properly outfitted.
"So they replaced his black hat -- With a Kippah that was knitted.
Wearing his new Kippah, -- Moshiach went out and said:
"No difference to me -- What I wear on my head.
"So he went to the next shul, -- For his mission was dear.
But he was getting frustrated -- With the Yidden down here.
"I'm the Moshiach!" he cried, -- And they all stopped to stare,
And a complete eerie stillness -- Filled up the air.

"You're the Moshiach?! -- Just imagine that!
Whoever heard of Moshiach -- Without a black hat?"
"But I do have a hat!" -- The Moshiach then said.
So he pulled it right out -- And plunked it down on his head.
Then the shul started laughing, -- And one said " Where's your kop?
You can't have Moshiach -- With a brim that's turned up!
If you want to be Moshiach -- And be accepted in this town,
"Put some pinches in your hat -- And turn that brim down!"
Moshiach walked out and said: -- "I guess my time hasn't come.
I'll just return -- To where I came from.
"So he went to his chariot, -- But as he began to enter,
All sorts of Jews appeared -- From the Left, Right, and Center.
"Please wait - do not leave. -- It's all their fault!" they said,
And they pointed to each other -- And to what was on each other's head.

Moshiach just looked sad -- And said, " You don't understand."
And then started up his chariot -- To get out of this land.
"Yes, it's very wonderful -- That you all learn Torah,
But you seem to have forgotten -- A crucial part of our Mesorah.
"What does he mean?" -- "What's he talking about?"
And they all looked bewildered, -- And they all began to shout.
Moshiach looked back and answered, -- "The first place to start,
Is to shut up your mouths -- And open your hearts.

"To each of you, certain Yidden -- Seem too Frum or too Frei,
But all Yidden are beloved -- in the Aibishter's eye."
And on his way up he shouted: -- " If you want me to come,
Try working a little harder -- On some Ahavat Chinam!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What will They think of next?

Dozens of advertising flyers are clogging the mailbox and appearing in the newspaper as well. Amazing what they have for sale this time of year. I saw, for the amazingly low price of only $19.99, a specially humidified container for holding wine corks while they are out of the bottle of wine. This product guarantees that the cork will not shrink nor swell and will fit perfectly back into the bottle. I'm still trying to figure out how many times a year I use wine with a cork, and if any of the wine is left so I have to worry about recorking the bottle. Come to think about it, most of the time the cork crumbles half way out of the bottle. But hey, it's a bargain at only $19.99.

How about the handy gadget that allows you to decide the size of the vegetables you are dicing? It can be adjusted from 1/6 inch dice all the way up to one inch dice. Of course, resetting the size seems to have 17 pages of instructions. By the time I would read through the instructions on this handy gadget I could already have diced the potatoes, have them cooking and probably be ready to serve them. This metziah is only $21.00. But if you order now, a free covered bowl is included.

Then there is the truly marvelous master "beeper" gadget. It has little electronic stickers that you can put on all the electronic items you sometimes misplace, like cell phones and land line portable phones and remote controls. With only one new gadget, you can beep all your other gadgets to see where they are. You can also put the stickers on other items you tend to misplace, like keys and your homework. It's this little tiny control. What do you do when you can't find the master beeper? No problem. For this week only you get two for the price of one.

For those too challenged to actually buy a pair of shoes that fit, there is a gadget "guaranteed to stretch your shoes one full size."

There's a nifty little gadget that fits unobtrusively in your pocket. If you are trying to get off a phone call you don't want to continue or if you want people to think you are super popular, it will automatically cause your cell phone to ring. That's not how they are advertising the thing, but I can't think of any particularly good reason why people would need fake phone calls other than the two above. The price? $14.99.

There's a pillow that guarantees it will eliminate tossing and turning all night. How? It holds your head in the same position that you put your head down in. Nice. The body will move 90 degrees but your head will remain in the same position. Wonder if it comes with a certificate good for 3 visits to the orthopedist?

The saying " a fool and his money are soon parted" would seem to apply to a lot of the "must have" items being pushed for sale. Or maybe we should look to W.C. Fields. He said:"There's a sucker born every minute." I used to think that no one could possibly be buying these types of items, but if you check store shelves they seem to be "flying" off the shelves.

Woe betide anyone who tries to buy me one of these things for Chanukah. Of course, if you could find a pair of self-sharpening scissors, or a self-cleaning turkey roaster I just might bless you.

Forsake Thee All Others--Marriage and Friends

I got rid of a lot of stuff when I cleaned out the attic, but I did keep all the personal phone books I've had over the years. Amazing the people who are in some of those books. In a few cases, okay more then a few, I had to try and place the names with faces; I didn't really know who these people were. In other cases there was a smile as I remembered a long ago friendship, one not around any longer. It got me to thinking very seriously about this thing we call friendship.

When I was in third grade my best friend and I made a pact that we would be together as best friends for ever and always. That almost lasted until high school. My closest friend during high school I have not spoken to in dozens of years. The close friend I made the first night in the college dorm has remained my friend ad hayom. We don't see each other very often and we speak sometimes frequently, sometimes with a few weeks having passed. Neither of us gets insulted when that happens--we both know that "life" sometimes gets in the way of shmoozing.

