Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chapter 10: More than Torah

"What's she looking for? Well, just a nice boy really, a Mentsh. Middos is the most important thing, don't you agree?"

Ima was impossible. How was the Shadchan going to suggest the right type of guy, if all Ima could say was that he needed to be "nice". Nice, indeed. As if that would solve everything.

The problem with nice boys was they wanted nice girls. Nice sweet little girls. They didn't want her. Not that she particularly wanted them.

Karen gestured to Ima. Stood in front of her and whispered "sophisticated".

Ima waved a hand, brushed her aside.

"so- phis-ti-cat-ed", Karen mouthed, trying to get her attention.

"What was that? Hold on a second please, my daughter's saying something. What do you want Karen?"

"Sophisticated. Mature. Put together" Karen whispered.

"What? I don't understand. Here, you talk to her."

Karen wanted to scream. Ima knew she hated talking to matchmakers directly. That's what parents were for.

But now she was left holding the receiver. Ima had disappeared back into her beloved kitchen.

"Shalom Rebbetzin Auerbach. Yes, I'm also happy to be finally speaking to you. Well, about the boys."

Should she have said 'Bochurs'? Would that have sounded more Frum?

"Yes, so Middos are very important. But I do feel that, for it to work, he'll need some other character traits too. I also need someone sophisticated, do you know what I mean? Like mature, an adult, someone who knows what's going on in the world."

Karen settled down into the chair by the telephone, this was going to be a long conversation.

"Oh no! Of course I think learning's important! And I do want to marry a Yeshiva Bochur! Just I'd like to, well, be able to talk to him. About other things, not only Torah. Not that I'm saying Torah shouldn't be the focus! But there are so many other interesting things going on in the world too…" Karen's voice drifted off. It was so hard to explain. And they never understood.

"Yes, I realise that you deal only with boys from mainstream Yeshivas. I've gone out with boys from those Yeshivas. Surely one of them can be a serious learner, and still be able to hold a conversation about current affairs? About art, history, science, something, anything?"

"Oh you're saying those boys aren't the dedicated ones, that the ones you deal with are all good boys from good solid Frum families? Is that a contradiction? Maybe you can think of someone all the same?"

"Right. I see. Well, good bye then. Thanks anyway"

Karen carefully placed the receiver back in its place. She swiveled around, called into the kitchen . "It's no good. She says she doesn't have anyone suitable".

The water stopped running in the sink. Ima came back out into the living room.

"Karen, darling, was it really necessary to be so specific? You scare them away. Can't we start with finding you a nice Jewish boy? Why do you need to add all the fancy words?"

"But what's the point, Ima? What's the point in going out with yet another typical Yeshiva boy? I never like them. I just want to be able to talk to them, is that so much to ask for?"

"I don't know Karen. I don’t know what to say to you."

Karen's parents had been ready for all the laws and rules and stringencies, when they became religious. They'd been ready to move neighborhood, to change the way they lived and spoke and dressed. But they hadn't been ready for this. For the sheer helplessness they felt now, while their daughter's future wavered in the balance.

Maybe it was their fault. They hadn't been able to resist sneaking in secular culture, their favorite tidbits from the world they'd turned their backs on. The parts they couldn't give up.

So this was the result, here was Karen, Frum through and through, yet not quite, not quite the same as the others, as other people's children. The standard Yeshiva boy's weren't enough for her. She wanted more, more than her parents could give her. What had they done to their child?


  1. Karen needs a stable BT from good family.

  2. sounds like im looking for a girl like karen, lol.

    torah being the prime mover in your life, is not a contradiction to being 'worldly' (or as you put it, sophisticated) Karen isn't looking for a synthesis, but rather her parents shared things from their lives which are valuable without it being a strictly torah idea.

    This is part of the over-principlization of everything in our world. Nothing can be pareve. its either yes or no.

  3. Not only Baalei Teshuvah are interested in the outside world. A good many FFBs can qualify as well.

    Does every rebbetzin really know every single boy, their likes and dislikes, their ability to hold a conversation? Who really knows? Only their close family, so when they redd someone, more likely than not that they'll get it right.

    So much for "professional" shachanim.

  4. I'm a yeshiva bachur, and seems that your picture of bachurim is really sad. I've learnt in a few yeshivos and ive also attended college (Brooklyn, not Touro)and heres how i see it. Some people are more interested in current events , politics, intellectual conversations etc. and others... aren't. And whether your a yeshiva guy or not is really irrelevant in the equation. Just for example, when i was in highschool (a well respected yeshiva out of town which will stay anonymous) one of our english teachers enrolled our grade into a state wide writing competition on a given topic. First and second place in the competition was won by students from the "unsophisticated" yeshiva bachurim. Point being, some people are "sophisticated" some aren't and it has nothing to do with being a yeshiva bachur, it has to do with being human.

  5. Look into right-wing YU guys, some of them fit this description.