I ’m 20 years old and I went out with my first boy three months ago. We went out four times and really connected. At first I was concerned that he was frummer than me, but then I came to appreciate that by knowing him, I’d only grow in Yiddishkeit.
Although we knew he wasn’t the biggest illuy in yeshivah, I got the feeling that he took his learning seriously and did the best he could. After the fourth date, my father found out that he is weak in learning, has a hard time grasping Gemara, and probably won’t learn more than two years.
My father works, and I’d like my husband to eventually do the same. I’m machshiv learning, but I know that once we need parnassah, I want my husband to work — while keeping learning his top priority.
My parents felt that since this boy is weak in learning I won’t be able to respect him. And since learning is so hard for him, he probably doesn’t get any real enjoyment from it. My father s decided to put the shidduch on hold.
I did my best to accept the decision, but it’s been three months, and I’m constantly thinking about how much I’ve grown since I’ve known him, and how much more I would if we were to marry.
I have two questions:
1) My passion for learning is new; until seminary I felt nothing toward learning. I’m so confused. I admire the ideal, but the idea of my husband learning for more than three years scares me. So, does it really bother me if a boy lacks the burn to learn? I very much respect the fact that he continues to push even though learning is hard for him. Can that be enough? But will I be able to respect him if he can’t learn Gemara with our children?
2) If I can’t respect him, and this is over, how can I get him out of my mind?
Nothing anyone has told me changes the way I feel. I know why I’m saying no but I don’t feel happy with the decision.
Can’t Move On
Dear Can’t Move On,
Let’s start with your feelings about learning. Once you sort out your own commitment to learning, a lot will fall into place. You’re worried about this boy’s “burn to learn,” but your own fire for learning seems lukewarm at best.
Here’s what you’ve told me about yourself: you’re “machshiv Torah and look up to it.” Score one for Team Learning. But look at how many doubts you have. Your father works and you’d like your husband to do the same once you need parnassah. Your chashivus for learning is new, whereas before you “felt nothing toward it.” You question, “Do I really care that much?” Listen to your words. They don’t convey passion for learning. Whose passion are you carrying?
You do seem to carry a passion for growth in Yiddishkeit. You’re extremely impressed with this young man’s frumkeit, with his persistence in learning despite his lack of innate ability. You see a future with him as one that will enhance your own growth. So much so that you can’t get him out of your mind. No matter what anyone else says.
Part of that comes because this decision was made based on facts that are actually assumptions. “My parents felt that since he’s weak in learning, I won’t be able to respect him.” Your letter sounds like you very much do respect him. You might wish he was a better learner, but you still respect him. The second assumption is that “since learning is so hard for him, he probably doesn’t get any real enjoyment from it.” Did you discuss that with him?
There are so many holes in this decision, it’s no wonder you have no closure. You’re still not sure he’s not the right one for you. And that’s the most concerning piece. The biggest hole in this process is… you. You’re notably absent in this decision. No doubt your parents have your best interests at heart, but there seems to be a gross lack of communication here. Have you shared with your parents any of your residual feelings? Do they know how you really feel about learning? Do you know?
The first step here, assuming your parents are reasonable people, is to have a long, hard conversation with them. Once you figure out your own feelings about learning, you need to communicate that to them. They need to know that you respect this boy for multitudes of other reasons. And last but not least, they need to know how much you liked him and still like him.
Assuming they can really hear, it would be worthwhile to see if this boy is still available and interested so you can get firsthand clarification from him about some of the lingering questions. There’s too much here that’s right to ignore the strength of your feelings. You’re living a truth other than your own. Put the pieces together to create your truth.
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed social worker and a columnist for inshidduchim.com. She also lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development, and growth. She welcomes questions, comments, feedback, and interaction at firstname.lastname@example.org.