When we lived in Flatbush my next door neighbor and I were instant "buddies" and we probably speak to each other now about once a year, before Rosh Hashanah. The woman who was my next door neighbor in the country for years was a good friend, both she and her husband and her family with me and my husband and my family. And then we stopped going to the country. And after a while phone calls started getting fewer and farther between and then they stopped altogether.

We have a large group of friends and acquaintances where we live now and around the city. And when my husband and I speak about our eventual retirement outside of New York City, we also speak of the people whom we are definitely going to keep in touch with and those who will inevitably fall by the wayside. There are fewer of the former and lots more of the latter.

When I got married I had a large circle of friends and so did my husband. We also had plenty of brothers and sisters and cousins. Not all of my friends were people my husband liked; not all of his friends were people I liked. Sometimes someone we both liked married someone that one or the other or both of us did not like. As a married couple we had "criteria" for friendship that were different then when we were single. Friendships waxed and waned. As siblings and close cousins got married the family got bigger and so did the various reasons for getting together as a family. And if it came down to attending a social event with a friend or attending a something given by a sibling, the sibling came first.

Some friends became simcha friends; they would be invited to a kiddush, a bar mitzvah or some other similar large occasion but not on a day to day basis. Other friendships simply faded away--some our choice, some their choice.

One thing remained constant: my husband. Did I have regrets about some of the friendships that faded away? Perhaps some, perhaps at the time, not now. I do not regret the journey I have gone on with my husband. I value the friends I do have, but I realize that my best friend, the one who knows me the best in the many ways that count for me, the one who will always be there for me, is my husband. My closest female friend and I have discussed this before. We've come to the conclusion that we have remained so close because neither of us would ever make it a showdown--your husband or me but not both. We both would choose our husbands. That allows us to understand each other much better.

I am very close to my youngest sister. We talk every day, sometimes multiple times. I am also very close to my mother. Between the two there is almost nothing I could not say that would cause them to view me in a funny light. Family also counts as friends.

Marriage does change friendship. There is simply not the same amount of time to spend that was there pre-marriage. Sometimes single friends don't understand this; sometimes they do. Married friends always seem to understand this, as they are going through the same things themselves. Change is an inevitable part of life; sometimes friends are lost because of that change. Sometimes that hurts; sometimes that doesn't.

It is small children who always say "Promise me that nothing will change!" Grownups know that change is a part of life. The longer you live, the more change that will happen. Friendships also are part of that change. I wouldn't want to be 18 again for any amount of money. And if that is the case, then the things I had and admired and needed when I was 18 might not fit me now either, including some friends from that time.

When I meet a friend from the long ago at a simcha we amiably chat and spend a few moments catching up but there are no bold declarations of "we really must get together again" because we know that is not going to happen. Too much water under the bridge.

Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" needs to be looked at in a new light. That choice of "roads" doesn't just happen once in a person's life; it happens many, many times. Sometimes those who travel down those various roads with you remain the same; often they do not. Value your friends while you have them, go ahead and forge those friendships. Some will last; others will not. C'est la vie.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Grass is Always Greener--Singles have it easy--Part #3

There seems to be a real misconception that it is only singles who are envious of their married friends. Those married friends have it real easy now. The craziness is all about finding a spouse and that is over for those married friends. Really? It might just surprise you how many of your married friends envy you your being single.

Envy me? Are they nuts! What's to envy? I'm single! Yes, you are. And for many you live at home, your parents' homes. And the mortgage gets paid by your parents. And it is your parents that have to deal with the plumber and the gas man and the electric company when something goes wrong. And food somehow magically appears in the refridgerator and on the table. And holidays are a given--you are at your own parents' table. And you have no in-laws, people who are suddenly your second set of parents and you are perfectly happy with your first set thank you. And you might have to stay up late because of something you want to do, but you can sleep in late if you want to as well. And your money, the money you may earn, goes towards things that you have decided to buy, in the colors and styles and amounts you want and when you want. And you aren't intimately acquainted with a toilet bowl and morning sickness, a morning sickness that lasts all day. You still get to use the bathroom all by yourself without someone's wandering in and asking "Mommy/Daddy, what are you doing?" And when you have an exam in school your mother says "Go study, I'll take care of doing______." And you get to decide where you will go and when you will go there and with whom you will go. Singles talk about trips to Italy: married people talk about trips to Walmart.

Even if you are sharing an apartment with others you are still your own boss. If you don't like your roommates either they or you can move. No one looks at a bunch of roommates and comments on their housekeeping skills. No one blames a roommate if the other roommate doesn't look put together right. No roommate comes home and tells another roommate "Geesh, couldn't you at least be dressed when I come home and have on some makeup?" And no roommate tells another roommate " I'm hungry. What's for dinner." No one feels like cooking? There's always Dougies and a zillion other restaurants. Don't feel like cleaning up your room? So what?

Married people don't like to talk about "single envy" but it is there nonetheless. You envy your married friends and they envy you as well. There are some advantages to being single--singles never seem to see those advantages, but their married friends do.

Yes indeed, the grass is always greener on the other side.

