Sunday, April 03, 2005

Garments of a Jewish Wife

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.


if not now, when? said...

I hope this means the problem of the "oil" (being outside of the in-crowd)from the "meet joe black" post has been remedied.

I was thinking about my response to that post, thinking about dating only within the same small group of lubavitch girls.
At the time I had said that it makes sense to minimize differences that may end up straining a marriage.

But then reading this post, I had the thought that in the gemara, yevamot 14, we are told that the disciples of beit hillel married into the ranks of the disciples of beit shammai, and vice-versa. This was so even though the two schools were diametrically opposed to one another, to such an extent that they disagreed over what constituted a kosher marriage.

maybe love, and the unity of the jewish people should reign over petty differences of movement/denomination affiliation.

Zoe Strickman said...

If not now, when?: There will always be a problem for baal teshuvas finding a shidduch if they are not a cookie-cutter Lubavicher which I am not, specifically because [inter alia], I went to law school after yeshiva and I don't blindly accept a philosophy not described in halacha just because other people do it; as I am sure you would respect, I look to distinguish what things are minhag and what things are halacha.

As one would make a distinction between dereisa and rabbanan, I am generally machmir on the halachas and I allow the possibility to be meikel on the minhagim if it causes an undue burden. Even with that said, I still fully follow Lubavich minhagim and I have a full beard which I don't trim, I keep to strict cholov yisroel, to pas yisroel, and I eat chossidishe hechures (i.e. B'Datz, Rubashkin, etc.) when it comes to meat (among other customs) which might annoy many regular orthodox women because they might think that is over the top. More on this below.

Very cool comment on the yevamot 14; I never thought of that. I also agree with the need for judaism to get over the denominations and all the factions; it is simply annoying and un-jewish. Perhaps the coming of moshiach will fix that soon.

Lastly, women from other chassidic factions might have a difficult time adjusting to their husband having a different Rebbe. Although, I think a chassidic woman who is conversant with the concept of a Rebbe would adjust better to Lubavich minhagim than a woman coming from traditional orthodoxy; to them, it almost seems avodah-zora-ish to raise one rabbi above all other yiddim.

One correction to my comment above: It's easy for a baal teshuva to find another baal teshuva shidduch both of whom are not yet fully frum. However, the more frum one gets, the fewer baal teshuva women are available because either they have already been married off as they were getting started during their early years of seminary, or there is something physically or mentally challenging about them (Nebuch). Being that it is less common for a frum from birth (FFB) lubavicher to marry a baal teshuva, as one gets more frum the pool gets smaller. But as you said in your last post; it becomes a highly specialized niche market, and all that is needed to make the shidduch is ONE match.

I am glad you are still reading the blog. I hope the issues that are coming up in my life regarding yiddishkeit are informative and are helping you determine where you are holding should similar issues ever arise. As you know, "He who is wise..."