In my previous column, I noted that the typical response to a tragedy in the heimishe community is a call for teshuvah. Almost always, the two “culprits” singled out for the cause of our misfortunes and in most need of repair are shmiras halashon and a lack of tznuit. I stated my belief that these are just two of the many components of a more insidious behavior that is pandemic in our community – that being the wanton, often deliberate action of misleading and fooling people into doing things that ultimately are detrimental and even ruinous to them.
I pointed out that in Sefer Vayikra, 19:14, we are exhorted to not curse the deaf or “put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your G-d.” Rashi interprets the word “blind” as being metaphoric, not to be taken literally. Blind can be read as unsuspecting, ignorant, naive, gullible, unwary or trusting.
Two huge areas in our lives where it is tragically commonplace for “stumbling blocks” to be deliberately and willfully put in front of unsuspecting individuals are in regards to money and shidduchim.
My previous column described the all too frequent situation where trusting people fall prey to what I called a “gelt uber alles” (money above all) mentality that turns seemingly erliche Jews into predators.
This week I will focus on the many “blind” shattered souls whose dream it was to build a bayit ne’eman b’yizrael – but instead ended up trapped in a nightmarish house of horrors, due to the stumbling blocks put in their path by “Torahdik” individuals.
Over the years, I have met many divorced men and women who are what I call the “walking wounded.” Some were married for a few brief months, even weeks; others for years, but all had suffered tremendously because of whom they had married. Many have been so deeply scarred and traumatized by the mental and/or physical abuse they endured that they are too afraid of getting married again, and prefer to remain single, even though they are still so young.
For them, the absence of pain is pleasure.
They are terrified to “arein fahlen” again. Arein fahlen is a term that refers to what happens to someone when they are fooled into doing something that is injurious to them, be it physically, mentally, financially, etc. These miskaynim (hapless souls) were misled, lied to, bamboozled, had the wool pulled over their eyes – in other words, a stumbling block was put in front of them, and the price they paid – and are still paying – has been soul-shattering.
Had certain vital information not been withheld from them and their parents; had the shadchanim and the references they spoke to – whether professional matchmakers or rabbeim, friends, neighbors, colleagues, relatives, etc. – been up front about certain character traits or personality quirks, these young individuals might have made different choices, possibly life-saving ones at that.
But for a variety of reasons, whether for financial gain; fame (I made so and so’s shidduch) desperation (she is getting older); plain misguided good intentions ( it would be such a mitzvah to get him/her married); misplaced optimism (he’ll change once he’s married ) or plain stupidity (I didn’t think it was important to mention) – crucial facts were not shared, and young men, women and their families put their trust in those who at the end of the day were not at all trustworthy and jumped happily and blindly into a bottomless pit of misery.
Readers of The Jewish Press Magazine section, as well as its health related supplements, cannot help but be aware of the plethora of personality disorders, (many of them not readily obvious) developmental problems, and physical and mental health issues that afflict the human race.
Some of these include borderline personality; obsessive compulsiveness; addictive behaviors (such as gambling or looking at pornography); hyperactivity; depression; Asperger’s; same gender attraction; low self-esteem, etc. Some are relatively “fixable” through medication and behavior modification therapy (a chronically critical or angry person can learn to control his negative reactions), others are not and require life-long major intervention and treatments.
That is not to say individuals with these problems should not be set up on dates with the goal of getting married. Many are fine young woman and men who with patience, support, hard work and determination can be wonderful spouses and parents. But the person they are being set up with should know all the facts, so he or she can make an informed choice.
Unfortunately, this is not always what happens and there are married people (not everyone has the option of getting divorced) who have been going through gihenom, living with people who are impossible to live with.
Even worse, their children have been raised in an extremely unhealthy family, and are damaged emotionally and mentally by what they have been exposed to. In addition, they may have inherited the mental illness afflicting the dysfunctional parent. Thus their “normal” parent not only has to deal with a very difficult spouse, but with children who are very damaged as well.
Before you knowingly set someone up with one whom you know isn’t what (s)he appears to be (his taking 15 minutes to wash nagel vasser is not a reflection of his piety but rather is due to his obsessive compulsive disorder) ask yourself – would you want this shidduch for your child?