The Grass is Always Greener--Black Friday Attitudes--Part #2

Take a look at a group of married couples who are all in their thirties or forties or fifties and the questions will arise: "Why did she marry him?" or "Why did he marry her?" You can't quite see for yourself why those two got married or how they stay married. So, all those couples that you look at questioningly must have been the ones who got married later in life, right? Wrong.

When your only goal seems to be to get married and you want it now not later, you are just as likely to grab the first possibility as you are the best possibility. Being married first is not a predictor of how a marriage will turn out. "Best" and "first," when they apply to marriage, are not synonyms.

It's "Black Friday" and shoppers have been camped out overnight to grab the bargains that are going on sale. The lines strain to be let into the stores, the manager raises the starting pistol, he shoots, and mayhem ensues. People dash into the malls and the grabbing begins. You see the ones with "shopping fever" burning brightly in their eyes. It doesn't matter if what they are stuffing into their shopping bags will fit or not, is the right color or not, is even something they want or need: it's a bargain and they got it and someone else didn't, so there. They got this season's newest doodad and that is all that matters. Imagine the envy that will be in their friends' eyes when they announce "I got the X-Bot 250A with power enhancement!"
(Note: and just what will they do or how will they feel when they find out that if they had only waited a bit more patiently they could have gotten the X-bot New and Improved 251-B?)

Then there are the shoppers who look on this with a bit of a jaded eye. They can't see shopping as a competition. They like to look around the stores--many stores--and comparison shop. They've given some thought to their purchases. They've checked out the use and operating costs of some items and decided not to buy. They take their time and when they do buy they are generally more satisfied with what they bring home. Had they been shopping on Black Friday they might well have settled for a "pink" one of something just to get it even if a "blue" one might look better. Pink, blue--what's the difference? For the discerning shopper there is a difference, and they have had time to think about that difference.

That doesn't mean that those who didn't shop on Black Friday don't sometimes envy those who did. "They've finished their shopping and I have yet to begin" we think. But we need to remind ourselves that it is NOT the item that we are really envious of--it is that the shopping trips are over for those people. If you hate shopping, by all means settle on the first thing you see and get it over with. If, however, your purpose is to find "the" item that will make you deliriously happy, resign yourself to having to possibly shop longer.

I got married at 24. Just what did I miss by not getting married at 19? At this point in the lives of people my age no one remembers or cares who got married first and who got married last--it is totally irrelevant. But we do wonder about those who grabbed a "pink" one when everybody can see they are clearly "blue" people.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Grass is Always Greener--Part #1

I'm in an interesting but strange position. I get to hear young unmarried men talk and get to hear young unmarried women talk. I get to hear young married women talk and I get to hear young married men talk. I also get to hear older married men and women talk.

Overheard while listening: some singles believe that married people are living a better life, that they have it "easier," that struggle is not part of married living. Singles, some of them, spend their entire "older single years" in pursuit of being married--they seem to have no life outside of this pursuit, or if they do, they don't seem to value it particularly much. It's just something to do until they get married. They go through bouts of depression and self doubt all caused by their single state. They rant and vent about their single friends who don't seem to have enough "rachmonos" on them. Their married friends aren't doing enough to help them to also be married. Their married friends seem to forget about them once married. Their married friends have it good. Only singles have "real" problems--they are single--what could possibly be worse than that?

Some believe that change is a bad thing; their married friends didn't have to change--they got married while they were still "themselves." Change is a sign of defeat; I couldn't get married the "right" way so I'll have to change to something I am not supposed to be so that I can get married the "wrong" way. Only marriages made at a very young age have true validity as marriages.

And if they are somewhere in their mid to late 20s, the self doubt magnifies. What is wrong with me that I am not married already. I'm going to have to settle and why should I have to do that? My friends who got married younger didn't have to settle. Some develop cynical attitudes that creep into all areas of their lives. Some become manically cheerful, because surely that has to help.

To be fair, there are some who simply live their lives and assume/hope that marriage will come soon, but they're not going into animated suspension until that happens. Those people see marriage as one part of their lives, not the only part worth having. Marriage, for these people, is an "addition" to what already is; they aren't starting from "zero." It is not that they don't value marriage--they do. They simply put marriage into perspective. They have high levels of bitochon--something will happen when it is the right time to happen and they accept that.

In my family we don't wish someone "Im Yertzah Hashem ba dir." We say instead "May you find the richtige shidduch in die richtige tzeit"--may you find your correct shidduch at the correct time for you to find it. Time is as much an element as the "who" your zivug will be.

Getting married is not a competition, or it certainly shouldn't be. Those who get married first should not be looked at as "winners" and those who get married later as "losers." There are no blue ribbons awarded for being first to cross the finish line. Nor can I understand or have sympathy for the "if you don't get married right away all the good people will be taken" type of attitude. Says who? Someone with a vested interest in making you feel as if you are not running fast enough? Someone who has bet on the race? Someone with zero understanding of what marriage is supposed to be? Someone with a "na-na I got one and you didn't" type of attitude?

Sure, there are table wines that can be used when fairly new. They are perfectly acceptable if all you are are thirsty. Every vintner knows that the best wines are aged to perfection--it takes time for a wine to go through the process of becoming a "fine" wine. And there are different grapes appropriate for different types of wines--all grapes are not the same. There's a reason why Chateau Lafitte Rothschild wines go for hundreds of dollars a bottle and Gallo jugs sold in the grocery store cost only a few bucks.

