Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blogger's Lament #1: A Haiku

Blogger's Lament #1

Three posts incomplete
Frustration and sleep take hold
More time I desire

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tefillin Bombs and Rabbi Charlop

Everyone's talking about the tefillin bomb scare from Thursday (hat tip to Chana for sharing it with me - see also the New York Times article and Chana's post about history repeating itself).

In short, a flight that left La Guardia heading to Louisville, Kentucky was forced to prematurely land in Philadelphia because a 17-year-old high school student (who apparently goes to MTA, as it turns out) put his tefillin on mid-flight to daven Shacharis since the plane left too early, and would arrive too late, to otherwise daven b'zman. The stewardess, who had no clue what in the world the kid was doing, freaked out and told the pilot that there was a suspicious, possibly terrorist related activity happening amidst the passengers. So, the pilot did the right thing and notified the authorities, who met the plane in a secured, isolated area of the runway to investigate. The FBI agents et al figured out there was no real cause for concern, and the passengers were all rescheduled on later flights.

I'm not going to blame the pilot and crew for not knowing what the young man was doing, since I don't see how they could really have known about tefillin anyway. I've gotten stopped on numerous occasions and asked about my yarmulka and un-tucked tzitzis while out shopping (or one time, while filling up my car at the gas station). I was once approached by a man in Wal-Mart who asked me, based on these exterior religious trappings, if I was a rabbi. I replied no, but I had studied at a seminary in Israel for two years (which is true). Just for the record, using "seminary" for "yeshiva" is the easiest way to get a non-Jew to understand what a yeshiva really is - a seminary is a "theological" or "divinity" school of higher learning, and the Christian equivalent readily springs to their minds. There was also the incident at airport security where they noticed my tzitzis wrapped around my belt (I usually partially tuck them in when using public transportation so they don't drag and get dirty) and asked me why I had funny looking wires sticking out of my belt. I quickly un-tucked them and they realized what they were (or at least that the tzitzis posed no threat).

I usually try to avoid early flights that can cause issues with zmanim for shacharis, since the extra concern of wearing tefillin in public has to be dealt with (mincha and ma'ariv are much easier to handle in a crowded airport). However, I had to take such an early flight at one point this summer for a wedding in New York. After finding my proper gate, I discreetly looked around in the nearby vicinity until I located a quiet, deserted waiting area in the corner of the terminal (which is my general procedure for davening in an airport) and proceeded to put my tefillin on and davened. Afterward, I wrapped up my tefillin, and walked over to my gate. As I sat down, a man walked over to me with his two young children and politely requested if he could ask me a question. I replied in the affirmative - I'm very used to taking questions about Judaism from gentiles, and by this point, have gotten very good at answering them. Basically, his kids wanted to know what I had been doing just now, and in particular, what the boxes and straps were (I knew they were going to ask that).

I replied that I was praying the morning service, and that Jews actually pray three times a day, in the morning, afternoon and night. The boxes and straps were phylacteries or tefilin, special ritual objects that actually contained parchment with portions from the Torah written on them. I further explained that they are worn while praying in the morning and serve as a conduit to create a greater focus and concentration toward G-d; helping me to remember the importance of what I was doing and of Who I was praying to. They seemed to like my answer, thanked me and went back to their seats...

Anyway, today was the first Shabbos of the spring semItalicester at YU - and our special rabbinical guest was none other than Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, shlita, Dean Emeritus of RIETS. Rabbi Charlop is an absolutely incredible orator, extremely knowledgable in all areas of Torah study, and has a very sharp wit. He was also a professor of American History here at YU for a number of years prior to being appointed the head of RIETS, which he helmed for over 35 years.

I could listen to Rabbi Charlop speak for hours. The man is absolutely engrossing, and can engage everyone in the room with his humor, vast wellspring of knowledge (Torah and secular), and an unending supply of stories. He is a living legend who has met and known figures of great rabbonim and figures of historical significance (such as President Truman at a Jewish fundraising banquet). We only heard a small portion of his greatness in the two speeches he gave (Friday night at the oneg and Shabbos afternoon at shalosh seudos), and I really miss seeing him around on a more frequent basis (since he stepped down as Dean of Riets and was replaced by Rabbi Yona Reiss, he has been given an office buried somewhere in Belfer Hall). You can check out some of his shiurim and articles on YUTorah.org.

