Tuesday, December 11, 2007

When No one bends

One 28 year old girl from a yeshivish background. One 27 year old boy from a more modern orthodox background. No one would have red this shidduch under the "rules" in place in many communities today. They didn't meet in the regular way. She was spending a lot of time with an ill relative in the hospital. So was he. They both took work with them to do while spending the long hours in the hospital and saw each other in the patient visitors lounge when they took a break from their vigils. The hospital chaplain, a frum rabbi, got to know them both. One evening he asked the young man to make sure that the girl got to the subway safely. He didn't like that she was going home late alone. The young man did.

A few nights later he had his car with him and had to go from the hospital to a vort so he asked the young women if he could drive her home since it was on his way. This set the pattern for the next few weeks. She began bringing an extra thermos of coffee and extra sandwiches as she noticed that he was coming straight from work and was "living" on candy bars at night. Over their makeshift dinner they began to talk. And for the many nights they were in the hospital they continued their conversations.

They began meeting each other for their lunch breaks from work. And then the problems began. It was clear to each of them that they had more then just a surface attraction building. What they both wanted was to get married. They decided to make their dating official. And the girl's parents were not pleased and were not happy. This was not the type of boy they had envisioned for their daughter. If she married him she would not have the type of lifestyle that she had been brought up in. What would their family and friends say? What would her friends say? They tried to point out to their daughter all the problems she would encounter. They pointed out that marriage is already enough of an adjustment without bringing problems in with them.

The boy's family was also not too happy. They didn't believe that their son had thought things through. How would this girl fit into his life? Had he thought what he would do if his wife was unhappy after the wedding?

Unhappily the couple decided to break things off between them. How could they get married to each other when their families, both of them, were so clearly against the marriage? Both of their families were happy that they had "acted sensibly" and could now concentrate on finding someone to marry who was "more suitable."

The young man and the young woman spent the next few years miserable. Yes, they dated other people, but no one matched what they had found with each other. Finally, the young man contacted the young woman again and they met. They spent an entire week trying to work out all the details of how they could make things work for them. In the end they were satisfied that everything would be just fine.

Unfortunately, their families were once again not happy. Now his family was not pleased that her family thought so little of their son. And her family's attitude was better unmarried then married "wrong."

They got married anyway. The couple paid for their own wedding. The young man's parents came to the wedding; only the young woman's mother came to the chupah but did not stay for the rest of the wedding.

This couple has now been married over 10 years. During the course of their marriage her parents were finally persuaded that their daughter had committed no "sin." She finally has her family back, although the relationship is a very strained one and nowhere near what it once was. His family grudgingly agreed that the girl was "okay." The machatonim still will not be in the same room together, making for some awfully tense times when there is a simcha to celebrate.

What did either of these families gain by refusing to bend? Grandchildren who are mostly strangers to their real grandparents but who call an awful lot of us in the community babi and zaidi. Married children who never come home for a yom tov or shabbos because each values the other and refuses to put the spouse into a situation where they are looked down on. Parents who have to look up their kid's phone number in the phone book because they don't dial it often enough to know it by heart. Married children who have learned a lesson alright about frumkeit. Parents who have lost the z'chus that parents should desire of seeing their children happy, of being an integral part of their lives.

Klal Yisroel is fractured into many parts. Some people in some of the parts act as if the other parts are "illegitimate," "unworthy" of being allied with their part. They allow sinas chinam to creep into their view of these other parts. You would have thought that this young man and young woman were dating out of the religion,c'v. For their parents, they might as well have been.

I wish this couple would be a unique, one-time problem. They aren't. Who knows how many unmarried adults might have found happiness in marriage if only their parents had been persuaded to bend. Who knows if these selfsame adults might have found happiness in marriage if they had decided to bend. Bending is not breaking. Bending is accomodating and integrating. When no one bends, no one wins.


Anonymous said...

I'll agree that for this couple the parents were being plain stupid and they are paying for it. But some people don't like the idea of bending because they are afraid that something will 'break'. To guard against a break from what they value and hold highly they don't bend. If a couple decides to do the bending they need to figure in in their discussion of whether things will work out between them that their family relationships may not be all that close. If they can deal with that then fine. Not everyone can deal with that.

Anonymous said...

I get so mad with these stories because it is always about older singles who have to bend in order to get married. No one ever says that to the girls striaght out of sem. You want to be fair to everyone? Then everyone has to bend, right from the beginning of dating. Otherwise you are saying that you can be the type of frum you want only until you are in your very early 20s. After that you can't be because you won't get married.

