Your letter (Chronicles 12-5-08) touched many hearts, though I suspect that most readers will not take the time to write to a column. I too admit to having had the urge to write this letter ever since I read yours, and yet it is now weeks later
Though your letter no doubt moved even readers who cannot per se identify with you, no one can feel with you more than one who has walked in your shoes and literally experienced your hardship. It is from such a vantage point that I write to share my personal feelings vis-à-vis your particular dilemma.
Like you, I missed no opportunity to obtain a rebbe’s brachah, to recite Shir HaShirim for 40 consecutive days endlessly, and to give generously to the cause of hachanassas kallah, etc., etc.
When I completed my year in seminary overseas, I came home with great expectations, fully confident that I would soon meet my basherte and settle down to live and love happily ever after.
Well, like they say, man proposes and G-d disposes – He sure had other plans for me. Baruch Hashem that I was blessed with a healthy sense of optimism and have always had the tendency of seeing my cup as half full rather than half empty. And yet, had anyone foretold that it would be another 11 years before I’d find my zivug, I’d have probably lost some of that cheerfulness and bemoaned the long wait. (I guess this is one reason we are not given the wherewithal to see what lies ahead…)
Like you, I made the best of my single years. Thankfully I had no pressure from my parents (from whom I must have inherited my optimistic gene) – we all had no doubt that when the time was right “he” would show. And so none of us ever lost any sleep over the “delay.”
Meanwhile, with the passing years, I grew, matured and primed myself for the future by observing other young couples and their struggles. And with time, I altered my outlook.
By now you may be wondering how all this relates to your dilemma of having met a wonderful, amiable man who is not on the same level as you in Yiddishkeit. You express your fear of aging – not in an aesthetic way but as a valid concern of leaving your fertile years behind. I quote you: “What happens if we wait to the point where we are not capable of having children? I am not going to take that chance.”
I recall another part of your letter, where you say, “I have cultivated myself to be a consciously religious, G-d fearing and loving woman….”
I feel with you. When I first started out, it was with a dogged determination to marry a “learning boy.” And there were plenty out there ready to commit – none, though, to whom I felt even the slightest connection. It was somewhat frustrating, I will grant, but gradually, like I said before, I altered my outlook. (New perspectives develop with time; for instance, what may present itself as desirable and feasible at 19 or 20 can be viewed as totally impractical at a later age.)
Progressively, I widened my horizons to the point of deciding that my zivug might emerge from where I may least expect him to, and so I listened to all suggestions made by friends, acquaintances, relatives or matchmakers. One never knows… I would tell myself. However, character and religion were essential components that I was not going to compromise on – he still had to be a ba’al middos and sincerely frum.
When the call came with the real thing (unbeknownst to me at the time), I almost turned it down because it didn’t “sound” viable. But I reminded myself of my resolve and yielded to the shadchan’s pleas. And, like they say, when you least expect it….
My advice to you, dear friend, is to widen your horizons – without compromising your religious convictions. If you had Modern Orthodox in mind, consider dating someone more to the right. If you’re set on Sefard, take a chance on Ashkenaz. If black hat’s your thing, think kippah serugah, or vice-versa. It’s what’s inside that counts, and religion is very much a part of a person’s “inside.” Regardless of well-meaning advice that may be coming your way, not adhering to Hashem’s commandments is a weakness, a failing and a lack of spiritual backbone. Our religion is the mainstay of our lives.
Remember your own words: “I have cultivated myself to be a consciously religious, G-d fearing and loving woman….”
Be true to yourself…
There is not much to add to your sensible, meaningful and powerful message, which will hopefully register with the many who find themselves at the same crossroads, whether in their 20s, 30s, or 40s.
A maggid once made the following observation regarding one of the blessings recited under the chupa – …k’samechacha yetzircha b’Gan Eden mikedem – Let the loving couple be very happy, just as You made Your creation happy in the Garden of Eden, so long ago:
Almost every chassan and kallah have had other shidduchim proposed before the real one came along. If they are captivated by one another, they quickly forget all their past experiences. But if their attraction to one another leaves something to be desired, they may be prone to regret having missed out on a previously suggested shidduch.
Adam and Chava – having no precedent, no past, no previous anything – were thrilled with each other’s zivug. Therefore the new husband and wife are wished happiness, just like Adam and Chava’s – who had no prior shidduch history except for their significant other!
May all singles presently in search of their mates soon find that special kind of happiness and bonding that will render their past dating experiences but a fleeting memory of bygone days.
Thank you for caring enough to take the time to share.