Rabbi Charlop had quite a few great one-liners, such as declaring that his bar mitzvah took place during World War II - just to dispel the notion that it occurred during the Civil War. The best, by far, was his brief remarks regarding the young man I mentioned above from the "tefillin bomb" scare. He began by refering remarks that Rav Schachter, Shlita had made earlier in the day during his pre-lunch parsha shiur - how the shin on the bayis of the tefillin shel rosh and the knots of the tefillin shel rosh (which is shaped like a daled) and shel yad (which is shaped like a yud) spell out the shem HaShem (Sha - dai). After talking about the incident for a few minutes in good humor, he paused, turned to face the assembly of students and called out with gusto:

י וְרָאוּ כָּל-עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ, כִּי שֵׁם ה' נִקְרָא עָלֶיךָ; וְיָרְאוּ מִמֶּךָּ

It's from Devarim 22:10. For those who don't understand the Hebrew, here's the translation:

10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that the name of the LORD is called upon you; and they shall be afraid of you.
Of course he was referencing the Gemara in Brachos 6a (scroll down a bit) which cites the posuk and then says: "ותניא ר' אליעזר הגדול אומר אלו תפילין שבראש" - "And it was taught, Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol said these are the tefillin shel rosh." We were falling off our chairs laughing...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where Seldom Is Heard A Discouraging Word?

As I regroup from the most recently ended shidduch and continue to speak with friends and would-be shadchanim regarding what to do next, a certain incident comes to mind from the last time I was in this investigative phase.

The mother of my sister's friend contacted me regarding a girl from her out-of-town city who was now living in New York for graduate school. I thought I recognized the name of potential candidate she suggested, and after we concluded our phone call I got in touch with the wife of a friend of mine who lives here in the Heights. I wanted to confirm if a) my memory was just playing tricks on me, or b) I had actually met the person before - conveniently at their dinner table one fine Shabbos several months prior.

It turns out that my brain was not fabricating memories, and I had in fact enjoyed more than one meal at their apartment where this young lady was also been present. My friend's wife was also kind enough to show me a picture on their refrigerator to jog my memory when I stopped by their place a day or two later on an unrelated visit.

Having recalled the times spent playing Bananagrams with this particular young lady (and the her general personality, demeanor, etc) along with a hearty recommendation from my married friends, I called back the shadchan and said yes. A day or so later, she emailed me saying that the girl also remembered me and was pleasantly surprised that I was interested in going out with her. The girl was going to do a bit of research and give her reply in a day or two.

Shortly thereafter, I received another email where the shadchan informed me that the girl had spoken to a few friends who happened to "know" me, and they told her they didn't think it would work. Based off of this "advice" she declined the possibility of a date. The shadchan then apologized and wrote that she didn't agree with this sort of reasoning and had tried to talk some sense into her with no success. She was convinced and wouldn't hear anything more about the idea.

Far be it from me to question the hashgacha pratis workings of whether or not I actually get to go out with each attractive candidate (not physically, but generally) that gets suggested to me - but I think the shadchan was right to question these friends' "helpful" input. It's not as though she called my references or people who really knew me and found out in-depth information that indicated there was no real potential based on some important reason. Instead, she spoke with her friends who also happened to have met me on those two or three occasions we all shared meals at our mutual married friends' apartment - who I am fairly certain have just as vague an impression of me as I have of them. I don't know who specifically she spoke to (the crowd of invites was different at each occasion), but running through a mental list of who I can remember was there does not ring any bells of other girls who knew me in any serious fashion.

It's one thing to speak to a person's Rav or a married friend they grew up with and to find out that the proposed candidate is on an entirely different wavelength or has significant life goals that will cause conflict later down the road (such as intending to make aliyah, pursuing a certain demanding career, or an unyielding desire to live in Podunkville Nowhere to do kiruv). It's entirely different, and far from substantial, to ask your fellow unmarried friends for a generic, very uninformed opinion.

