Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Runaway Pride

Some years ago a nice Chassidic young man disappeared hours before he was supposed to get married. The frantic parents were convinced the boy was dead or worse. In our society worse than dead is possible. With surprising verve and flair for a Chassid he turned up, alive and well and in fine fettle, in Barcelona, immortalizing that fair city in Chassidim’s eyes as the city of the escapee.

From the lovely proclamations, that were an outsider’s standard fare before the blogosphere, one could be forgiven for wondering what he was escaping from. In fact that incident highlighted a problem that had been festering for a long time, that of parents abusing the arranged shidduch system to arrange for their children to marry partners, often chosen with the family’s standing in mind rather than the child’s horizontal activities.

I say this with conviction. I myself was introduced to and indeed married a young lady who at the time was decidedly not my first choice but simply the closest I could get to different. The fact that it all worked out rather well and the combination of my bad influence and her good sense and looks have allowed her to blossom into someone I love passionately, respect and admire, are beside the point.

Having a young man run away on the day of his wedding suddenly brought to the wider attention of the community what the younger generation had been thinking for a while already. The times when a father announces to his Tzeitel that she is engaged are over. And just like the few individuals who happen to become rich while remaining proud of being unable to sign their own names are no proof that education is unnecessary, the fact that some matches made in heaven work in bed does not mean we can rely on divine inspiration and Rebbishe blessings alone when choosing mates for our kids.

Any avid follower of the gossip doing the rounds on the Hill in the last year will have gathered that the old style of operating (like the old guard of operatives) simply will not wash. Parents can no longer hope that marrying their daughter off quickly to the first available member will make all their problems disappear. The youth of today have either tasted the forbidden fruit or have heard from others who have. In the Garden of Eden it was a bite from an apple now it is a byte on an Apple but knowledge is knowledge and it cannot be unlearned.

If the Rabbinate had any sense they would be working with us the Shgatzim to limit the damage and try and find some way to acknowledge the new reality. Instead they display more dayanism than dynamism and they spend most of their time blocking any progress and ensuring their own immortality as the last of the Moshicans. Indeed, looking around it seems to me that good sense is more of a hindrance than an asset in that industry.

The sounds from the street have permeated through the shtetl’s walls. The youth of today want a partner who will share not only their beds but also their interests and even more importantly their time. The girls, growingly expected to share the burdens of making a living, want more and more to become a part of their husband’s lives. The men, as they move out from behind the jeweller’s benches and the close confines of that industry and real estate, are more and more being confronted with self-assured and poised women who have opinions and viewpoints. Many are encouraging their spouses to join them in their own little bars alona. Many of those who do not care to join can throw some of the blame for their partner’s infidelities (real or quasi) on their parent’s poor choices if that is any comfort to them.

I can say for sure that unless all this is taken into account during the setting up of shidduchim it is hard to blame the couple themselves and harder still not to blame the powers that be, who so stubbornly refuse to see this.

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