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Stupidity

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While recently riding on a private local bus, I couldn’t help but overhear two elderly, balbatish ladies talking. What caught my undivided attention, however, was the pride in one woman’s tone as she announced that she and her husband would boycott their granddaughter’s wedding because they did not approve of the young man.

Apparently, the young bochur did not meet the grandmother’s stamp of approval even though, from what she described – he seemed like a rather acceptable fellow. He was in college, pursuing a graduate degree, working part-time and had attended a modern Yeshiva. His parents were first generation Americans and spoke with accents. These facts of his life – as far as she was concerned – placed him on the “wrong side of the tracks.” Simply put – he was not good enough for her granddaughter.

She insisted that she deserved at the very least a boy who was Rosh Yeshiva material, one who had graduated from a “yichusdik” yeshiva, and who would make learning his priority. Such a grandson-in-law she could be proud of – not some “modern” college boy whose parents were unknown outside their immigrant community.

“Bubbi” had given her grandchild the ultimatum – either break up with the boy ? or she would not attend the wedding.

It took all my self-restraint to avoid shaking this pitifully narrow minded lady who actually felt that she had her grandchild’s “best interests at heart.”

What she was truly looking for was in-laws who would impress her chevra.

I fervently prayed that the girl in question would have the gumption to stick to her convictions and remain loyal to the young man and go ahead with the wedding.

There are many stories that have crossed my path similar to this one, where close relatives put undeserved pressure on a young person to pick between them and their zivug. The excuses are superficial and often based on snobbery or a desire to maintain control over an adult child.

In the former scenario, a potential spouse is rejected because of pettiness and sinat chinam: the boy/girl is from a different culture (Sephardi or Ashkenazi, Chassidish or Litvish); wants to learn/or wants to earn; is too frum/not frum enough; comes from a ba’al teshuva family, or from the wrong community in Europe. The excuses are endless, and for the most part, without real merit. And worst of all – this pressure causes so much discord, aggravation, and anguish at a time that should be joyous and full of appreciation to the Ribono Shel Olam.

To the grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts and close family members who insist “him/her or us” – I say shame on you!

I personally have been to so many weddings, including two of my own, where the mothers and/or fathers of the chossen or kallah are newly minted adult orphans, having lost a beloved parent or both in recent years. Day to day life has become bearable, but Yomim Tovim and simchas are still challenging emotionally.

As we marched our children to the chuppah, most of us valiantly but unsuccessfully tried not to cry, but tears of supreme joy spilled down our cheeks, alternating with tears of supreme grief because our mothers/fathers could not physically share in this ultimate moment of nachas in our families.

To have been able to embrace and be embraced by our parents as the glass was broken and the young couple excitedly emerged for the first time to build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael would have been the crowning moment in our lives and theirs. This is especially true for elderly Holocaust survivors. Witnessing their grandchildren getting married, many named after their own murdered mothers and fathers and siblings – would be the superlative validation of their survival and the rebuilding of the fragile family tree.

I personally know of grandparents who have been blessed with the health and years to participate in the simcha of their oldest grandchild. They have declared their “principled” intention of not attending her wedding if she doesn’t break off the engagement because they “don’t approve” of the groom.

Instead of thanking the Creator for His benevolence in granting them life and allowing them to reach this tremendous milestone in their lives – of seeing bnei banim – children of children – getting married and establishing a new home – they willfully and self-righteously turn their backs on this merciful gift from Hashem.

It makes me wonder who to pity more: the grandmother, or her granddaughter. 

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