This is why Rav Goldvicht recommends that single people don't discuss potential/actual dates and daters with their single friends - and that single people are allowed to suggest ideas for shidduchim, but shouldn't act as the intermediary between the guy and girl.

I wish I had heard that second idea before I voluntarily began a shidduch where my single guy friend was talking to his female best friend (because she wasn't comfortable talking to me, which is understandable) who was then talking to the girl . There was quite a bit of miscommunication back and forth - such as my friend telling me after several dates that his friend didn't sound enthusiastic about the continued life of the shidduch. Apparently she had sighed or something when she mentioned the possibility of another date and he took that to mean the girl I was actually going out with was going to dump me (which she eventually did, about a month and a half later). I didn't believe his "intuition" or whatever, and, recognizing it for the mishugas that it was, called his friend directly to ask her point-blank if she felt that way or not (and if she had conveyed it wordlessly as he described). The +1 shadchan immediately replied that she had no clue what I was talking about, and she certainly did not intend to give such an impression to my friend to report back to me. After the next date, the girl and I decided to end the unnecessary frustration of double communication and dropped our well-meaning shadchanim.

As a side point - this is another important lesson I learned from one of my rabbeim in Israel. If you have a ta'anah (claim) against/about someone, don't speculate and discuss theoretical possibilities with a distantly connected other party - just ask the person! Sometimes being respectfully direct can be most helpful - in dating and in any other area of human interaction in life.

I guess my point is that while us singles are indeed the main tokens on this board game called "The Dating Game: The Home Version," we shouldn't be the ones moving the pieces. Yes your friends are wonderful people (and I'll probably find that out during my research), but their word can't be accepted as absolute - unless they really know what their talking about. Even so, I would still take any single friendly advice with a grain of salt. As I've heard from Rav Goldvicht and other rabbeim who talk about this specific aspect of dating, they're in the same boat as you, so they are not as objective of a third party as you might believe.

I hope I don't sound bitter over this old history. If anything it's her loss, not mine. No, that's not arrogance, but a healthy dose of self confidence - which we all need when facing the often demoralizing and discouraging dating world (everyone should have a reasonably positive view of him/herself). I'm sure she'll move on and find her bashert just as I will mine - or in some twist of fate, perhaps we will eventually go out and live happily ever after - but I'm not holding my breath.

So let's all make an effort to refrain from uneducated or uninformed expression of opinion - and the skies won't be cloudy all day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Re: Making Sure She Has A Good Time

It's always fun to see some confirmation of the ideas produced in my sometimes (or is that always?) creatively zany mind.

Bad4 just posted a link to an article published in Ladies Home Digest back in 1950 regarding how a young woman can best secure second date with her handsome, young gentleman caller. Noticeable among the 25 items listed that are to be considered post-date, is #23:

23. Did you have a good time - and show it?

I rest my case. Well, not really. But, the fact that this is listed from the female perspective is certainly interesting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Making Sure She Has A Good Time, No Matter What

So now I’ve been on the ill-fated third date that preoccupied my thoughts all winter break. I initially had a somewhat doomed attitude about the idea of the third date, stemming from the fact that I basically stewed in my doubts about whether this was going to work or not for over a week in between dates. This was a violation Shidduch Rule #6never let over a week go by between dates, especially early on, unless there are unavoidable conflicts – it just isn’t good for the developing relationship. However, having spent a very nice, relaxing Shabbos with my distant relatives put me in a very positive mood, which helped me refocuse my mindset and allowed me to wholeheartedly go into the date without any expectations one way or the other – even half-hoping that my mental gymnastics had been entirely for naught and that things could turn out for the better.

Parenthetically, that #6 was entirely arbitrary, just for the record. I don’t have any formal set of “rules” that I abide by, in case you’re wondering. Any regulations that I do believe in are mostly common sense points like this notion regarding timing.

