Friday, October 22, 2010

Yeshivish With-It

Yeshivish With-It

By Rabbi Yossi Rosenberg

The following narrative is presented with the hopes that - from our follies and foibles - we can laugh, cry and hopefully grow together.

• • • • •

If I hear one more shidduch ‘freezer’ joke, I think I’m gonna plotz. I mean, since my son came home from learning in Eretz Yisroel, that’s all I’ve been getting from friends, family and well-meaning shadchanim.

“Is my son really not going to try and ‘break the freezer’ and date before he starts his zeman?” one shadchan asked me.

I tell him - as politely as I can - that my husband doesn’t feel there is a reason to ‘break any freezers.’ He feels that our son would gain by becoming part of the yeshiva, getting chavrusos, finding his place, etc., before becoming distracted with shidduchim. “Besides, what’s the big rush?” I asked Mr. Shadchan. “What will happen if he waits another few months?”

Oy! A few months in this business is a lifetime!” Mr. Shadchan exclaims. This all-knowing shadchan reassures me that while he respects my husband’s opinion, he had some ‘top girls’ in mind for our son whose families were ‘promising full support,’ but they would really prefer a boy fresh from Eretz Yisroelwho isn’t yet ‘freezer burnt.’

Ha, ha, ha.

But seriously, I mean, puhlease! What will happen already if my son learns here a few months before he starts dating? Are they afraid that he might get his bearings and not be fresh, na├»ve and gullible? If anyone has anything to hide, we’re not exactly rushing to commit to them in any case.

The truth is, I need a couple of months anyway simply to learn all the new and impossible shidduch terminologies. Like figuring out what people really mean when they say so many different things that it makes my head spin. I mean, if boys have a problem that they don’t know what they really want, it seems like girls have an opposite problem that they don’t know what they don’t want! Now, I’m not talking about girls having looong lists of maylos which they are looking for in the ‘ideal’ boy. I’m talking about having long list of contradictory maylos that make you wonder who fed them these impossible notions.

Just last week, for example, when I was looking into a girl and asked what she was looking for in a boy, I was told that he has to be very frum and not chas veshalom ever listen to the radio or be online, but of course he shouldn’t be ‘mufkah’ - chalilah - and it shouldn’t be like he has no clue what’s going on in the world. And he should be a real yirei Shomayim but not ‘too frum’ - Heaven forbid! And he should be a real illui, but of course also down to earth. And if he’s a rosh chaburah,it can’t hurt, but he should be ‘one of the guys.’ And the main thing isn’t where he learned, only that he should be a mentch, but did he learn in Brisk?

The other week, a shadchan called me about a girl who he just knew was ‘perfect’ for my son. He only wanted to clarify one thing: They heard that my son is a masmid, which is good, because the girl only wants to marry a huge masmid - of course - but she also wants to make sure that he’s the type who will spend time with her, go out for walks together, go sightseeing and traveling, etc.

I asked the shadchan whether the girl is looking for a bochur or a cell-phone.

“A cell-phone?!” he asked. “What are you talking about?”

Clearly, he thought I lost my mind. I could just hear him thinking, “Nebach, another one of those top boys whose mother is a kook. No wonder he isn’t married yet.”

I explained that what he told me sounded more like something I’d want in a cell phone: A solid plan, great daytime minutes, but free nights and weekends!

A friend of mine was crying to me about her son. She tells me that she tries to wake him up at 7:00 every morning, but it doesn’t help and she’s so frustrated. I asked her if she’s sure that she was really waking up her son. Maybe he’s such a deep sleeper that he was never really awake.

She said, “No. He’s up. I’m sure of that. But then he just rolls over.”

I told her that at least for shidduchim it won’t be so bad. Just add him to the cell phone plan: Free nights and weekends and rollover minutes!

Seriously, though, if it’s not a cell phone, it’s something else, but sometimes I wonder if a girl’s parents remember that there is a bochur involved in their daughter’s shidduch at all!

