I had a meaningful discussion with my matchmaker (shadchan) last night. She wanted to make sure that she was looking as my agent for the same type of girl that I was looking for. She wanted to make sure that when she described me as frum (ultra-orthodox/religious), that I really wanted that kind of lifestyle and the kind of woman that comes with that lifestyle.
A frum woman is someone who has the capacity to be as religious as they get. "No fun", you think, right? Wrong! I sometimes have this picture of a religious home as a cabin in the woods in a village with other like-minded people with a small, muddy road that comes into and goes out of the village from other towns. There are cows walking in the street, the chickens are running loose with the butcher trying to catch them, the roosters are waking everyone at dawn and people are traveling by horse and buggy. There is a local baker, a butcher, and a man that comes in to town once a month by wagon selling the newest books. People don't need much from the outside world because all that is needed is found within the confines of the community. There are marriages, festivities, and self-sufficiencies in this small town that seem to exclude the need to go elsewhere.
Inside our wooden house there is a sturdy wooden table with thick, dark wooden planks as floors. There is a fire burning in the fireplace at night, and the family gathers around the table to sing spiritual songs that awaken the soul. I see a pile of chopped wood outside the cabin, sheltered by the overhanging roof from the rain and the snow; when the wood supply runs low, the men, the women, or some combination of them go out to chop more wood for the fire. People use lanterns for lighting, and if you looked into the houses, you would find that by night, people sit by the table; they read, and they learn.
This is a very pretty picture, and one day I hope to be able to adjust my life away from the electromagnetically flooded lifestyle that I live in. Maybe one day I will find this peace in the village in the woods.
As much as I would love for this to be the religious way of life, unfortunately, this is not the way it is. Religious life is no different than regular life; it is modern, and it is technologically advanced. People wake up in the morning, they pray with other members of the community, they drive to work in their advanced automobile, they spend their day at their occupation in front of a computer with a second or possibly a third one attached to their hip, and if they have the merit, they set out an hour or so each day for learning. After a long and tiring day, they drive back to the synagogue to rejoin the community for evening prayer, and then they head home to greet their wives (each has only one), their children, and their guests.
Other than the injection of a higher power and a focus that everything has a dose of spirituality within it, the life of a religious person is pretty normal. During the days between various holidays, religious families take their children to places such as Six Flags Great Adventure, or they go on a trip, they go camping, they stay at a hotel, or maybe they just go to the park and watch their growing children play and have a good time. You'll see them in restaurants, and as long as the activity does not contravene Jewish Law, it is likely that you will find these religious couples engaging in common activities. Serving G-d does not mean one sits in a room all day banging his head against the wall thinking what a nothing he really is; there are many ways to serve G-d. And just because a person is Jewish and/or religious does not mean their life is focused around asceticism. Religious people have fun too.
My answer to my shadchan's (matchmaker's) question [supra] is that I do want someone who is completely religious. As soon as one deviates from that standard, the doors swing wide open to invite individualistic philosophies which contain phrases such as "I don't hold by that," or, "I don't see the logic in that rule so I won't follow that one", or "I believe that X should be done this way", etc. To uncircumcised readers, this doesn't seem to be a problem. But to a religious person, this deviation in belief from the law can cause other deviations that eventually attack the foundations of a religious home. Think of the ripples in a pond.
Now to be consistent, I am far from the level of religiosity that I would like to achieve; however, I know in which direction I am headed, and I would like to find a girl who is heading in that same direction. Wherever she may be, at whatever religious level, I find that the important distinction is (as my shadchan eloquently puts it,) "where the eyes are looking" rather than where a person is holding religiously at that particular moment. I am committed to live a certain way; I hope to find someone who feels the same way, even if we (either individually or collectively as a couple) have not reached that level. Again, the determining factor is the focus.