Unfortunately (or is that fortunately?), the issues that had planted the seeds of doubt in my mind were still very apparent, so I decided to end things here. She is really a lovely person who is very steeped in chesed and maintains close ties to her loving family (who are also very big chesed people). Not to mention the fact that she is rather attractive… The key issue was the intellectual thing I mentioned a few posts back. I don’t think it serves as a detriment to her personally, especially since she is a very serious student, but that component was entirely lacking in our conversation, which left me feeling very disconnected. I tried several times to bring up ideas that I figured would arouse interest that could lead to a deeper discussion, but she never took my lead, nor began any sort of conversational thread of her own of that sort. We just kept grinding to a halt, which then forced us to fish for random ideas to keep the dialogue going. It wasn't working at all...

Even though I sensed that this was going to be our last outing together fairly early on into the date, I still put on my best smile and tried to be as charming and witty as possible – just as I would on any other date. The goal was to make sure she had a pleasant experience, regardless of the possibility of a fourth date or not.

This is one of the main things that a rebbe of mine from my yeshiva in Israel stresses in his dating shiurim: the need to ensure that the girl has a good time, no matter what result comes from the date itself. This means that despite what your feelings are, or what number date it is, the guy is obligated to do his very best to make sure the girl enjoys herself and will walk away from the date with a positive impression of both the guy and dating in general.

I think people tend to get jaded with the whole shidduch process because they end up going on bad dates with people who misbehave; either in personal manners, or how they treat the person they’re with, or even their emotional expression (such as allowing facial contortions that clearly demonstrate that they’re bored or don’t like their date). If people (men and women) had a positive experience every time they went out, even if the date(s) end up being unproductive in the long run, I think their feelings of dissatisfaction with their dating lives would be somewhat lessened.

True, this doesn’t eliminate the repetitive, “here we go again” feeling that accompanies going on date after date with no result, but at least the dates themselves will be enjoyable. Also, you will have met another quality person out there in this sometimes (or is that always?) crazy dating world out there. Perhaps you’ll end up thinking about them as a potential match for a friend of yours, and your suggestion will lead to a happily married couple. As idealistic as that sounds, it does happen. Also, you would be far less likely to recommend a former date to a friend if the reason you ended things was due to how much they mistreated you or acted ungentlemanly/unladylike.

I think that one of the reasons why I’ve never had a bad date (and thus have no fun stories worth telling) is because I’ve done my best to take this lesson to heart. I often read/hear stories of guys being obnoxious on dates, and thereby making the girl suffer because of their uncouth behavior. I think that this idea that my rebbe presented should be stressed ad nauseum until every guy makes this a permanent part of their dating mindset. It really is that important.

This doesn’t preclude the idea of overly demanding, JAP-y female types causing problems, since I’ve heard about them as well. In stark contrast, the couple of girls who handed me a rejection when I was completely convinced there was going to be another date successfully acted on this notion. I had no clue what was coming, which did make the emotional impact a little more hurtful, but that early dismissal became the only negative thing I could remember about my time spent going out with them. I think that is a significant achievement.

I hope everyone who reads this will take the notion to heart – always be on your best behavior, smile, and turn on the charm, no matter what you’re thinking. The other person, who is an emotional, feeling human being (not to mention the fact that they had the decency to go out with you in the first place) deserves to have a pleasant date. If more and more people act on this principle, perhaps we can reduce the often overbearing frustration (even if ever-so-slightly) that so many people feel on their journey to find their spouse.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Window Blinds: My Mortal Enemy

Confession time: I cannot, nor have I ever been able to, properly lower Venetian/pleated blinds on windows. EVER. I've had so many people try to teach me; my parents, other family members, roommates - all with no success.

It's so easy to have the blinds go up - just pull on the little string and away they go - bunching up at the top of the window pane.

But say you want to lower them to block the sunlight, or to prevent people from seeing in your room (for example, you need to change clothing) - how the heck are you supposed to know which of the three strings to pull/gently tug/whatever!? I'm a pretty scientific kind of guy - so I always end up experimenting to see which one will actually do the trick... but at best I am only able to make one side drop lower, and at worse I raise the blinds ever so slightly higher.