Anonymous said...

Sorry BD but I do value my frumkeit and the way that we practice it in our home but I value my children more then anything else. If their happiness can come if I bend a little I'll touch my toes with my nose. We aren't talking about c'v marrying not frum here. Good midos and good character don't belong only to one type of hashkafah. And chldren aren't always clones of their parents either, something that a lot of my friends and neighbors refuse to admit. They are making shidduchim for their children that they find appealing not necessarily what the kids want or need.

Anonymous said...

When engineers and architects design buildings one of the factors they have to consider is the ability of the structure to "bend" when faced with high winds and bad weather. In an earthquake or hurricane the buldings with "sway" built in to them are the ones that survive intact. The more rigid the structure the less likely it is to remain standing during adverse conditions. Being able to bend is a requirement for survival.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I guess that the shidduch crisis is a natural disaster so the rules for one should apply to the other. Can't wait to tell my parents that they need to get earth quake proofed by bending a little.

halfshared said...

Wow that's a tough call. I understand both sides of the coin. Did they speak to Daas Torah before they adamantly decided that it's not a shidduch?

Anonymous said...

I was b"h saved.

I went out wit a girl who I though I liked. It was difficult to find out any information about her family as everyone claimed now to know them, including their neighbors. As I continued to date her, my father called the menahel of her school. All he could say about he father was (agter sighing), "What can I tell you?"

I was in love. I did not care. I thought she was great. And nice.

I was wrong.

Her family did not like me because my father was not a multi-millionare. He was only very well-off.

You hear this?

This nobody, this loser who did not even work for a living had the nerve to treat me incredibly badly when I met her parents for the first time (after five dates--and this involved my flying down to another State)--the "ferd" pointed his finger at me, talked to me for five minutes, and threw me away. I sense something was very wrong when I saw her brother who was not, shall we say, a chashuve ben Torah (though he attempted to project himself in this way).

They broke into our courtship on three separate occassion, effectively imposing breaks for over two months. I was noble, kind, and commisertating with this girl. But I felt she lied to me. She should have been given me some inkling about how her parents really felt, as opposed to telling me that they were having a hard time letting her go as she was the only daughter.

Suffice it to say, the final break (a five week break) came to a close. And her parents refused to allow us to see each other again. Because my parents are merely very well-off, and not multi-millionares (what were they? Her father did not even have a high school diploma and was working in his wife's store--a store which was given to her by a relative so that they can have a parnassa).

I found this out roughly at this time. I had to let her go. My parents were telling me to drop her when I came back from the State which she lived in. I did not listen to them, and for that reason, my name was dragged through the mud by that mad family (what do you have against a boy who is only the best in his Yeshiva, was going to go to law school, and came from an extremely highly regarded mishpacha, already?), my mother's name was villified and sullied by those crazed people. My father just shrugged it off. It was time to move on.

Calling her was difficult, and I think she was suffering from a variation of Stockholm Syndrome. She said she would wait for me. I told her that her parents don't want it, so we better just move along, and remember fondly the good times we had.

Her parents were probably too obtuse to appreciate my kindness, though that does not matter. I did not care about her misrepresentations and willfull omissions about her family background; I had to do the right thing.

She came by to my school a couple of days later. I did not say hi, as I was a frum yeshivaman who would not talk to a girl he is not dating. I thought it extremely inappropriate for her to stalk me this way. I got an earful from the shadchan that night. I don't believe he had a reasonable position.

My grandfather passed on. A great man who I looked up to. He was a tzadik, a yoshor--a Holocause survivor who achieved considerable wealth in his life. He was so self-effacing that literally dozens, if not hundreds, of families do not the extent of how he set them up for life--literally GIVING them business, for no charge. And that is not even scraping the surface.

My father was sitting shiva that week. His seating arrangements were changed that Shabbos. He ordinarily sat in front of the mechitzas, which would render him--or myself, for that matter--"unseeable" for those who walked into shul. Because he sat somewhere else that Shabbos, he could be seen. And I was seen as well . . .by someone who set me up with a wonderful girl. . .from a wonderful family . . . who has given me many years of wedded bliss, beautiful children, and the happiest years of my life.

I learned from her that some parents can be unreasonable, others are not. I learned from here that one should listen to others, always behave like a mentch, and have emunah in the Ribbono Shel Olam who provides deliverance still in the most amazing ways.