It's not who gets married first that is important--it is how the marriages "last" that is.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Marrying Out

Let's take as a given for now that there are more boys then girls born in any given year on average. As Chaim Tropper has pointed out in discussing the "10%" difference this would not be a real problem for shidduchim if people were marrying other people their own age. Well it would be a little, because there would be an excess of boys left without partners. However, according to his formulations, if we hold to a three year age difference the excess moves to the female column. Either way we hold either males or females, if they want to get married, will have to look outside of the yeshivish world for partners.

Here lies an interesting problem, one that the solution of "marrying out" does not address. When should those people look outside of the yeshivish community? Yes, when? Let's look at the possibilities.

Possibility #1: People should be flexible as to where they look for shidduchim right from their first date. Yeshivish boys and girls should not tell a shadchan or their friends and family that they will only date someone from the yeshivish world. They should be looking at possible shidduchim from all the "surrounding" types of frumkeit. Since we cannot know with certainty whether the age range will be from 3 months to 3 years or more, both boys and girls need to be looking "outside of the box." This is flexibility on the part of both boys and girls.

Problem #1: We know from what Chaim has written that among the chassidim there is an excess of boys. If yeshivish boys are also red shidduchim to chasidishe girls who don't mind marrying yeshivish we are going to be causing a further imbalance in the chassidishe world. The same could happen if a larger than expected group of yeshivish girls marries into the chassidishe world. Suddenly there would be a problem for chassidishe girls in finding boys.

Problem #2: While we have some of the numbers for the yeshivish and chassidishe cohorts, we haven't seen the numbers for the groups that loosely are called "Modern Orthodox." There are members of these groups who would make suitable shidduchim for yeshivish boys and girls. What happens to the numbers in those groups if yeshivish boys and girls start marrying into those groups? Will an imbalance occur in those groups?

Possibility #2: Either yeshivish boys or yeshivish girls but not both should be looking for shidduchim outside of the yeshivish world right from the beginning. Again, depending on the age differences, this either would result in everyone getting married or it would not. And again, it could cause an imbalance in the numbers of boys and girls available in the groups into which these yeshivish boys and girls married.

Possibility #3: Only yeshivish girls should be looking for shidduchim both in and outside of the yeshivish world from the beginning. The problem with this is that there is no way, none, to control how many yeshivish girls "marry out." If there are, for arguments sake, 40 girls in one age group who would not be able to find shidduchim in the yeshivish world, how are we to decide which 40 girls have to marry out? There is no way to do this. So all yeshivish girls or a large part of them would be looking both in and out of the yeshivish world. What happens if 100 yeshivish girls find shidduchim in the "outside" groups? Suddenly there would be 60 yeshivish boys with no one to marry. They would need to then look outside or look to much younger girls in their own world, and the imbalance would be perpetuated yet again.

Possibility #4: Yeshivish boys and girls would be limited to looking for shidduchim only among themselves until a "suitable" amount of time has passed; after that, they must begin looking outside of the yeshivish world. So, what is a suitable amount of time? Two years? Three years? Four years? It would seem that if we follow this possibility we are actually talking about "older singles" and we are making that a younger and younger designation. If you didn't "win your race" right out of the starting gate we are going to move you to another "stable." Charming isn't it? And if the numbers hold true, it is going to be more girls then boys who are going to be marrying out.

Possibility #5: "Marrying out" needs to also be a geographic move. Those from the New York area who have limited themselves to shidduchim from the same area will need to look further afield, not only in the US, but all over the rest of the world.

Mr. Tropper designated some possible groups to "marry out" into. He called them "Israeli," "European," "Young Israel," "Modern Orthodox," and "Baal Teshuva." The first rule in division and classification is that a member of one class cannot also be a member of another class: something cannot be both black and white, it must be either black or white. The groups he named are not religious groups and are not analogous with "yeshivish." The first two are geographic locations, and within those locations are the full range of religious groupings. The Young Israel movement also has within it many who self-select as yeshivish but who have strong feelings about the State of Israel. "Modern Orthodoxy" is not one thing but many. "Modern Orthodox Machmir" shares many qualities with the yeshivish world, sometimes all. Baal Teshuva says nothing about the actual religious affiliation of the people who are designated as such. Many of those who are baalei teshuva are already in the yeshivish system and count among the original numbers.

The idea of "marrying out" is a good one if by that you mean that everyone should be flexible when looking for a shidduch right from the beginning. It's a good idea if it means that the sometimes artificial borders between religious groups are opened wide. It's a good idea if we look at out of town as just another place to find a shidduch. It's a good idea if it means that "frumkeit" takes precedence over group affiliation.

This kind of widespread acceptance is not what the yeshivish world is really looking for when it suggests marrying out. Organisms have built-in survival mechanisms. No matter what else happens they will battle to stay alive and grow stronger. If an individual member or two of that group have to be sacrificed to keep the group healthy, so be it. I have my doubts that the yeshivish world would accept all the possibilities I outlined above. I would state with certainty that what they are really looking at is possibility #4. If, after we have tried to get everyone in our group married off there are still some "left over numbers," then and only then should they look outside of our group. Am I alone in considering this offensive?