It is utterly embarrassing to have to ask my roommate to do this seemingly simple task for me - as I had done numerous times at YU. It eventually gets to the point where I feel bad for him and end up leaving them down rather than continuing to pester him. I almost feel like I'm asking someone to tie my shoes for me, since it appears to be such a simple thing to do...

Case in point - this past Shabbos, which I spent with some distant relatives. The accursed pleated blinds were not only in the guest room where I slept, they were also present in the connected bathroom. Now that's awkward.

Note to all architects/room designers who might be reading this - don't ever, ever, put a window at such a vantage point where people from the street level can see straight into a bathroom. I think this is simply common sense, but maybe not... It would be far more functional (and modest) to place such windows at about shoulder level and above (using a person of average height, maybe 5' 7" or so). With this arrangement, blessed sunlight can enter the room, but any voyeur (intentional or unintentional) will be prevented from visual trespassing.

Thankfully, I figured out how to remain out of sight, or so I hope. My hosts didn't receive any complaints from their neighbors - at least that I am aware of. That would have made for some interesting introductions at shul...

I really hope my future wife (whomever she will be) knows the secret to these blasted window blinds. If not, we're both in trouble... unless we don't have any in our future domicile.

I'm the the middle of writing a longer post, so stay tuned. I figured I'd share something a bit humorous with the readers...

Gut Voch / Shavua Tov!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Intelligence In A Shidduch Prospect

I know this issue has been discussed to death, and I would hate to be yet another blogger to plant a proverbial boot into the flank of an already abused, rotting equine carcass, but I think my perspective is a little different than most posts readers may have seen thus far. First, basically every blogger that has written about this subject has been female (that I have seen, and I could very easily be wrong, considering how many untold numbers of Jewish bloggers discussing shidduchim are out there). Second, my views on the subject of a date's intelligence are probably not typical at any rate, as are most things I think or write about. Therefore, I hope I can present a fairly unique perspective, rather than repeat points previously expressed, by people who, at any rate, probably write better than I do.

There are many things that people often prioritize when thinking about considering a potential marriage partner (see Bad for Shidduchim and A Mother in Israel). I emphatically agree with many commenters on both sites that list kindness as a top priority. I think that possessing a firm essence of kindness is especially significant since kindness is a very important "foundational trait" of sorts that many other positive attributes, such as being giving, expressing patience, and having the will to work out problems, can, and do stem from. I'll safely place kindness as the number one choice of what one should look for (both men and women).

But what about intelligence?

Everyone, to one degree or another, has some functional level of intelligence. However, is it wrong to desire a spouse (or in my case a wife) who enjoys actively participating in deeper discussions of Judaism-related topics (hashkafa, halacha, learning, etc) and/or secular matters (science, literature, etc)?

Just to clarify, even though I would personally very much like to have a wife who can hold her own in talking about some area of Judaic studies, I am not looking for a "chevrusa," as one of my rabbeim in Israel so eloquently put it. It is true that husband and wife often find some matter to study together, such as a beautiful example of a friend's parents who regularly studied the Chofetz Chaim's works on Lashon Hara together, even though the daily grind of kids running around the house can detract from such regular paired study. Even someone who has some level of exposure to Gemara study (whether minimal, or significant) doesn't worry me, but I don't anticipate spending the evenings of Shana Rishona immersed in a night-seder chevrusa in my apartment instead of in the beis medrish.

I am not frightened of the idea of even having a wife who could very well be smarter or more intelligent than I am (as in I would never be scared off like the guy from Bad for Shidduchim's story). If anything, I find a woman displaying higher levels of intelligence, or who is accomplished in her studies to be a potential source of inspiration. Rather than creating a childish competition of "who's smarter," I feel as though I would admire such a person. Instead of letting myself be complacent, and potentially backsliding over the course of my life (as in, if you don't use it, you DO lose it), I would do my very best to continue developing in Torah study and elsewhere. I also think I would shep nachas from a wife who could deliver interesting and engaging shiurim.

