Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tasting another World

We spoke about sheifos a lot, in seminary. Ideals, religious ambitions, spiritual goals. We said man is defined by his sheifos. We spoke of homes of Torah, saintly husbands, pious children, worlds of Chesed, revolutions of inner character work. We had big dreams.

I spin the glass around, between my fingers. I look up and out, at the sea and sand beyond us. There are two Israeli Air Force officers, flanking my right and left. Another couple of guys have joined us too, but they are less glamorous in their civilian shirts, so I don't pay them quite as much attention.

We speak about trips to Europe and past conferences. They follow me, as I walk from drinks table to the railing. They've been smiling at me all day, looking to see if I laugh at the jokes the lecturer makes, catching my eye in the silent pauses. I can barely believe that these good looking, polished, sophisticated army officers are interested in me, but even clueless me can read the signs.

I always wondered what my place in the social ladder would have been in a secular mixed school. Would I have been the quiet one, the girl that no guy asks to dance, the wallflower?

I don't feel like one now, with four guys vying for my attention. I savor the thrill, treasure it; it's new to me.

I'm not doing anything wrong. Networking is a good thing, it's one of the reasons we are here. This is perfectly respectable. This isn't cheap, or shady. I'm not being hit on, I'm not flirting. But it's fun, a lot of fun. It would be so easy to continue the relationships. It would take only a few words to exchange numbers, to meet up again.

They are all extremely intelligent, much smarter than the average guys I meet. They are the elite, the result of careful selection, done by the army, and not by my family's amateur 'finding out' phone calls. They are mature and responsible. I feel like an equal with them. I don't need to dumb down my words, I don't need to explain anything. I wonder what it would have been like to grow up with guys like this, learn in the same academic institutions as them, be automatically and naturally surrounded by eligible young men.

If only they were Frum. Two of them do have Kippot. Small Kippot, so small it took me a while to notice them. One mentions taking it off, travelling bareheaded when he was abroad. I'm disappointed, but not surprised.

"Think about what you really want", someone advised me recently, when I was making a past decision. "Think about the type of home you want, and what's going to get you there."

I can see cafes on the coast, amusement, fun, with these guys. I can see company, excitement, romance.

But I can't see a Shabbos table, I can't see Torah, I can't see truth. Where can it end? Will it bring me closer to where I want to be?

So we say goodbye, at the end of the day. We say a lot more, in the last smiles we exchange, the words we leave unspoken. And I let them go. I go back to my borderline spinsterhood, and my Shidduchim.

I'm alone at home again, missing the guys and the taste I had of another life. I hope that God is valuing these choices. My sheifos are a lot simpler these days. To stay as Frum as I used to be, to cling onto what once was so natural. The goals may sound simpler, but the battle is much more difficult.


  1. Maybe it will help if you think about growing and not just staying where you were or where you are. Something that I don't like about the type of seminary which you attended - no offense - is that it portrays your relationship with Hashem and Yiddishkeit as expressing itself almost exclusively in the context of a husband and children.
    You are not involved in that avoda yet, but in the meantime there is no reason for you not to work on your davening and even learning (you seem bright enough).

  2. I can relate. (Though I don't live in Israel, so the guys I have across in college/work were not Jewish.)
    It does make me sort of wistful at times, wondering what my life would be like if I *could* let things get to the next step...would I still be the lonely, over 30 single dealing with pitying glances and comments?? I don't think so...but, like you say, I believe Hashem (if not the rest of the frum community) sees my sacrifice (because that's what it is though I don't know that others not in this situation can necessarily realize that)and does value it.

  3. I can really relate to it. In the non-frum world, a babe, and back in our universe a pity case. Heartbreaking.

    Before I became frum, all the guys I knew were highly intelligent and considerate, and more than a few good looking too. I never gave it a second thought. These days I'm supposed to be grateful if he has a pulse.

  4. seems like i'm like everyone else who posted here- i can relate too.

    where were you that you were talking to these guys?

  5. You are a gem and I truly believe that Hashem sees your struggle and will reward you in His own ways. I know how hard it is because I do go to a mixed school and I have to be very conscious about my appearance and attitude everyday to ensure I keep up with what I know is right and true. The attention can be tempting for a quick ego fix, but choosing Hashem makes us stronger in the long run.

