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."
"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.
4 days ago