Upon bringing this idea up with my parents, Mom quickly replied that this shouldn't be a significant factor in evaluating a date. She basically said that the general craziness of married life and the particular unending job of raising children would preclude any possibility of ever having serious, intellectually stimulating conversation with my wife. While she would know far better than I about what it's like to deal with kids running around the house, I must respectfully disagree on her second point - I don't think one can make such a broad statement about looking for intelligence in a spouse.

Having seen examples of relatives and friends' parents who have started settling into their older years sprawled out on a couch, passively watching TV, is it wrong to want someone who would rather read a book? Reading and discussing books is a pastime long forgotten in many places in the world we live in today, and can provide very meaningful interaction and exchange of ideas. It may just be me, but I find the image of my wife and I sitting side by side reading together to be inherently more romantic than perched on a sofa, my arm around her shoulders, viewing the latest hit TV show or blockbuster movie.

I'm not trying to make an anti TV rant here. While there is indeed a glut of mind-wasting sludge out there (*cough* reality TV *cough*), there is programming worth watching as well (anyone seen episodes from the Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth" series? It's absolutely fascinating and features gorgeous footage of the incredible world we live in). My point is that preferring leisure activities/forms of entertainment that are intellectually stimulating should be a person's priority (which doesn't remove the license for a little fun on the more mindless side of things every now and then).

Intelligence is certainly attractive, and I think it is something that can make someone even more attractive than their physical features alone. Unlike what I presume most guys would choose - I would much rather have a wife who does not possess super modelesque looks and proportions (but whom I find physically attractive) and can give me a run for my money in the intellectual arena, than a woman who could easily be featured on the cover of a fashion magazine and not know who Shakespeare was.

I just feel as though there is a whole additional level of connection in the cerebral realm between husband and wife. Certainly, the physical attraction component must exist, as well as the emotional connection - the will to place the other person ahead of your own needs (IE kindness, giving, loving him/her more than yourself etc), and a level of spiritual compatibility (similar religious levels, values, hashkafic viewpoints). But the ability to engage in intellectual discourse - a sort of melding of minds - even if the particular educational perspectives are different (as they inherently will be, to some degree) seems like something worth desiring in a mate.

I agree that you can't presume your spouse will be able to fulfill every single intellectual need you have, that's what friends and rabbeim/teachers/chevrusas are for. I just don't believe that this is an area that is so easily compromised as say, an interest in a particular area of popular culture. I can live with the fact that my wife doesn't like _____ as much as I do (or at all, for that matter) - I can discuss it with my guy friends when I get the chance. But to entirely lack that deeper, brainier sort of relationship with the one woman who I'm going to share the rest of my life with, partner with to raise a family, and hopefully create a positive communal impact beyond the walls of our home, is a big issue in my mind.

Also, just to make something clear - I am not the most brilliant genius that has ever graced the YU campus (my GPA is NOT 4.0). I have plenty of friends who I will willingly recognize as making better grades and quite likely possess an IQ higher than mine. This post isn't about me being intellectually arrogant and putting down others who are not as smart as I might be. There are definitely guys and girls out there who could really care less how smart their husbands/wives are, as long as they are fun, easy to get along with, and will be a great person to help run a family. I certainly respect those who need that kind of spouse, and who they themselves are not the more intellectual type. As a commenter or two said in the above linked posts (check second paragraph), intelligence is a G-d given ability, so far be it from me to be a snob about a person's natural abilities, whatever level they are on. I merely feel that this is a level of connection that seems very essential to a successful, long-lasting relationship with my future wife. I could survive without this component, but I don't think I would be as fulfilled without it.

Maybe this is why I tend to think girls who wear glasses are more attractive than those who don't?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Time To Be Single, A Time To Wed

Note: I originally started writing this on December 28th, but was swamped by finals - and that explains the slightly dated other blog postings I make reference to.

