Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Que Sera Sera

"Don't you ever wonder," she asked, "if all the good guys are taken?" 

She's not a frum Jew; heck, she's not even Jewish. So I remember to start from the beginning. 

"Firstly, Natasha, it's not like I went out with such nice guys when I was younger; the ratio of 'nice' to 'not nice' guys hasn't significantly increased over time. Secondly, I'm a Jew. I'm a religious Jew. You know what that means? That means I believe in God.

"We have all sorts of paperwork backing up the belief that God arranges matches, that everything is bashert." I'm hoping she remembers what "bashert" means. "So either I believe in God, or I don't. To say that the 'good guys are all taken' means that I'm saying there is no God. Why should I bother with being religious? I might as well go out and eat a cheeseburger."

As with all the other arguments vis-à-vis the so-called "shidduch crisis" (ugh, just typing the term gives me the willies): 

Impossible mothers of boys? Yes, they do exist, but quite frankly I don't think they are so difficult for God to outmaneuver. What is bashert will be bashert.

References that throw their charges under the bus? I can't control what other people say. I can only control what I say. What is bashert will be bashert. 

Age-gap claptrap? As Orthonomics once said, if there is suddenly now a "crisis" (urgle) then it would have to arise from a new factor, and men have been marrying younger women for thousands of years. What is bashert will be bashert.

When my grandparents went through the Holocaust (CRISIS!), I'm sure the last thing on their minds was "How will this affect shidduchim?" After the war, the survivors tended to marry swiftly in less-than-ideal conditions, as a means to recapture that predictable normalcy that had been robbed them, not because of the six million, now in ash, that had to be restored. But even so, our decimated numbers were rebuilt, and more, in a staggeringly short amount of time.

The Holocaust (CRISIS!) didn't end because of something Jews did. We were liberated by outsiders, not from our own attempts to fight back. I think, today, in our zealousness to prove that we will not be butchered again, we insist we have control over that which we don't. 

I can't control who is redt to me. I can't control who I meet, no matter how many singles events I attend or shadchanim I visit or how many simchas I get invited to. I can't control if a guy will like me that way or not.

Dr. Oz once featured Wyatt Webb, a therapist (there are a few videos in a row). His message comes down to this: You are not in control of anything. Yes, you have choice (bechira), but that is not control. On his list of methods to deal with acceptance of lack of control, number three is: 

Examine your own belief system and not others'. 

That goes even if the person next to you is a fellow Jew. Yes, we are all Jews, but we all stand on varying levels of emunah and bitachon. When I feel stuck or accused or frustrated, I remind myself: What is bashert will be bashert. Whatever anyone else tells me. Yes, I have bechira, but I can't control the outcome.  
Penina lost her children because she acted as though Chana had the control to end her barrenness. None of us have control. We have free will. I think that's enough.    


Daniel Saunders said...

For years I was bothered by various questions about the notion of bashert. Then I saw other interpretations of the gemarah from which the whole idea of one's bashert springs (see here) . I'm not saying your interpretation, which seems to be the most common, isn't valid, just that it's not the only one and it doesn't work for me. As you say, I should examine my beliefs, not yours.

But because of this I spent ages worrying that, because of my mental health issues preventing me from dating (I'm 31, have dated a bit, but am currently not planning on doing so again for a while, until I feel psychologically ready), and because of various other reasons, I was going to 'miss' all the women who might be right for me. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I have to trust that whatever happens, whether I marry or not, is right for me, as decided by G-d. However, feeling that emotionally is difficult.

What I'm trying to say is that I get strength from your attitude, even if I can't believe in all the details. It is reassuring that someone else can face the same situation with such bitachon.

Princess Lea said...

To clarify, when I say "bashert," I don't necessarily mean "my one and only soulmate." I never was a romantic; I never figured that of the 7 million Jewish males on earth, I could make a happy life with only ONE of them.

"Bashert" also has other connotations. It's where hishtadlus ends that bashert begins. As a Jew, I can work on myself to become better; as an eligible, I have to slap on some lipstick and be willing to go out with a number of suggestions. Everything else is out of my hands. Who, how, when, where, and especially why is not in my purview; that is bashert.

I truly believe that it is vital to be in the right mental state to consider marriage. Ma and I were just talking about this:

Her parents had been married to other people before the war. They returned back to the same hometown in 1945; they didn't marry until 1948. This was a pretty small community post-war, mind you.

My Babi was in her late 20s; Zeidy in his late 30s.

Ma and I were thinking that the ones who where more emotionally scarred during the war were the younger ones, the ones in their teens. They tended to marry VERY quickly after the war, maybe following a few, if not one, meeting. They wanted to reclaim security, fast.

But my maternal grandparents were in no such rush, perhaps because they were older. Babi didn't have a problem talking about the war, unlike other survivors. (Zeidy never talked, in general, so he isn't a raayeh.)

But my point (from this convoluted example) is that there should be no generalities when it comes to dating, especially if the individual is trying to make a responsible, mature choice. Doing so will often have him at odds with communal expectations, and comments will have to be fended off. Constantly.

Once, in the alteh heim, marrying was not possible until a man managed to establish himself in a business. It would be impossible to support a family otherwise. Who knows how many years that could take?

I certainly believe that, today, too many of us are thrown into the dating world too young, not knowing what our values are, what we truly want to do with our lives, without any taste of the work it will be.

I applaud you, for looking round the bend and being responsible, ensuring that you are truly ready for marriage.

Daniel Saunders said...

I applaud you, for looking round the bend and being responsible, ensuring that you are truly ready for marriage.

Thank you for this. It can be hard to be sure I've made the right decision, as more and more of my frum and even non-frum friends and peers get married and have children, so this means a lot.

What you say about your grandparents is very interesting. None of my grandparents were in the Holocaust (all born in the UK), yet while my paternal grandparents married in their mid-twenties, my maternal grandparents were nearly a decade older when they married. Both couples had long and happy marriages. There are indeed no rules here.

Incidentally, a few months ago I started mussar regular practise, focusing on improving one middah a week in rotation and this week's middah is... bitachon! As if to prove that there are no coincidences...

Princess Lea said...

That mussar practice sounds great! Is there an program in place, or a sefer you are following?

There really are no coincidences.

Daniel Saunders said...

I'm mostly following a book, occasionally adapting it to suit my own need): Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Morinis. (The ISBN is 9781590306093, but you should be able to find it without it.)

Princess Lea said...

Got it bookmarked on Amazon!