Everyone who wants to get married should have the opportunity to do so. In order for this to happen, flexibility has to be built in right from the beginning of the dating process. I think that "dating out" and "marrying out" is an idea of merit, but it will only work if it applies to everyone without prejudice. Otherwise, we would need to establish a "lottery" system--all high school graduates get a ticket and the "losing tickets" have to marry out? Or perhaps the leaders of the yeshivish world would show the way, and straighten out the numbers without us, by marrying their daughters off outside of the yeshivish world? You know, to show us how it is done? What's that old saying about "when hell freezes over"?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Brief Update on the 10% Discussion

Chaim Tropper and I have been exchanging a series of emails dealing with his posting on bad4shidduchim's blog. In two of my postings I pointed out where I thought there were issues that needed to be dealt with further, that needed explanation that was not given. One such area was the statement he made that seemed to be refuting his own writing. Let's put that to rest.

The following is taken from our emails:

"The reason I sent the article to badforshidduchim was because she asked for a historical perspective on the problem. That article has a section on that point. I haven't read the article in a while however I do seem to remember that there were issues that I was uncomfortable with (strategic not technical)....If you would like to know what the issue was let me know and I will find the relevant part of the article."

The article was only a draft and was not published. Author's of drafts frequently make changes, both to the text and to their thinking, while writing. I think, therefore, I can put to rest any further questioning about Chaim's disagreeing with what he wrote.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rebbi Tales: The Best Boy in Lakewood

Over the years I have had occasion to speak to hundreds of yeshiva rebbeim and shul ravs about bochrim that they are references for. Only once, yes only once did I get a report that basically said the boy was very average all the way around. No one ever gave me a negative report.

Ever wonder where that phrase "the best boy in Lakewood" came from? I'd be willing to bet that it arose with a rebbi. I'll acquit the rebbi of having sinister intentions; in fact, his intentions were probably very good. He wanted the boy to be given a chance with a shidduch.

All jokes aside, every boy is not the "best boy in Lakewood." What parents want to know for the most part is what kind of a person the boy is. Are his midos good? In what way? Is he "mature"? Does he get along with the other boys? Why or why not? On what is the rebbi basing his appraisal? On how the boy learns? This is not a good predictor of how he will be on a date or as a husband.

Shule rabbeim are not more truthful either. No one wants to screw up a shidduch and so no one tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Certainly shul rabbeim are very mindful that they are "hired" by their shul members. If they "own" the shul, they need to keep their customers. Thus, they too talk about "the best boy in Lakewood."

Fathers rarely call shadchanim about their children; it is mostly the mothers or the singles themselves who call. I have, however, gotten an occasional call from a father. One father, a widower, who called me seemed very excited. As he put it, he had something extraordinary for me: his son was "the best boy in Lakewood." I'm sorry, I couldn't help it, I was consumed with laughter. When I calmed down I apologized to the father. He was actually very nice about it and very puzzled. "What did I say that was so funny?" he asked me. So I told him. And then he was even more puzzled. "But my son is the best boy in Lakewood! How am I supposed to say that if I can't say that?" I worked with the father on a better way to "sell" his son as a shidduch prospect.

From my perspective as a sometime-shadchan I think we need to remove rebbis and shule ravs from the list of references. Either that or someone needs to teach them what parents really want to know when they call to ask about a boy. "The best boy in Lakewood" just doesn't cut it as an answer.

Just a thought: polygamy may actually be going on and we weren't aware of it. If girl "A" married the best boy in Lakewood and girl "B" married the best boy in Lakewood and girl "C" married the best boy in Lakewood, then logic would dictate that they all married the same boy. Wonder if the rabbanim have figured this out yet.

One Step at a Time--Dorm Mothers

I've posted before that one problem that affects the males of many segments of frum Klal is "dormitory-itis." They've been in dorms and in sleep away camps from Bar Mitzvah on, far away from the "civilizing" influence of their parents, their mothers in particular. When they get old enough to enter into shidduchim, some of them have problems, problems that don't have to be there. They don't know how to act, how to dress to go on a date etc.. Their personal hygiene may leave a lot to be desired.

There is a simple answer to this: dorm mothers. Boys yeshivas have lots of men around in positions of authority, as do the dormitories. What they need is a woman in authority. A dorm mother who would give mandatory classes on how and when to do laundry. A dorm mother who would see to it that the bochrim took showers whether they "needed" it or not. A dorm mother who would see to it that every boy in the dorm knew how to use the utensils that appear on a table, and enforce their use. A dorm mother to watch out for a boy when he got ill. And yes, a dorm mother to talk to when social problems arise. A dorm mother who would be a "mother" in every sense of the word.

Years back the YU high school dormitory did have such a person. Well or sick, she mothered the boys in the dorm. Parents who wanted to know how their boys were really doing in high school knew to call the dorm mother. She was a bit of a "major general" but the boys thrived in the dorm instead of it being hit or miss.