The third chapter of Koheles is famous for its list of parallel "times" that mankind experiences in our earthly existence, and in fact starts off by declaring (in 3:1): "Everything has an appointed season; and there is a time for every matter under the heaven." Of all the parallels mentioned here, one can come to wonder why a coupled mention of "A time to be single, a time to wed" wasn't one of them. Then again, this may just be something that bothers us still single, "in the parsha" people.

A recent discussion begun by ProfK over at Conversations in Klal, and continued by bad4shidduchim really got me thinking. The issue is basically: the conflict between the desire for, or push toward marriage and how that can conflict with the fact of inexperienced youth making major decisions, and the impact this has on their educational careers and life in general.

So for what it's worth (and I will take the honest, humble road and venture to say my opinion isn't the most valuable or experienced one out there), here are my thoughts on the topic.

I definitely agree with ProfK's concerns based on her own extensive experience (being married and watching youngsters struggle with the dating/marriage process) that marriage is without a doubt a life-altering experience, which in many ways limits personal exploration and unconfined growth. Everyone needs time to figure themselves out, not only when it comes to their personal avodas HaShem (meaning hashkafa, the focus of their learning, what sort of religious community and Rav fits them best) but what their individual tachlis (essence or perhaps goal) is in life. Getting married severely limits one's ability to properly focus on oneself, in a "selfishly positive" way, to quote on of my rabbeim in Israel, and to figure out just who you are and what you're about.

Upon getting married, you're thrown into a set framework of responsibilities that continue to build - the developing relationship with your spouse; household duties; having, caring for, and raising children. The amount of free time you'll have to sit down and think, or to use ProfK's words "you cannot decide to say to hell with what I have to do today, I'm heading for a museum and enjoying myself," are far more limited than you once had. I don't think the average "fresh-back" from the year(s) in Israel can handle such immediate stricture - especially when they need to focus on adapting their newly gained, lofty perspective to the more mundane and challenging reality of being back in America. True maturity is necessary to approach such a serious decision as choosing a spouse, and the ongoing growing process that a young man/woman undergoes living on their own in college (not to knock those who live at home during this time) certainly adds a lot to one's overall perspectives. The self-exploratory process doesn't end in Israel, and some critical "freezer" time (as they say in Lakewood and elsewhere) really enhances one's views on life and what he/she wants out of marriage and his/her future.

Even so, I also empathize with what Bad4 says regarding the built-in lack of desire to get married while in college. I know with my own schedule from the past 3 semesters that I had basically no time for a real ongoing relationship, kal v'chomer being married. One person I went out with very frustrated by my inability to have lengthy phone conversations or dates at certain times because of my very busy academic schedule. But, as my parents have mentioned to me, that's simply how life works. If you can't handle the pressures coming from every direction while in college, the multitude of responsibilities and demands that build up during marriage (and don't end when that last paper is turned in for the semester) will very much overwhelm you. You have to be grateful for the time you are able to spend with your spouse, and find the small chunks of time where you can voluntarily and totally set aside everything else to focus on your him/her. I think that the inability to work within that sort of fluid framework - of being appreciative for those sometimes brief moments, and remaining intently dedicated to making sure they happen - is an indicator that one isn't quite ready for the often un-glamorous realities of married life.

But as Rav Goldvicht says at his annual dating schmooze - one shouldn't put off dating and marriage for college alone. I would add: especially as you get toward your later years in undergrad, when the class load will hopefully be a bit lighter (this is entirely based on how you pace yourself with requirements, fulfilling a major, things like pre-med/dent requirements). Specifically with regard to YU (which could be applicable elsewhere), Rav Goldvicht says that spending the first year of marriage in the yeshiva environment can be a really wonderful thing. Living in an atmosphere of Torah is inherently beneficial, and the opportunities for growth are more present than if you're already stuck in the "real world" or graduate school elsewhere.

I've had friends get married while still in undergrad, and their formerly busy academic schedules still stay ever-so-busy, but now things like class scheduling become a major consideration. No longer can you simply think about trying to load up all your classes on one or two days, staying in school until 9 PM just to have one less day of class each week; your significant other's opinion and need for time to spend with you carry major weight. The option of Friday morning class/labs are now also basically off limits - since you need to be able to help get ready for Shabbos and have the ability to go out to visit parents and in-laws, etc. Night Seder, which is often a struggle at any rate, is non-existent during Shana Rishona (and with good reason, obviously), but former chevrusas (like yours truly) get shafted in this annoying, yet necessary, and even rabbinically approved/mandated course of action.