Let me give you a ‘for instance.’ A shadchan called me, and from the minute he opened his mouth, I knew just how incompatible the girl he had in mind was for my son. From his first sentence, he didn’t stop speaking about how wealthy the family was. “Your son will have it made,” he crooned. “Anything he’ll ever need - a nice home, ‘bakavodikeh’furnishings, well-dressed children, live-in help. That’s how this girl grew up and that’s what they’re promising their eidim. You should be proud of your son,” he complimented me. (Believe me, I am.) “Not every boy can ask for this, so you better grab this opportunity.”

“But don’t you see how different this girl is from my son?” I asked him. “How her standard of living is worlds apart from ours? I don’t understand why they even want this shidduch. If this is how they brought up their daughter, then what’s important to her is just not what’s important to my son.”

The shadchan tsk tsked agitatedly. Clearly, I wasn’t ‘getting it.’ “What’s important,” he reassured me in his smoothest voice, “is that your son is a top learning boy, and this girl wants a top learning boy, and the father is willing to pay for that. That’s what’s important. Everything else will work itself out.”

This was news to me. Call me old-fashioned, but I was brought up to believe that the home is an integral part of the make-up of a real learning boy.

“I don’t mean to be rude,” I tell the shadchan, “but I have a great idea, and I think I can save this family a whole lot of money. If the learning is what they’re paying for, why don’t you just set their daughter up with an Otzar Hachochmah computer? I hear there isn’t a sefer that this computer doesn’t know, and - although the program isn’t cheap - it’s a lot cheaper than supporting an eidim, I promise you that!”

The shadchan managed a half-hearted laugh, but I’m afraid I somehow offended him.

“Heh. That’s a good one,” he chuckled. “But seriously, you know they don’t just want a computer. When I say that learning is the main thing, I mean that it’s the main thing they are looking for in a husband. Your son would make a fine husband, I’m sure you agree.” (I guess he figured flattery can never hurt. No one says he’s not a top shadchan, and for good reason!) “And we’re not just talking about an empty-headed girl here, either. This girl went to the best Bais Yaakov school - and she was valedictorian! - and she attended the top seminary in Eretz Yisroel. She’s a very yeshivishe girl, and your son is a yeshivishe boy, right? So it isn’t just the learning, see?”

Oy vey, did I see. They don’t just want ‘learning,’ they want ‘yeshivish’ too. Something like an Otzar Hachochmah with peyos!

I mean, we raised our children to be ‘bnei Torah,’ not just ‘yeshivish.’ True, my son has peyos and he would love nothing better than to spend his life learning, but he also was brought up on ideals of simplicity, mentchlichkeit, having proper hashkafos and the purity of the home. He’s a lot more than a ‘learner’ for sale to the highest bidder.

Today I’m told that a boy like that can decide on a high price tag, which may be true - if he wants to sell himself as some designer item in a fashion boutique. I, somehow, would rather see our son as a human being seeking a compatible life-mate. Compatible, meaning a girl who shares his ideals, lifestyle and goals so that they can grow together. I cherish my son too much to just sell him to someone who will flatter him and then bring him down.

Not that it’s easy to find out about a girl in order to know if she’s compatible. I mean, did you ever try making calls to a girl’s friends or family for information? People are so in a tizzy because of the ‘crises’ crisis, where everything - including shidduchim of course - is a crisis, that they’re afraid of saying anything that might cause a ‘no,’ so instead they talk and talk but tell you absolutely nothing.

How do you talk and say nothing, you ask?

Here are excerpts of one memorable conversation:

Me: “Hi. My name’s Mrs. Kamiel*. I’m calling regarding shidduch information. I understand you’re a friend of Dina Cohen’s*?” (*All names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.)

Friend: “Dina Cohen?! Ohmygosh! I am sooo happy you called about her! She is like top, top, top! I am her best friend and I couldn’t think of a single bad thing to say about her.”

Me: “That’s really nice. I did hear great things about her. She really sounds like a sweet girl.”

Friend: “Right. She is a totally amazing girl. She’s a ball of fun - I mean, not a party-girl type of fun. She isn’t empty-headed or anything. No way. But she is fun to be around and has a great sense of humor. But she’s a serious girl. For sure. Really mature, and she has great hashkafos. But she’s not like all frummy about it. No way. She’s a totally normal girl, frum but not too frum. Know what I mean? And she’s a total baalas chessed; she’ll do anything for anybody. But she knows her limits. You can’t just push her around. You know what I’m saying? She’s not a pushover. Just nice and sweet and - she’s just a great girl. Really.”