Heads of yeshivot view the yeshiva as being a strictly male environment, where boys are taught "male" business. Unfortunately, "male business" is not enough. Here is a simple solution that could head off some of the problems that will arise as the boys go into shidduchim. The head of a male dormitory should not be an older bochur, nor a rebbi; the head of a dormitory should be a dorm mother.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Newest Poll--Age and Shidduchim

Time to hear from all of you again. Please scroll down below for the latest poll on your opinions on age as it relates to shidduchim.

High Maintenance

Unless we are talking about the fees charged by a condo complex or the cost of upkeep on a Mercedes, could we ditch the phrase "high maintenance"? I found myself in a store standing in line behind a bochur who was talking on his cell phone as if he were in the privacy of his own home. (Cell phone conversations in public places is a totally different "rant.") He was clearly discussing a girl. And from what I, and everyone else within a twenty-mile radius, gathered from the conversation, someone had asked his opinion of the girl. The exact dialogue was "Nah, keep away from her. She's really high maintenance."

So what does this phrase really mean? Did the bochur giving the opinion know that this girl wanted to live in a high-priced neighborhood, buy a Million dollar plus house and fill it with designer merchandise? Was this girl dripping with gold and precious stones when he met her? Did a sleep-in maid answer the door when he went to her parent's home? Was her conversation filled with "When we were in Italy for the shopping last week" or "We keep a weekend place in Aspen"? Are the girl's parents, as the vulgar saying goes, "loaded"?

Or is it perhaps that when the bochur saw this girl she was perfectly put together, hair nicely styled, clothes in fashion? You know, the kind of thing most boys don't think about unless the girl does not look like that, and then they complain. Did this girl volunteer that she wanted, when married, to--gasp--buy a house?

As a descriptive adjective "high maintenance" is vague and most certainly negative; yet, it says so little while implying so much.

I wonder how we would apply this to males? Might "high maintenance" be used to refer to the boy who wants all the pleasures of marriage but will be sitting and learning for years without producing a penny in earnings? That boy would certainly be "high maintenance" for his wife and her parents. Or might we apply it to those males who are working but whose chosen field of endeavor will never bring in enough to support a household alone, requiring a working wife? Or perhaps we could apply it to those males who are addicted to every new electronic gadget that comes on the market? Or every new car?

Why don't we just drop the phrase altogether. It's full of innuendo without being honest enough to give the facts. There are areas in each and every one of our lives that could be considered "high maintenance." It's time this phrase was buried, buried deeply.

What's Love got to do with It?

It's kind of strange now that I think about it but on all the blogs that have discussed shidduchim I've never seen the "L" word raised--you know, love. No one seems to be saying I want a boy/girl that I will be able to love. With so much else going on when trying to find a shidduch lots of people ask "What's love got to do with it?"

Rabbanim would not consider Broadway musicals as proper vehicles of instruction for singles in the shidduch parsha, but there is a song that seems to fit right into what goes on today. Without further ado, from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the song entitled "Do you love me?"

(Tevye)"Golde, I have decided to give Perchik permission to become engaged to our daughter, Hodel."
(Golde)"What??? He's poor! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!"
(Tevye)"He's a good man, Golde. I like him. And what's more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves him. So what can we do? It's a new world... A new world. Love.
Golde..."Do you love me?
(Golde)Do I what?
(Tevye)Do you love me?
(Golde)Do I love you?
With our daughters getting married
And this trouble in the town
You're upset, you're worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it's indigestion
(Tevye)"Golde I'm asking you a question..."Do you love me?
(Golde)You're a fool
(Tevye)"I know..."But do you love me?
(Golde)Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals,
cleaned your house
Given you children,
milked the cow
After twenty-five years,
why talk about love right now?
The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared
(Golde)I was shy
(Tevye)I was nervous
(Golde)So was I
(Tevye)But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking,
Golde, Do you love me?
(Golde)I'm your wife
(Tevye)"I know..."But do you love me?
(Golde)Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought with him,
starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?
(Tevye)Then you love me?
(Golde)I suppose I do
(Tevye)And I suppose I love you too
(Both)It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know.

May I suggest that waiting 25 years to ask and answer this question might be just a tad excessive.

It takes all Kinds--in a lighter Vein

If you are going to ask why a shidduch was turned down you just might find out--and be very thankful that you avoided that particular shidduch. Someone red a shidduch for one of my daughters. It was turned down by the boy's side and I, silly me, asked why.

We are Leviim. Some of the privileges extend to our daughters as well. A bas Levi does not have to make a pidyon ha'ben. And that is why the shidduch was turned down. The father of the boy--they do have them you know, wanted the z'chus of making a pidyon for his first grandchild--as yet unborn and sex unknown. It takes all kinds.

How being Yeshivish affects Shidduchim

I have mentioned many times before that there is not one, unified frum Klal Yisroel; there are many subgroups that comprise it. These subgroups don't always make nice to each other. In point of fact, their aim seems to be to guarantee the existence of the subgroup rather than Klal as a whole. This is nothing new. I've actually gotten to read the work I recommended on the blog--Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook - by Moshe D. Sherman - 1996 --Greenwood Press--and the situation I just described is not a new one to the US; it existed in Europe as well. There was a Western/Eastern Europe divide, there was a divide within Eastern Europe, there was the Chasidus/Misnagdim divide, the ashkenazic/sefardic divide etc. The interest for each group was focused on keeping itself healthy rather than on keeping frum Klal Yisroel as a whole healthy. It would take a major catastrophe for the various groups to work in any sort of cooperation.