Having said that, I know I could not have handled being married with the coursework I have had recently, there still exists an inner turmoil that attempts to balance out between being academically functional and dealing with the increasing feelings of loneliness that stem from seeing friends (both my own age, older, and even younger) getting engaged and married.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy as can be every time I hear of a new simcha among my group of friends (I tend to get injected with a new burst of positive energy with each bit of good news), and I often breathe a sigh of relief after I pull a really late night to finish some assignment without having to worry about putting unnecessary strain on a "better half," but I definitely feel like I am missing something very important in my life. At some point, the "need for freedom to work and do what I want to do" rationale simply gives way to the greater emotional tug of not having that certain other person there - a best friend better than any of my guy friends can be... Perhaps this shift in priorities is a bit different for someone who is further along in their undergraduate studies versus someone just starting out, with another two or three years ahead of them.

Looking ahead toward next year and (hopefully) grad school, I will admit that I am honestly a bit worried that I need to find that particular person before I become enmeshed in all the trials and tribulations that next step in my education will bring. So many people have mentioned to me that having someone there to support you in those often difficult situations really makes a world of a difference. Knowing that no matter what, you won't have to face these trials alone, is certainly a comforting thought.

Here's hoping this conflict doesn't last much longer... for me, or anyone else facing this dilemma.

Dating Interrupted

I think there are few dating scenarios that are as troublesome as the one I have become mired in (once again).

In short: you begin a shidduch shortly before a school vacation. You then go on one, two, maybe even three dates (although I have only encounter the one or two situation) with the person. Afterward, you are really not sure if you want to continue dating this person or not. Erring on the side of caution, and choosing to be dan l'kaf zechus, you decide that whatever it is that is bothering you warrants (at least) one more date to ascertain the truth regarding the troublesome element that you noticed on your last outing.

After figuring out your schedule to make sure you can participate in a theoretical next date, the other person informs you that they can't make it on that day, for whatever reason. Now you're stuck heading into a break of a week or two, which mandates some sort of continued phone contact to be polite - even though you really aren't so keen about talking to the person. It seems disingenuous to feign interest like that.

However, the frustration that is simmering could very well simply come from the fact that my plans have gone awry. Namely, I was expecting to have my concerns confirmed, turn down a fourth date, and use my vacation to hear about all the suggestions that I'm being bombarded with from all directions.

My concerns regarding this shidduch are not negative things about the prospect per se (as in she might be a serial killer, or an illegal arms smuggler or whatever) it's just a sense of general disconnect and being on two different planes of existence (I may write another, more detailed post about this in the near future). I just strongly suspect she falls into the category of being a great person, but not for me.

I even got the impression from her during/at the end of our second date that she wasn't really interesting in pursuing things further, so I was caught a bit off guard when the shadchan told me she was "in" for a third date.

So here I sit, basically stuck. Unable to use my free time to research any of the suggestions given to me, because I very firmly believe in focusing on only one active shidduch at a time. On top of that, I am forced to make phone conversation (which I have never been good at - speaking in person is so much easier and more effective) that will have nothing to really do with our immediate future related to dating. I thought about weaving the issues I have into the upcoming phone call(s), but even if my suspicions are confirmed - there is nothing I can do (without resorting to strange reasons to get out of another date and not look like an absolute jerk).

I feel very conflicted... Am I perhaps overreacting a bit (or a lot)?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sorry For the Delay... In The Meantime...

Finals caught up with me this week, and despite the fact that I actually started writing two posts, I never completed or published either. My apologies. I'm officially on break as of tomorrow (huzzah!) so I will hopefully be adding more content soon (and hopefully a good bit of content at that).

Meanwhile, enjoy this hilarious video that some friends here at YU made: