In my previous column, I pointed out the need to educate teenage students in critical life skills. Lessons that were crucial included basic first aid, self-defense, how to change a tire, and knowing the necessary supplies for trips that could make the difference between surviving an unplanned mishap.
In addition, I strongly suggested that at least 45 minutes of sports, or phys ed should be set aside several days a week, if not daily. There is an unfortunate mindset that time taken away from learning is bittul zman Torah. Actually, the opposite is true. This generation of children has a shorter attention span than that of their predecessors. Exercise will enhance their ability to absorb their lessons. Exercise enhances circulation, wakes people up and builds up muscles, lung capacity and boosts the immune system. Sadly, many in our community succumbed to Covid-19 because they were in poor physical shape. Habits launched in childhood will likely continue well into middle age and possibly lead to arichut yumim.
I also mentioned the need to teach kids money management and fiscal responsibility. The shalom bayis of many households has been seriously undermined due to the extreme stress caused by mounting debt and the inability to get out of it. It’s like standing in quicksand, constantly sinking deeper.
The bottom line is – don’t spend money you don’t have – unless it’s absolutely necessary. There is a world of difference between a need and a want. If anything, one of the great benefits of living a Torah-based life is that we are taught from a young age, self-discipline, patience and postponing instant gratification. A child knows he can’t have ice cream for hours if he ate meat. Remarkably, heavy smokers have the ability to refrain from smoking for 25 hours.
We should use these invaluable lessons of self-restraint when it comes to spending money on items that we don’t truly need.
Young adults should be taught – before they enter the shidduch parsha – how to recognize the character traits that might be problematic.
I’m not talking about very obvious “red flags,” but what I’d call “burnt orange” ones, where the person isn’t personality disordered, but rather immature, selfish or inconsiderate.
For example, if the boy often shows up late, or if she usually is not ready within 15 minutes of pickup time, one has to assess if this trait is something they can live with. Chronic lateness due to poor time management would be an orange flag, but one that is “acceptable” for some, and too annoying for others.
Years ago, a friend’s son was starting a medical internship. Now that he was going to earn a salary, albeit a relatively modest one, he was ready to date. He quickly was set up with a “catch” – she was very attractive; had gone to the right schools, came from a” good” family, and was considered bright and fun.
And she was.
However, when he took her to a restaurant, with a positive first impression of her, she proceeded to order soup, salad, side dishes and steak. He would have been okay with her order, except for the fact that she took a few sips of the soup, a few forkfuls of the salad, a taste of the side dishes and a few bites of the steak.
As the grandchild of Holocaust survivors who was taught to never waste food, he was disturbed by her refusal to finish a course, and order the next one, and then the next one.
And he was more disturbed that she felt so comfortable wasting his money.
Had she eaten most of what she ordered, he likely would have been impressed by her appetite – and her metabolism – but he decided that she was inconsiderate and immature. He wondered if she would be a bottomless pit of spending, and he would have to work overtime if they married. The shadchan no doubt was shocked that her prize shidduch did not receive a second date.
Likewise, a trait a girl should notice on a date is if he is a poor tipper – when she knows he could do better. It can also be an unfortunate chillul Hashem if the wait-staff is not Jewish. Also, both the girl and boy should observe how the other addresses the servers. If he/she is over critical or haughty, it can make one wonder if he/she will treat a spouse or employees in the same way.
There are subtle signs of a potentially problematic person. I have often said, people should marry people with compatible meshugasim. If both are cheap, or always late, no problem. One has to know their tolerance level.
In her October 31 column, Rachel Bluth answered a letter she received from a troubled newlywed. She was shocked to discover when she returned from seminary, that four married acquaintances a couple of grades ahead of her had gotten divorced. Months into her marriage, she too was considering ending it.
I keep on hearing of divorces happening within a year or two often with a baby in tow. It’s not unusual to hear that “nice families” have two children who are divorced.
Divorce should be like an amputation – a necessary, drastic removal of a toxic body part, in order to save the whole person. Perhaps, similar to teaching physical life-saving techniques, and preventing bad situations, young adults should be taught to recognize personality flaws that can, like a small cancer, grow into a “tumor” that has to be removed.