There was and is today also a divide within each of the major "frum" groupings. Let's look at what is commonly called the yeshivish group. The term "litvish" is also sometimes used as a synonym for this group. Chasidishe boys who sit and learn in yeshiva are not yeshivish. For the most part the boys in the YU programs are not called yeshivish. Boys who attend the Bnai Akiva yeshivot are not yeshivish, accept when they are. Actually, had the members of the famed Pressburg Yeshiva survived and come to America and reestablished the yeshiva here, they would not be yeshivish either--Pressburg was Western Europe. It is the yeshivas which owe their existence to the great yeshivot that began in Lithuania and that geographic area which have a yeshivish population according to common parlance.

But there is not one yeshivish group either. There are sub-groupings within the general yeshivish designation. There are boys who will never go to college. There are boys who will go to college. There are girls who will never go to college. There are girls who will go to college. There are boys who will never leave the yeshiva world, going on to be rebbes in the system. There are boys who will go out for their parnoseh into the secular world. There are boys who will start their own businesses, many of them catering to the needs of the frum community. There are boys who will not marry a woman who will work outside of the home after marriage. There are boys who will need a woman to work outside of the home after marriage. There are girls who do not want to work outside of their home after marriage. There are girls who are going to have to work outside of their home after marriage. There are girls who will be working at outside jobs but within their homes. There are girls whose parents will support a young couple for a number of years after marriage. There are girls whose parents can't/won't support a young couple for a number of years. Add in that the personality and "flavor" of each major and minor yeshiva is different, with adherents who want only that "flavor," and you may see why people talk about a shidduch problem within the yeshivish world.

The article by Dovid Wiener and Chaim Tropper deals specifically with the shidduch problem in the yeshivish sector. As I see it, part of the problem with the article is that it treats all members of this sector as one homogenous whole. Is the shidduch disparity the same for all cohorts in the sector? Is the disparity because of an actual deficit in the number of boys available or is it a disparity only among some of the groups that are known as yeshivish?

The article states that in the yeshivish sector for every 12 girls who get married, one will not. This works out to 8.33% of a Bais Yaakov graduating class that will not find shidduchim if the age preferences remain the same. This has been conveniently rounded up to 10%. Herein lies another problem. Wiener and Tropper mention that a number of studies were done among the populations of Israel, Canada and the US to arrive at the figures used. They looked at yeshiva populations, they looked at Bais Yaakov schools. They compared shadchanim lists. Huh? First rule of using studies and statistics: give the name of the sponsoring agency of the study, the researchers responsible for the data, the date of the study, the parameters of the study, the actual tabulations of the numbers in the study and where the study was printed or where it is available for viewing.

Which parts of the numbers that are available came from Israel? Which from Canada? Which from the US? Mixing Israeli numbers in with US numbers is mixing two different sub-groupings, with different conditions that apply to each. Comparing shadchanim lists? Surely someone is jesting. Let me answer that in brief: more girls go to shadchanim then boys do, because more boys are called directly by those who are acting in the shadchan role but aren't an "official" shadchan, paid or volunteer. Remember, it's boys who have lists. They do not, in general even go near a shadchan unless they are over 24 or have a home/personal situation that could be affecting their being red shidduchim by friends, families and acquaintances. Or perhaps they are from out of town with no other connections in New York. The disparity on shadchanim lists may owe nothing to a lack of boys and everything to social customs.

The figures on girls was taken from an unnamed study of some of the largest Bais Yaakov schools. How many? What are the actual figures? Where are these schools located? How many of these schools were from the US? In what year was the study done? How was the study done? The article states that the figures gotten from these studied schools will hold true for all the other Bais Yaakov schools. Will they? What constitutes a Bais Yaakov school? Does the name "Bais Yaakov" have to be in the school's name? So, what do you do with a Prospect Park Yeshiva? What about TAG in Far Rockaway? And they aren't the only ones.

The article states that the disparity in number between boys and girls has resulted in some terrible behavior problems among yeshivish boys. I agree, at least in part. Because they know themselves to be "michusim" they are able to hold up a girl's parents for a "shidduch ransome": support me or your daughter isn't getting married. The point is also made that boys today are far more focused on looks, due to their adopting gashmius ideas from the media. Gentlemen, boys have always had a thing about looks; this isn't about media influence. Read Tanach and tell me why we seem always to have the words "beauty" or "beautiful" tagged on to any description of our female ancestors. I know, I know, we should read such words as meaning inner beauty only. Right. Esther HaMalka spent a year annointing herself after the beauty regimens of women because her inner beauty was going to do it for her with the King. The problem is not with a girl's looks, but the out of proportion emphasis that a number of yeshivish boys place on looks. "Es kimpt tzei."

The comment is made that part of the "looks" problem is that mothers of boys are the ones pushing for the looks and their sons just go along. Sure, let's shoot the messenger. The boy is still the final "judge" and the mother is only the shaliach. Yes, some mothers want "the best" for their sons, but it is still the son who goes on the date and says yes or no.