  6. Wow, this post is amazing and so applicable to me. There have been a few times where it would have been so easy, and it's so tempting. Just another reason on my list why I better get married-fast.

  7. As the very proud father of three of those tiny kippot in the air force, me thinks she doth protest far too much. There is no greater Torah than what will be discussed at my sons shabbat (definitely not shabbos) table, and there is no truer path than what they have selected. Never sugarcoat cowardice with resolve. But at least some cracks of light are beginning to filter into your closed worldview it is a small start.

  8. I agree and stand with Israel's comment above. Open your mind and your heart to the possibility that you can learn from young men (not boys) like this, and they, too, can learn from you. Judaism--frum or not--is a journey, not a final destination. Keep going.

  9. A normal, good-looking, bnei TorahJune 17, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    (Your 'sacrifices' don't go unnoticed.)

    I want to marry you all, and make your lives amazing.

  10. Whilst I understand that "To stay as Frum" is easy, natural and maybe the right direction for you, I've come to learn that religion is a very personal thing sometimes not expressed by outward appearances. I find this especially true in Israel where fashion and class dictate what you wear sometimes more than inner beliefs and, perhaps hidden, actions.

    How do you know that the "tiny kippah" means that you won't have a Torah household and truth at a shabbat table? You will only know by asking and then deciding. And you can combine the two.

    I'm sure you will find your bashert... and keep writing, I really like your blog.

  11. Just another reason on my list why I better get married-fast.

    Wow, that's a scary statement. Great reason to get married.

  12. She will be the kalla in the white gown with the look of horror on her face, realizing far too late that her bigotries have doomed her to a life she never wanted, for pretenses she did not believe in, and that none of it had anything to do with Halacha, frumkeit or shomrei mozyvot. It was simply keeping with her social sub-tribe's customs.
    But she is incapable of admitting that to herself or anyone else.

  13. The thing is, I don't think there is such a choice - either intelligent and irreligious or frum and clueless. Irreligious and clueless can exist, as can frum and intelligent, and I thought one of the best places to find the latter would be in Israel. I've gone out with quite a few guys who qualify as wonderful conversationalists and being very frum. I am judged about my frumkeit based on sight (while I don't dress untzniudikly, I don't dress typically). Maybe these fellows are being judged as well?
    You don't have to run off with these guys per-say, but the idea is not so abhorrent.

  14. My issue actually wasn't with the size of the guy's kippah, but with the fact that he takes it off when he's abroad. I try to dress the same way wherever I am, and not change standards.
    About Frum guys not being less intelligent- that may be true, but it's a lot harder to find them when they aren't at college, work, or conferences with me.

  15. Rav Feinstein, Henkin, Weinberg, and Yosef all not only permit professionals to remove their kippa on the diaspora but specifically encourage it where the professional activity might cause antisemitism (prosecuting attorney, investment banker, politician). Open a Sefer and actually learn a little Halacha l'ma'aseh. Your concerns have nothing to do with Halacha rather with subtribal aculturations and prejudices, And ignorance is more shameful than prejudice.

  16. "Take it off when abroad" depends on where the person is going. I did take mine off when I went to Dubai and Oman and in France you rarely wear your kippah in the street.

    Personally, it is a matter of risk, since as was said in a previous comment, it is permitted by my rav. Having said that, if at all I possible, I will wear my kippah when abroad.

    And you can cover your head with hats/caps etc...

    My view here is that you've asked the question and are unhappy about the answer, so it wouldn't work... Move on. But don't give up or think that just because of one or two, there isn't one out there from that group.

    You shouldn't compromise with your beliefs but perhaps a slightly wider net is appropriate

  17. Hazarding a guess: you want Torah, to which your hareidi dates devote their lives, and then your heart melts when you meet these attractive, sophisticated men. (I think it's the worldliness that draws you, rather than just intelligence. ). Could there be a problem on your "Contradiction Wheel"? Hareidi men in the age range you are looking for are probably learning, largely sequestered from the world and the opposite sex. And your dreamboats aren't devoted to Torah.

