Thursday, December 3, 2009

Seventy Paths

I almost missed the message. Then I noticed the little envelope in the corner of my cell phone's screen.

"I'm engaged!!!" the SMS shrieks out at me.

She asks me to give the news to her high school teacher, who happens to be a relative of mine. That night I make the call. It starts off pretty typically.

"Guess what? Rachel is engaged!"
"Mazal tov! That's so exciting!"
I can hear the genuine pleasure in her voice. Rachel is one of her favorite students.
"Tell me all about it? Who's the boy?"
"Well, he's in the army."


I take a deep breath, and plow on.

"He's an officer. Something quite high up. I don't remember the initials, 'samech' something or other."
"I see."
"It's such a cute story how the Shidduch was made. See she didn't think it would work out, but she thought 'why not', and gave it a try, and voila!'

Frozen replies from the other side of the line. The esteemed Mechaneches suddenly sounds eager to end the conversation.

I could have been imagining it. I don't think I was.

Prize student, pride of the Bais Yaacov system, betrays the establishment by marrying, not only a not-in-Yeshiva boy, not merely a working boy, but a soldier! What can be worse than that?

I think where our society went wrong, is by focusing on negatives instead of positives.

Torah learning is a good value, an important ideal. So is making a living for your family, and contributing to society. So is defending the country, and we all owe those who do it a huge debt of gratitude. You can decide that Torah outweighs the others, decide to focus on that. That's your decision. But please, let it be about "learning Torah'. Don't let it be about "Not serving in the army", and "Not working".

I read the stories and letters-to-the-editor, about fathers running from Gemach to loan shark to bank. Or scheming up improbable get rich quick plans. Or flying abroad to go door to door collecting. Somehow it's OK for a man to spend all his waking hours in a chase to cover debts, rather than learning in the Bais Medrash. It's socially acceptable. As long as he's not working. Chas VeChalilah. Good chareidi men don't work.

And a boy can be doing many things, some of them not so savory. Society can deal with it. The true red line is the army. Shedding the black and white for khaki green. If he does, then he can still be wearing the black kippah, but it's not enough . He's crossed over to the other side.

"Learn Torah" has somehow morphed into "Don't do anything else".

That's how a nice Jewish girl can get engaged to a nice Jewish boy, and instead of being happy for her, some people, out there, can be upset.

Not only Chareidi Society negates other approaches. I mix in many worlds. I hear the remarks about 'parasites'. The disapproval of Torah scholars who 'have their heads in the clouds'.

So many ideals are good and right and true. Let's focus on our goals, whatever they may be, instead of negating the other ones.


  1. Great post.

    I 100% agree. We are so focused on the "nots" and "don'ts" that we ignore many of the good things in life.

  2. so sad... :-( makes our future look bleak. I just read an article in mishpacha magazine where a big dayan said why can't a person who does business lhalacha be respected like a guy in kollel?

    mishpacha magazine issue #210 pg 28 ... maybe mail a copy to your mechaneches?

  3. Very good post, F'n'F.
    Perhaps there really is a 'silent majority' who relaise that the conditioning they received in school etc is just one side of the story and not appropriate to all.
    Funny how we say a regular tephilla for chayalim on Shabbat in Shul - risking their lives to defend the Land - but not for any other specific elements of the Klal.
    Mazel-tov to your friend

  4. Well, what did she think would happen after girls see that video about the shidduch crisis?I would take whoever I could get once I turned 21 or so.

  5. Great post. And very sad.


  6. People just say things like "ahavas Yisroel" but don't know what it means.

  7. Ah, you could do worse than a soldier. I've had some very good experiences with them -- the ones that are higher up, that is. Obviously we aren't talking about the silly 18-year-old who is obsessed with western culture and just suffering through his required service. I realize I think outside the norm, but there is something soft and distasteful to me about full time Torah study because that usually can't be managed without *significant* stress on the wife. Clearly, I can't respect or endorse that but I can get on board with soldiers who know first hand about sacrifice and ideology-made-real and importance of team and toughing shit out. Tell that nosy lady of yours to take her judgment and shove it.

  8. A very emotionally impactful - and entirely on the mark - post. It really, really bothers me that the "Torah only" hashkafa causes so many people so much suffering. I don't get it why people (who are supposedly so learned anyway) not pay attention to the gemara in Brachos (forget which daf) that says many tried like R' Shimon Bar Yochai (I think) to do a Torah-only life and many failed - which means that such a life isn't for the masses, but for the yechidim who legitimately have the talent, mind, and zitsfleisch to be in kollel for their entire lives. Mazal tov to your friend.

  9. You are all part of the zionist plot to infiltrate the yeshiva system and take away our girls. Damn you zionist conspirators

  10. I was thinking of writing on this topic, but I think you did it better than I could have.