Me: “Mm hmm.” (So far, I still haven’t a clue what type of girl she is, so I decide on the non-committal ‘mm hmm.) “So tell me a little about her personality. Like is she outgoing? Introverted? Easygoing? Organized?”

Friend: “Oh, I am so happy you asked that. Outgoing? For sure! But like, she likes her space, if you know what I mean. She is one of the most organized girls I know, but, like, she’s not a neat-freak. She’s just normal. I mean, more than normal. Much more. She’s sooo special. She’s totally friendly, but she isn’t this crazy social bug. And she knows what’s right and wrong, but she doesn’t wear it on her sleeve. Like she can have a great time along with everybody else, but of course only in a kosher way.”

Me: “Mm hmm.” (I still have nothing more to comment on.) “And do you know what she’s looking for in a husband?”

Friend: “Of course! We’ve discussed it sooo many times. She wants a learning boy, for sure. She is verrry machshiv Torah. And he has to be someone she can look up to. But, like, she doesn’t want someone way above her or with his head in the clouds or anything. He should know how to present himself, but she totally doesn’t want a show-offy type of boy. And of course he has to be a mentch.”

Me: “Of course,” I agree. (Nice afterthought, isn’t it.) “So she wants someone who is into his learning, but he should also be into how he dresses?”

Friend: “No, no. I mean, like, I don’t think she wants a boy who is into how he dresses - she’s totally not like that - but, like, you know, she would want her husband to be presentable, right? I mean, she wouldn’t want to marry a shluch, would she?”

Me: “No, of course not.” (There is a long way from being a shluch to ‘knowing how to present oneself, I’m thinking, but let’s not get into that.) “Once we’re on the topic, how would you say she dresses?”

Friend: “Oh, that’s a great question. She’s always dresses tzniusdik. One hundred percent. She wouldn’t even wear anything iffy. But of course she’s trendy and very well-dressed. You know what I’m saying? She always looks nice and stylish, but, like, not in a shrayedikeh way.”

Me: “But you’re saying she is trendy. Like she’ll be wearing all these styles that are ‘in’ these days?”

Friend: (Getting a feeling that maybe to me ‘trendy’ is not the greatest compliment,) “Oh, she’s not ‘trendy’ in that way. She a totally classic dresser. She’s just not like behind the times. I mean, she doesn’t look nebby or anything. She dresses classy, just with a sense of style. Not stylish. Know what I mean?”

Classic and trendy. Mm hmm. Right.

Me: (I’m trying to find a way to sum up what I’ve been told and wrap up the conversation, but I’m at a loss for how to do it. Do I know even one thing about this girl which I did not know until now? She’s not this, not that; she is this, but she’s also that; she’s everything and nothing. True, I have been given no reason to say ‘no.’ But have I been given a single reason to say ‘yes’?) I decide on a simple and honest, “She really sounds like a great girl. Thanks so much for your time.”

Friend: “Oh, please. Anytime! I’m happy to give information about her. She’s such a great friend!”

Me: “Right. Of course, besides for being a great girl, I also have to see that she’s compatible for my son. But she does sound special.”

Friend: “Oh, she is. And you couldn’t go wrong with her. I mean she’s totally yeshivish, but she’s one hundred percent with-it.”

Yeshivish and with-it. Now where have I heard that before?

from the Yated Newspaper:


  1. I'm not so sympathetic for this women - nebach, people are banging down the door for her amaaaaaazing son. And what sort of answers does she expect from a 19 year old terrified of saying the wrong thing? Information can be mutilated in so many ways, for better or worse.

    I was thinking of my mother - she didn't really call up people to ask for my brothers' future wives. She was just in denial that her boys were dating at all - they dated while she hid under the covers. She did not feel that she knew exactly what her sons needed or wanted. My brothers pretty much made the decision on their own, and very well I might add.

  2. Plus, what is up with this whole "girls are so picky" diatribe? That's our line for, um, let's see, boys' mothers!