    Why don't you look for a BT, someone who has experienced the world, and through his own searching found the truth of Torah.

    I also agree with previous comments that you can't judge someone's heart and religious commitment just according to the way they dress.

    And in the word's of the Rebbe z'tzal, when looking for a shidduch, the two most important things are yirat shamayim and middot. And of those two, which is the more important? MIDDOT! Because a person can obtain yirat shamayim in an instant, yet it can take a lifetime to change a bad midda.

  18. You write beautifully. As many of the earlier posts have said, I definitely appreciate the sentiment of this post. To be appreciated for who one is and the choices one makes-- in your case, in the realm of academics and profession as well as Torah and growth-- is one of the greatest gifts another person can receive... and is certainly something one should strive to give others. It is tough to consistently be around people who see only one dimension.

    To respond to those who attack the kippah comment... perhaps the person you are describing is not the same one as the person FnF is describing. The same action of removing a kippah can be innocuous or indicative of something more. She perceived it as indicative of something more, and therefore felt the way she did. Being openminded, as you advocate, does not only mean being accepting of guys who dress a certain way or do certain things; it means being openminded to hear the opinions of others with whom you might disagree as well, or to at least disagree respectfully, without resorting to pushing another down. Something to keep in mind.

  19. hang in there. and Hashem definitely sees and values you sticking to your sheifos. you go, girl.

  20. Lots of observant guys don't wear kippot in dangerous places or in the workplace. And lots of dahti men wear kippot on the small side. But, as you write, it's not the kippot itself, but what it represents. Yes, you probably will not have a Shabbat table or the type of children that you envisioned, but why settle for a second-rate husband or second thoughts? From skimming your previous posts (you write beautifully, by the way), I gather that daati leumi / YU types don't impress you either, but I suspect that the genre will prove to be a happy medium if you give it a chance.

  21. There are only 613 mitzvot. My sobs keep all 613 and maintain active professional and intellectual lives in the real world. No one is more frum, and there is no more proper derech, because there are only 613 mitzvot. After that you are engaging in subtribal socioeconomic distinctions and biases. At least be honest about it. I remind you of how mortified at the shidduch I proposed for you a few bloggings ago -- until you were embarrassed to discover it was the CV of the Rambam age 25.

  22. When I met my husband, he had a baseball hat and a goat T. He was interested. I was not. I told him why- that I wanted to Live in Israel and a life of Torah, Shma with my kids, learning together, inspiring Shabbat- passion for Torah, Land and People.

    He picked it up and ran with it. He proved to be the biggest mench I have ever been privelaged to know. So I am married to my mench - 4 kids and 11 years later and couldn't be happier.

    Underneath that small kippa could be your other half...

    Shoshanna (skjask)

  23. Oh- did I mention, it was on the beach, in Eilat?

    (marine biology course)

  24. For crying out loud can all you judgmental defensive types back off of FnF? For the most part ppl dress the way they do to identify with a certain lifestyle. I'm sure there are plenty of guys with teeny kippot that take Torah and Halacha incredibly serious. You just have to filter through the 75% of tiny kippot that don't take it as serious as FnF would like. Which is why it's probably not worth her time to start wading through the externally dati light to find that serious dati amongst them. Let her wade through the right wing YU and BT's to find the ones with middot but at least she'll be on the same page hashkafically.

  25. Kudos to Israel, his comments are spot on. I'm amazed at what passes for the frum ideal these days

  26. You guys keep missing the point. There are many frum ideals. Stop trying to deny other legitimate hashkafic models.

  27. One of the most important things in marriage is to have similar life goals, otherwise you clash and go separate ways. we can probably all relate to wanting excitment etc. But when in the long run, we need someone who we can grow with and will be there with us

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. I've been reading your blog for a long time now, though never commenting, and your posts really resonate with me. I have just started my own blog, first with a "meta-post" about this genre of blog.

  30. Sorry, I changed the URL. The blog is

  31. BYCP - That's a great poem! It really made me think.

    But just curious, does it include me? Is reading my blog also "draining and depressing"?