Among the solutions offered are a few that I actually found quite ironically funny. The shidduch problem does not seem to exist in the chassidishe communities; in fact, there are more boys then girls in those communities in the same age cohort. By the chasidim, boys get married at a very early age, starting from about 19, and they marry girls their own age or older. The suggestion was made that yeshivish boys and girls ought to emulate the chasidim, getting married at a very young age. Be careful of what you wish for gentlemen. Relatively few chassidishe boys sit and learn for years after marriage, if at all. Chassidishe boys go out to work and support their family. Chassidishe girls mostly stay home and raise the children. They aren't out working to support their husbands. Offer one part of the chasidic lifestyle and you just might find people opting for other parts as well.

I was quite amused also at the idea that yeshivish girls should marry very young and marry very young boys, because they would be a "good influence" on the boys, and would be able to help the boys mature, and would be able to offer the good advice necessary. " When boys are in yeshivos, especially in Eretz Yisroel, they are very much on their own with no supervision or accountability for putting in their learning hours. There is a lot of hefkeiurs out there, even amount the yeshiva boys. Parents just hope that that the learning’s ok. The boys themselves can be unsure if that will they have the stamina to stick to their sedorim without any mashgiach or parent on top of them. It is natural to have ups and downs – but it’s harder when it’s unsupervised and unsupported. Getting married earlier would give the boy added accountability to his wife, added respect from her for each day’s learning, and moreover added encouragement to apply oneself as best one can." Sure sounds like raising children to me, not marriage.

Also in the article was this, which I quote verbatim: "An additional proposal is as follows: Girls can marry boys who are in circles that might not be traditionally Yeshivishe, but boys that consider themselves close to being yeshivishe.This is called “looking outside the box”. For instance there are many boys who grew up in Chassidish circles. Some of these are more have gravitated toward the Yeshivishe Hashkofoh. (This is not meant to criticize one group or another. It’s just that we have to recognize that every group has those who gravitate toward the right and left ends of the spectrum of that group. There is always a small – and sometimes not so small - amount of interface and movement between any two circles). These are boys from these other circles who might make very good husbands for some of these girls. (Note that as mentioned above, the Chassidish circles do not have an age mismatch problem to begin with, so any boy of theirs who marries into our circles, does not create any lack of boys for Chassidic girls to marry. – just the opposite – they have a bit too may boys). These non-Yeshivishe groups may also be the Israeli, Sefardic, European, Young Israel, or Ba’al Teshuva Boys. Boys from those groups who become Yeshivishe oriented often make very fine shidduchim for girls who grew up Yeshivishe. Of course any family would have to approach this with added care and guidance, but this does work and has been done even among Chashiv families."

I have to admire the authors' way with words. Just what is an Israeli group? How about a European group? How about a Young Israel group? And if they were going about naming new groups, how about an Out of Town group? And I have to love the "has been done even among Chashiv families." As opposed to what? The rest of us? The non-chashiv families? There is also the assumption that the boys who marry yeshivish girls will themselves become yeshivish. Isn't there something about a woman following her husband's minhagim when she gets married? Tossing that marriage coin could--gasp!--result in yeshivish girls who join their husband's frum demographic group.

Let me end with this. I think that what is bothering me most about the article and about other comments made within the yeshivishe world is that those commenting seem to be far less worried about good, lasting marriages being made then with the continued growth and existence of their yeshivishe world. They seem to be starting from the point that says "the boys must sit and learn for X amount of time and all shidduchim have to be made so that this can be facilitated. The girl doesn't matter; her "getting with the program" does."

Yup, shidduch making has some problems. Yes, there may be a number disparity in certain sub-groups with certain requirements in any given year. And yes, the "number game" has itself caused some problems. And being so insular and isolated and focused on "what's in it for me" on the part of some of those who "run" the yeshivish world has also contributed to the problem.

A note: in his letter Chaim Tropper says that he does not agree with everything in the article, an article that bears his name as co-author. Yet, he does not tell us which parts of the article he is refuting. It's a strange comment for the author of something to be making, and surely needed some explanation. If he didn't agree with what he was saying, why did he publish it?

There is an old saying: "Man tracht und Gott lacht." Man works at things and G-d laughs. I can just see the Ribboneh Shel Olam looking at the mess we have made in some areas of shidduchim and shaking his head and wondering why he ever allowed us access to mathematics. You see, one plus one still equals two. And that is all it takes, just one boy and one girl. Looking at yourself as some percentage that may or may not get married is damaging to self esteem, adds negativity in when it should be excluded, causes obsessive worry over numbers, not people, and may or may not apply. One plus one equals two. I believe "b'emunah sh'laimoh" that the Ribboneh Shel Olam IS mezaveg zevugim and that He did prepare for each of us the "richtigen zivug." Our job is to know that and to have bitochon and to work on the premise that someone is out there for us, whoever that someone may be.

Any "solution" to the shidduch problems today which does not take into consideration that what we are looking for is not just "any marriage" but the right marriage, a solid, lasting marriage made for the right reasons is only adding to the problem.