Thursday, July 3, 2008

Defining Hashkafah--Part II

Part I Defining Hashkafah--the Impossible and the Improbable basically stated that hashkafah is hard to pin down. It means different things to different people. It is different things to different people. And since hashkafah applies to all areas of Jewish life, and for Jews, to secular life as well, there can be a multitude of differences, even when people say they have the "same" hashkafah as others do.

A posting on Orthonomics in June dealt with a rebbetzin who felt that the most important thing in choosing a mate was to find out what his/her harshkafahs are. I won't argue with the theory but just how does that work out in practice?

First you would need to define for yourself what your own hashkafah is. Is ALL of what you presently do something that you want to continuing doing in the future? Every little thing? Where are you flexible? Where have you been unhappy and are looking to replace a practice with something else? Where has a practice that you hold dear gotten you flack from someone else? Do you care? Is it even possible to examine in minute detail all aspects that are covered by a hashkafah? Has your hashkafah changed over time? In which areas? In what way? Why has it changed? Now, be honest. In what areas do you imagine your hashkafah changing in the future? Can you even know?

So there you are, someone whose hashkafah is made up of zillions of smaller parts, some of which are replaced regularly, some of which have been enhanced or changed in some way, some of which don't seem to go with one another except that they do. And now you are supposed to examine someone else's hashkafah to see what he/she believes, what he/she does so that you can see if it meshes with your own hashkafah or with the hashkafah you want to acquire when married?

Just what is MO hashkafah really? Or yeshivish hashkafah? Just what hashkafah does someone follow who is middle of the road but right of center? Pray tell what hashkafah attaches to Modern Orthodox Machmir? When someone lives with their parents are they a product of the hashkafah of their home? How much of a product? Where does hashkafah end and following your father's minhagim begin?

When you get married in one sense all bets are off. A choson and kallah are building their own unique entity. While it is true that they will carry into their marriage a lot of what they have seen/done in their lives before marriage, their marriage will not be a duplicate in every aspect to the marriages of their parents/family/friends/neighbors/morahs/rabbanim. If hashkafah is generally understood to be your belief system (with lots of input from a plethora of others) that governs everything that is not strictly halacha (another problem all on its own), then look at yourself in the mirror and swear that you have not changed in any way, shape or form in your hashkafah from 10 years ago. 20 years ago. 30 years ago. Now imagine yourself in a situation where it will not be about "my" hashkafah or "your" hashkafah but about "our" hashkafah. And then let the years pass.

I don't agree with the rebbetzin that the major thing of importance in deciding on a spouse is what hashkafah is present. Hashkafah is not carved in stone. Perhaps a better "test" to use is to determine how stubborn someone is or how capable of dealing with compromise. Is that person a realist or is that person someone who believes that change doesn't happen and isn't necessary?


Anonymous said...

Hashkafah is important when deciding who to marry. The hard part is figuring out which differences between yours and his won't cause a problem. A boy I went out with seemed to be a real match in everything to what I wanted. On date 7 for the first time the topic of computers and the Internet came up. He and I both had assumed that we would think alike on this topic. We sure didn't. He was against it 100% and there was going to be no compromise about it. I discovered then that this was one area that was important to me. The boy I eventually married may not have looked as good a fit on paper as that other one but we fit together perfectly in our marriage.

Anonymous said...

If hashkafah were the most important thing in deciding on a marriage partner then you would not have to date at all. Just fill out a detailed questionnaire, have the computer put together those with the highest correlation on their answers and you've got the perfect match. I'm not sure if my wife and I ever had a formal talk about hashkafah, or even an informal talk. The hashkafot we had came out in regular conversation.

Anonymous said...

Problem I've seen in my dating is that some girls don't want to have to change any part of their hashkafah/minhagim so they go shopping for a boy who will let them keep everything they have from their father's house and/or school. A woman in marriage has to follow her husband's minhagim. It's not that they are trying to match their hashkafahs to the boys they are dating. It's that they are trying to match the boys to daddy's way of doing things.