To no one’s surprise, families are going through trying times as singles anxiously await their life partners. This column has heard from suffering mothers whose hearts ache as they watch their children rejected and dejected, singles/parents experiencing difficulties out of the norm, and well intentioned “as I see it” criticizers.
Last week’s column featured an eye-opening letter from an exasperated single, who – in her early 30s – is keenly conscious of the clock that ticks in sync with her diminishing procreative capacity.
So powerful is her nurturing instinct and so strong her desire for family life that she has opted to widen the parameters of her shidduch guidelines and is dating a man who she describes as kind, generous, smart, funny, honest, serious and mature − but not observant.
Only one who walks in your shoes can claim to feel your pain. And how exhilarating it must be to have the company of a man with such a winning combination of attributes! Your own intelligence and crisp clarity of mind are discernable in your methodical articulation of your dilemma.
Yet, while laying out your case in favor of forging ahead in “new” territory, you concede that doing so may come at a high cost to your principles, as you will be compromising the mores of the belief system that has been your guiding compass from childhood on.
Your inner struggle is apparent. “I am not oblivious to the consequences,” you state outright. You furthermore are “taking the risks quite seriously” and admit that the pros on your list do not outweigh the cons. You speak of the strong probability that you will not delight in Shabbos zemiros or Torah discussions at your table and the likelihood that you will be making concessions on halachos. These unsettling thoughts have you crying out at intervals in your letter – “What do I do?” “What more can I consider right now?” “But what am I to do?”
Your uneasiness is justified. You yourself don’t put much stock in your friend’s lukewarm aspiration to be religious “when he is married; however not at this point in time.” Let us examine the stark reality up-close: When you date, you pick the site, you choose the time and the activity, and when the day is done you both retreat to your respective abodes, to your own individual lives and agendas.
Life together, on the other hand, is altogether a different story. Once the honeymoon phase wanes, there is only so far you will go before coming to a fork in the road. How many rifts will it take before you realize that love doesn’t conquer all? How many “compromises” will you make before your admiration for your beau’s brains, generosity and maturity begins to dwindle?
Whom will your children emulate as their role model? Whom will your son look up to, lean on and learn from (and with)? How long before your own enthusiasm for your religion and rich heritage begins to wither; before the fabric of your culture will start to unravel? And if you will manage to keep strong and hold on to the practice of your faith, how long before your respect for your life-partner gives way to frustration and resentment of a spouse who does not share your value system?
Then again, there is a possibility that it may work out. Perhaps if he were faced with the real prospect of losing you, the holy spark within his soul would awaken him to earnestly commit to a religious way of life. (If he has had an upbringing in such a setting, this would increase the chance of his coming around.)
Otherwise, you must ask yourself whether you are ready and willing to chance jeopardizing the lives of innocents who will be born totally reliant on you, whose neshamos will come into the world with the natural expectation to be nurtured, taught and primed by their parents in the ways of Toras Hashem.
As an adult you have the right to choose, to decide how to live your life. However, there is something not quite right – amoral, in fact – in knowingly endangering the sacredness of innocents whose charge you will be entrusted with.
You claim to be G-d-fearing, religious and serious. Surely, then, you take your religion seriously. You feel that matchmakers are not as concerned with you (older singles) as with the younger generation. Do you mean to say that you have actually entertained the thought that your Maker, the Arbiter of all matchmakers, is less interested in you than in the younger generation? Believe purely and simply that nothing is beyond His capability; beseech Him purely and simply to guide you in the right direction; rely on Him whole- heartedly to lead you where you were meant to go and He will relieve you of the enormous burden of uncertainty.
If all your friend can offer is a “maybe one day I’ll think about becoming observant,” your projection as to how your future with him will play out may prove prophetic. Notwithstanding that the choice is yours to make, be forewarned that the consequences of that choice will be with you a lifetime − and the hands of the clock cannot ever be turned back.
If it is children you yearn for, consider the option of becoming a foster or adoptive parent to a child who has already been brought into the world but has been shortchanged and is in desperate need of a mother’s love and nurturing. The satisfaction and benefits of such an arrangement can be vastly fulfilling.
On behalf of our communities everywhere: We applaud your achievements, admire your resilience, and appreciate the contributions you selflessly endow us with. May you continue to enhance the quality of the lives that you touch and merit to do so with your zivug at your side − as you go on to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.Rachel