Last week’s column evoked tremendous response. Many men contacted me expressing interest in meeting the young lady. I will be more than happy to follow-up. However, it’s my policy to make shidduch recommendations only after I meet the candidates. So to all those who wrote, may I suggest you call our office for an appointment?
The e-mails from women far exceeded those of the men. This letter touched a sensitive nerve in many hearts. They all echoed the same refrain, “Me too! I find myself in the same boat…I too would like to get married, but the years seem to have passed me by.”
Most of the women were in their late 30s, early 40s. They had all invested many good years in relationships that they hoped would lead them to the marriage canopy, but it proved to be futile. Having sacrificed their best childbearing years, they felt cheated.
Why has that short walk down the aisle become such a long arduous trek for so many? The woman who wrote had everything going for her – attractive, successful, and fun-loving. Why was she having such a difficult time? Why did marriage elude her?
Firstly, I feel compelled to comment on the general tone of her letter. In describing her family’s Jewish ties, the woman wrote that they attended High Holy Day services; she and her siblings were confirmed and had visited Israel. She went on to write that her older brother was intermarried and had no intention of asking his wife to convert. Her younger brother was dating mostly gentile girls. Her parents would have preferred they marry Jewish, but would never think of interfering with the “happiness” of their children. My response:
My Dear Friend:
I could almost dub the portrayal of your family’s Jewish life, “The American Jewish Tragedy,” compounded by the sad fact that the protagonists aren’t aware that they are choreographing a tragedy. Please do not take this as condemnation, but as I said, I feel compelled to comment on the sad reality you described.
You, as well as many others, are what our tradition refers to as “tinokot she’naflu b’shevi” – innocent Jewish souls who were never given a true Jewish education compared to infants who were kidnapped and weren’t privileged to know their real parents. Such individuals have no way of gauging what they are missing or have lost.
Similarly, Jews who grew up devoid of Torah, never tapped the vast treasures buried in its every word and letter, who were never nurtured by the Torah’s life- sustaining milk, have no way of comprehending their deprivation.
So it is that you, your family, and so many others are under the impression that making token gestures to Judaism is all there is to our faith. Judaism is not comprised of a superficial confirmation class, a token visit to a temple on the High Holy Days, or touring Israel.
We are the nation that stood at Sinai and sealed an eternal covenant with Almighty G-d. Not only is Torah our legacy, but our very life. Without Torah we cease to exist and are quickly swallowed up in the melting pot of the nations. Intermarriage is the death-knell of our people, leaving no memory in its wake, not even a Kaddish.
I realize that your parents would have preferred that your brother marry Jewish; nevertheless, they accepted a gentile wife for him and are prepared to do the same for your younger sibling, because “they don’t want to stand in the way of their children’s happiness.”
Never mind that your brothers will be the last Jewish males to carry your family name, thousands of years of Jewish life will come to an end in them, and that which Hitler, yemach shemo, could not do through gas chambers, they are willingly, if unknowingly, doing to themselves – and it’s all justified under the guise of “happiness.”
If someone claims that he feels “happy” taking drugs, would anyone sane accept that rationale? Wouldn’t we warn the person that he is on the path to self-destruction? Similarly, if someone obliterates his Jewish past, shouldn’t we warn him that he is committing spiritual suicide?
During the High Holy Days, we wish one another a Happy New Year but, such a greeting doesn’t exist in Hebrew. The expression is “Shanah Tovah” – “Have a good year,” or “Kesivah V’Chasimah Tovah” – “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year” – the emphasis on goodness rather than happiness – and there is a world of difference between these two words. Good is based upon responsibility, giving and sacrifice – taking the harder, more difficult path over the easy, attractive one.
Happiness, on the other hand, is a shallow pursuit that blurs all absolutes. It is rooted in self-gratification and satisfying passion, irrespective of the harm it inflicts on others. This pursuit of happiness is at the root of many of the ills that plague us. Shattered families, broken homes and drugs, can all be traced to it and people wake up too late and discover that chasing happiness is like chasing a butterfly, which flies away as soon as it rests on your shoulder. Genuine happiness can only be realized through goodness, through doing that which is right, moral, and decent.
Jewish opposition to intermarriage is not a matter of racism or prejudice. In order for the Jewish people to continue, and for children to be born Jewish, they must have Jewish mothers – it’s that simple. We are a minuscule minority in the world. In America the intermarriage rate ranges from 50-70 percent. In some European countries, it is as high as 90 percent. During the past 60 years, there has been no Jewish population growth in the U.S. If anything, our number has diminished, and not because there was a Hitler here who, G-d forbid, took us to the gas chambers.
Tragically, we built our own spiritual gas chambers that snuffed Jewish life out of our people. That is why I dubbed your story, “The American Jewish Tragedy.” There can be no bigger tragedy than to live in a free society in which you can live as a Jew, and yet choose not to, thereby underwriting your own demise.
Again, I apologize if you find these words hurtful. G-d forbid – that is not my intention. I would never want to cause anyone pain, but in all good conscience, I couldn’t allow your statements to pass without comment. Perhaps someone who reads these words will re-think his vacuous Jewish life, search out his heritage and discover G-d’s holy words that were engraved upon his soul at Sinai.
As for the personal dilemma that prompted you to write and ask why you can’t get married; after years of serious relationships, the guys just don’t propose? I will discuss that, Please G-d, in next week’s column.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis