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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776
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Does It Bother You when your Kid Comes Home Feeling like Junk?

Response to Rabbi Wallerstein's Agudah convention speech.

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Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein

The standard for weddings was set by whomever it was and then a whole bunch of other people followed until it became that if you don’t follow the last guy, you are not living up to the standard. What’s the point of living up to the standard? Besides keeping up with the other guy, NOTHING. What you gain is you’re still in the game. You just passed the latest hurdle of let’s say making a chasuna and you’re still part of the club because you borrowed enough money to live up to the standard of some wealthy person who set it. Someone set the standard for shidduchim that the guy or girl and their family have to be perfect and in order to stay in the system and stick to that standard, we have to lie and deceive everyone.

So why aren’t we changing it? I think that there is a tremendous fear of not fitting in. No one wants to be that first guy to change things. No one wants to be the second guy either because that also takes too much guts. Once two do it, it gives permission for more to follow because there’s now a new system that you can belong to without being considered weird. There is of course a fear of any change but I think people are cracking and feeling the effects so strongly of not changing, that they are ready to change. It’s more the fear of not belonging and being looked down upon and all the fears that come along with that like not getting shidduchim…

What needs to be done? A good start would be for everyone to put pressure on the powerful Rabbanim, leaders and educators to get together and decide all together that they will all make certain changes all together at the same time. The only way schools will be willing to change is if other schools also change at the same time. I can’t describe the feeling of relief the educators would feel if they could actually make the changes they believe in. Once schools change, the standard will be different and all the other schools will follow. If they don’t follow, they will or could be looked at as the school that oppresses children. An example of change in the school system would be to have shorter days. Another example would be to not make girls learn and memorize every Rashi and Ramban on Chumash. Weddings have been changing a bit but still have many standards that make people spend way more than they can afford. Some people and I would say especially wealthier people have to start making more simple weddings and that would give permission to everyone else to not have to make a fancy weddings.

A simpler wedding could be just a shmorg after the chuppah without having to do the shmorg and then a meal right afterwards. We don’t need new benchers at every wedding either. If someone wants a souvenir from the wedding, they can save the invitation. If it is all built on living up to a certain standard (not a Torah one in any sense) and being part of the club and fitting in, then all people need is permission to follow a different standard and they will jump on it faster that we can blink. Who wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to not have to borrow money they don’t have and have no idea how they will pay it back? On a personal note, when we were making our first bar mitzvah, we were thinking about the invitations we had to order. We asked ourselves one question. Why would we pay for invitations if it is way easier, way more efficient and FREE if we used evite.com? Our answer was the only reason we would do it is because everyone else is doing it. So we decided that that was a ridiculous reason and went with evite.com for free. Guess what? Everyone loved it and no one cared that they didn’t receive a paper invitation that they would throw out after putting the date and time into the calendar.

This is why it’s a big deal to everyone when Rabbi Wallerstein decides to be straight about the situation. It’s because he is doing what everyone is scared of. He’s saying things that could put him out of the system and standard and we are all petrified of that. It gets us uncomfortable and nervous that maybe if there is change, we ourselves may then be out of the system. I don’t think it’s because we are all shocked by the content he shared. We all know it because we all have to deal with this every day with ourselves and our children.

Bezalel Perlman

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